This review and others are posted at Read, Rinse, Repeat.
I think this book takes the award for most ridiculous and jaw-droppingly insulting twist I've ever read. But let me back up for a moment. I don't read a lot of New Adult, primarily because the female main characters are typically weak and insipid, and the men are often boorish, creepy stalkers. But when I read the synopsis for Ten Tiny Breaths, I thought it would bring something new to the table. I was wrong. Very wrong.
For something a little light-hearted before I get into why this book made me so angry, I'm going to list out just a few examples of the author's depictions of the various ways her characters stare at others' bodies:
- "Trent smirks as his eyes gaze over my body, stopping to survey the tattoo on my thigh for a moment before flittering back up to my face."
- "His eyes shamelessly take in my body."
- "A lusty gaze wanders over my frame again."
- "His eyes skim my arms now..."
- "Still, I feel eyes on me, drifting over my curves, sizing me up..."
- "His gaze lingers too long on my cleavage".
- "The little bald man's eyes bug out, riveted by Storm's ass."
- "Lewd eyes drift over my chest and back up."
- "Bright blue eyes, spilling over my body, settling on my chest for a long moment."
- "He gives Livie another quick once-over."
It's equal opportunity, because the ladies do it, too!
- "My gaze moves up and down the length of his gorgeous, hard torso, stopping at his belt."
And since the men are testosterone-laden ogres, they do it to other men:
- "Officer Dan sizes Trent up..."
OK, so we know everyone is either sizing someone up or getting sized up. What happens in between all this staring and gazing and eye-wandering? We've got our narrator Kacey who suffered a terrible tragedy when a drunken driver killed her parents, best friend, and boyfriend and left her severely injured. Understandably, she's emotionally messed-up. To illustrate the point, we are beaten over the head with repeated demonstrations of Kacey's toughness. She threatens, she hisses, she's abrasive, and don't even THINK about trying to touch her. It's difficult to imagine what men would find so attractive about her that they are compelled to come on to her in a variety of gross ways, but apparently she's beautiful and has a great body, and I guess that's enough. This includes her hot neighbor, Trent, he of the rippling eight-pack. (Because a six-pack just isn't good enough.)
I was initially kind of OK with this story, but when Trent is introduced, he seemed to fall into that category of obnoxious NA men: smarmy, arrogant, sexually aggressive, and a creepy stalker. Kacey gets a job as a bartender at a strip club (don't ask), and Trent comes in every night alone and sits and watches Kacey. But he ignores the strippers who throw themselves at him, so it's charming! Keep in mind that he starts this behavior very soon after meeting Kacey. Kacey also demonstrates her own charm by fantasizing about "ripping the guts out" of one of these strippers.
I know that there are plenty of readers who like this kind of guy because books like this sell well, but give me a nice, normal guy! I promise I will read, and most likely enjoy, a book without a character who treats women like a possession.
All of these people were distasteful to me, but as Trent became less stalker-ish and Kacey started to soften, I began to tolerate them. But then Trent pulls a major asshole move, and Kacey gets pissed and confronts him. He offers a lame explanation and squeezes out a few tears, and she forgives him. Seriously? That's all it takes for this purported bad-ass, tough as nails chick?
There were a couple of other things that bothered me. There were two instances of violence of women towards men that were both laughed off and portrayed as cute and charming. Violence perpetrated by women should be regarded as despicably as violence perpetrated by men. Why do female characters get a free pass when they hit men? I'll never understand that. Also, as is common to this genre, many secondary male characters are portrayed as sex-crazed perverts.
I haven't even gotten to the worst part - the absolutely ridiculous twist. I'm not going to give it away, even though I'd love to rant about it. (If you want to know, tell me in the comments, and I'll send you an e-mail.) So, I'll just say that knowing what we know at the end, it is IMPOSSIBLE to reconcile the Trent at the end who is (I have to choose my adjectives carefully) kind and oozing with sincerity, with the cocky, arrogant guy we met at the beginning. It makes NO sense, and as a reader, I felt insulted.
Most shocking of all is that this book is apparently the first in a series. I don't understand why, because the epilogue wraps up all of the unpleasantness in a pretty, tidy bow, and I don't know what else a sequel could possibly explore.
Note - I received an ARC of this book from the publisher for review.