ARC Review: Rough Patch by Nicole Markotic

Rough Patch by Nicole Markotic Book Review blog header

Published: May 2nd, 2017 by Arsenal Pulp Press | Series: N/A | Length: 224 pages | Genre: YA contemporary | Source: I received an eARC from the publisher via Edelweiss. | Possible Triggers: homophobia, violence

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Summary from Goodreads:

When fifteen-year-old Keira starts high school, she almost wishes she could write “Hi, my name is Keira, and I’m bisexual!” on her nametag. Needless to say, she’s actually terrified to announce—let alone fully explore—her sexuality. Quirky but shy, loyal yet a bit zany, Keira navigates her growing interest in kissing both girls and boys while not alienating her BFF, boy-crazy Sita. As the two acclimate to their new high school, they manage to find lunch tablemates and make lists of the school’s cutest boys. But Keira is caught “in between”—unable to fully participate, yet too scared to come clean.

She’s also feeling the pressure of family: parents who married too young and have differing parenting styles; a younger sister in a wheelchair from whom adults expect either too little or too much; and her popular older brother who takes pleasure in taunting Keira. She finds solace in preparing for the regional finals of figure skating, a hobby she knows is geeky and “het girl” yet instills her with confidence. But when she meets a girl named Jayne who seems perfect for her, she isn’t so confident she can pull off her charade any longer.

Rough Patch is an honest, heart-wrenching novel about finding your place in the world, and about how to pick yourself up after taking a spill.

I really wanted to like this book. I’m sure most of you know by now that I love reading about bisexual main characters, so when I stumbled across this book on Edelweiss, I was all too eager to request it. Unfortunately, despite this book having a lot of potential, it really could’ve used a lot more work and I ended up not enjoying it very much at all. (Also let me apologize for the ridiculous length of this review, but I have a lot of thoughts.)

The first thing I noticed was that the writing style was very odd. I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but it seems like the narrator, Keira, is dumping every thought she has onto the page, almost as if this were her diary. Except it’s not written as a diary, so I’m not entirely sure what the author was going for. It might make it seem a bit more authentic at times, but generally speaking, it only made it feel as though it could use a lot more editing.

Another thing that pretty quickly got on my nerves was that throughout the first third of the book (at least – I don’t quite remember when this stopped), Keira constantly makes jokes and puns and they were always immediately followed by a narrative comment like “do you get it?” or “I crack me up!” as if the author didn’t trust the reader to realize they were jokes and wanted to make sure they were pointed out. I honestly can’t even begin to explain how much this annoyed me. Once or twice would’ve been fine, but it easily exceeded that within the first couple of chapters.

The pacing could’ve used a lot of improvement. It takes the first half – yes, half – of the book for the first “thing” to happen that finally gets the plot moving. Before then, you basically have a repeat of “I’m confused about my sexuality” and “I love ice skating” which, again, would be fine if it didn’t continue for 100 pages. Then the last maybe 50 pages or so of the book have a number of things that happen and it feels way too fast. The pacing of all of these events absolutely could have and should have been improved and I have a feeling it would’ve made the book a lot more enjoyable, even if none of the other things I’ve mentioned so far were fixed.

Those are my main complaints, but not all of them. I have 3 more things that I want to mention and then I’ll get into what about this I actually did like because there are a couple of things.

Markotic writes the characters using way outdated textspeak, having the characters abbreviate absolutely everything the way people did back when flip phones were still a thing. And actually, I think Keira is using a flip phone, as her phone can’t even receive pictures (yes, I’m serious). Do I really need to point out that practically no one still uses flip phones? I know that Keira bought this phone on her own and it’s a secret from her parents, etc. but no matter what provider you go with, they have smartphones and you can get them for pretty cheap. Sure, they won’t be iPhones, but I really can’t imagine that any teen would choose a flip phone over even the crappiest smartphone.

There were also little comments here and there that just kind of bugged me. They weren’t all about Keira’s bisexuality (although some were). For example, when introduced to a character James whose sister calls him Jamie, Keira remarks that she can’t believe a guy would let someone call him a “sissy name” like Jamie. Seriously? And at another point, when Keira’s mom admits that money is tight, it’s implied that the only reason money might be tight is because Keira’s parents don’t know how to manage finances. There’s no other evidence that this is true, by the way. It’s mentioned several times actually that her parents don’t spend a lot of money which would point to the complete opposite conclusion. But sure, poverty = bad handling of money.

My last complaint: the f/f couple’s first kiss HAPPENS OFF THE PAGE. I was so mad about this! If you’re building up to this moment when a couple finally kisses, how on earth can you have that happen off the page?! I really got so mad about this that I had to put the book down for a little while. I hate to say it, but I really can’t imagine this happening in a book that centers a m/f couple. Not to say that no books have ever had a first kiss happen off the page, but when the whole book is centered around Keira wanting to kiss a girl and then you don’t see it happen? Come on.

But like I mentioned,  there were a couple of things I liked about Rough Patch. I thought that parts of Keira’s bisexuality were handled pretty well, although I do think it could’ve been better as a whole. But her questioning of what it means for her to be attracted to boys and girls (this book is very cisnormative, so it only ever mentions boys and girls) and how her family and friends may react if they find out all felt pretty authentic to me (but sometimes the way she thought about her bisexuality just felt off to me, I can’t really explain it). And I enjoyed seeing her dedication to ice skating. You can really see how much she loves it. I always love when books’ main characters are really passionate about something that’s unrelated to the main plot, so this was a nice addition. Ultimately, Keira’s character is what makes this a 2 star read for me (but I’ll admit, I think I may be being too generous with that rating…).

Clearly this book was a big miss for me. It’s really too bad because like I said, I really wanted to enjoy this. I think the only way I’d recommend this is if you’re really desperate for bisexual representation, but even then, I’m not sure I would because sometimes the way it was handled just didn’t really feel right to me and this book does NOT have a happy ending. There’s a big homophobic incident at the end which basically results in a crappy ending (no deaths, but still not a great ending). There are some positive aspects to it, but overall, I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling it a happy ending. So be careful if you decide to pick this one up.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.


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