Full of crumbling houses, a crumbling economy, and crumbling socioeconomic status.
I don’t know about you, but I kind of feel like this story is full of crumbling writing and characters. It’s immediately clear from the first few pages of this novel that Liz Plum is an amateur writer. As a result, there are a lot of glaring problems with this book on a story level, on a character level, and on a general writing level. And this issue would be a problem on its own existing in unrealistic dialogue, poorly developed characters, and a lot of telling instead of showing. But, unfortunately, it’s not the worst thing about Plum’s Fight For Her. Really, it’s just the beginning.
Looking in from the outside, it would appear that high school has really been the best four years of my life.
Full disclosure, I DNFed this book at about 47%. Usually, I try to force myself through at least half of the book before giving up on it (unless it’s very clear that the book is problematic) just to give it the benefit of the doubt. It was hard to do that with this one. And I guess a part of me was just hoping for the moment that the main character redeemed herself.
Spoiler alert: she doesn’t.
So, Fight For Her basically details the story of a girl who hasn’t gotten over her older brother’s death. As far as I can tell, this is the only depth to her as a character whatsoever. Otherwise, she’s going to a fancy private school and dating the rich jock bully. Then, she has a weird interest in the school’s reject student because he also has a brother who died. And that’s it. That’s all that matters about her character.
There’s this thoroughly weird side plot regarding a dangerous boxing ring and her brother’s involvement. But, honestly, I couldn’t have cared less at this point. Even if that plot had been interesting to me–it wasn’t–it wouldn’t have saved the absolutely poor writing and disgraceful characters.
“He doesn’t even have the money to ‘donate’ to the school and get out of homework.”
SSpeaking of characters, I’m honestly just kind of baffled at the portrayal of rich kids in this novel. Has Plum even ever met a rich kid? It genuinely feels as though she’s spouting off underdeveloped ideas she’s generated about how children of well-off parents act that resultingly allows her to play them all off like the bad guys. And damn, it was a problem.
Like, I get it. Children from wealthy families can be snobbish, elitist, and thoroughly ignorant to their privilege. But just because they can be these things doesn’t mean they’re all like that. It doesn’t mean they subscribe to the dumb jock who’s also a bully stereotype or that they all have their parents pay the school to get them through with decent grades. It doesn’t mean a rich boy who has regular access to daddy’s money would have “the NFL [be] the only path in his life.”
Realistically, it’s the opposite.
These characters are very intentionally portrayed this way in order to make them the antagonists. They’re also so flat, unrealistic, and boring that I wanted to scream. I get it. We’re supposed to hate these characters. We are supposed to see that they’re privileged. We’re supposed to see that this privilege has made most of them assholes. We, as readers, are supposed to recognize that they’re just so dumb.
But, not only does Plum spell this out for us every chance she gets, it’s completely unrealistic and idiotic. The stock market conversation she threw in to make her main character seem smarter and better than her boyfriend and his friends was the most moronic instance of this. Rich kids would be all over this conversation. They would know all about the stock market and talking about it would be a regular occurrence.
But hers were somehow too stupid to care?
“Keep walking, freak,” Jack spits. “You may as well disappear like your crackhead brother and sorry excuse for a father. You may as well not even exist at this school.”
Of course, this wasn’t the worst part of Plum’s novel. It’s really just the beginning. You see, the rich jock who’s also dumb and an asshole stereotype is used very intentionally to represent Scarlet’s boyfriend. He may be the school’s biggest bully, but he’s different with her. Jack has no personality past being the worst stereotypical jock boyfriend who you know is going to get broken up with at some point. He might even get cheated on, but it’s justified because he’s an asshole.
He spends every moment making us vomit by referring to his girlfriend as “beautiful” instead of ever using her name, taking advantage of her kindness, and having all the girls in school fawn over him and his supposed “southern charm” or bullying the other love interest in both malevolent and the most asinine ways imaginable. Plum makes it very clear she doesn’t have a clue how bullies bully. Or, at the very minimum, doesn’t know how to write realistic dialogue.
Maybe she was really trying to drive home the dumb jock persona with zingers like, “Hey, look, guys, it’s Eli the freak! He left his drugs long enough to actually come to school.” But frankly, it’s likely a mix of subpar writing and poor character development. I don’t genuinely think it came from an intent to make Jack look even dumber.
Either way, in all of that 47% I read, never once did our supposed heroine Scarlet ever tell him to stop. Never once did she stand up to him and call him out for his shitty behavior. She just meekly allows him to be an ass. But, we’ll come back to this later.
I don’t know what I hated more. Was it how horrible Jack was as a character or how poorly he was written? Well, all of that kind of pales in comparison to how much I hated Scarlet. Now, Jack is a character…I’ll give you that. A poorly written and developed one, but a character nonetheless. And Scarlet is, for some utterly unfathomable reason, in love with him.
“Maybe you could experiment with some dye. I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off a blond version of you.”
“Maybe you could experiment being accepting of your girlfriend.”
“I am. She’s the only one I want or need.”
Such simple words, yet they’re enough to have any girl falling in love at dangerous speeds. This is the Jack his friends don’t see.
Case in point, she hates his bullying. Well, supposedly.
We get sort of a cop-out reasoning for why she puts up with his nonsense. There’s a brief throwaway comment about how he helped her through her darkness while she was grieving the loss of her brother. But, honestly, this is an incredibly dumb reason to be with someone if you disagree with literally everything they do.
We get internal monologue after internal monologue that goes on and on about how much she hates Jack’s bullying or how he is with his friends. There are all these internalized thoughts about how he takes advantage of her kindness. But then she’ll bend over backward for him even though it annoys her. She thinks about how wonderful he is with her when they’re alone together, yet we never actually see anything from either character to supports this. To make it worse, she complains about him to others and even half-asses an apology for his behavior toward Elijah.
She has the gall to complain about him taking up an opportunity to help his future on the day of their anniversary literally just a few hours after she forgot entirely that it was their anniversary in the first place. There are several moments of internal thoughts that reference her doubting his love for her or Jack doubting her love for him. It was exhausting.
Then there’s the possessive jealousy.
“Why does it matter if Jack knows?”
“It doesn’t matter, I just don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“You don’t actually believe those rumors about Elijah, do you?”
“I didn’t mean by Eli–though still be careful, he’s a little creepy–I meant Jack. We all know he hates Eli, I can’t imagine what he would say if he saw you with him.”
So, a generous portion of the novel is spent going through Scarlet feeling drawn toward Elijah, the school’s supposed ‘bad boy’ whom regularly is bullied by the rich dumb jocks of their school. For some reason the fact that Elijah’s older brother died of an overdose, he becomes everyone’s favorite insulting-bag? Yeah, cause the bullying mainly involves cheap shots about his brother and calling him a freak.
As Scarlet begins talking to and spending time with Elijah, Jack unsurprisingly loses his invariably short temper every single time he finds out about it. When Scarlet just bumps into Elijah in the hall, Jack goes off about how he’s “going to shove [his] fist up–” before she interrupts and tells him not to worry because Elijah didn’t actually talk to her.
And it gets worse from there.
Jack goes on to tell her that he doesn’t “want a freak talking to [her]” because “he has no business” and she’s “[his] girl.” His possessive behavior kind of drips all over their relationship, even outside of his anger about Elijah. Phrases like, “you look beautiful representing me” just fall from his lips regularly. And for some reason, Scarlet sees this as sweet. I’m not entirely sure whether Plum intended us to appreciate portions of this or not, but I genuinely just found it disgusting.
Ironically, Plum brings Scarlet to a point of recognizing that her words about Jack are making it seem like he’s abusive. Of course, Scarlet then backpedals hard to talk about how great he is–which is hilarious, cause she just ends up making him look worse. And, the next thing you know he’s kissing her in the cafeteria even though he hates PDA because, “[he] want[s] everyone here to know [she’s] mine, because it seems some people have forgotten. Especially that freak.”
“You may be different from other girls…”
Did I mention that I hated Scarlet?
Well, it’s not just that she’s a flat excuse for a strong female character. It’s not just that she briefly calls out sexist comments and then immediately references them as sweet afterward. It’s not just that she couldn’t have the simplest bit of common decency in her that she would call out her boyfriend for being an asshole. And it’s not just that the only instance she ever disagrees with his bullying behavior is in her thoughts or her half-hearted apologies.
She’s not like other girls.
And Plum spells this point out every chance she gets. It’s in the dialogue. It’s in her parents’ reactions, in Jack’s response to her, in Elijah’s interactions. What’s worse? It’s in her thoughts.
This novel was poorly written. And a large chunk of it is just spent on Scarlet’s inner monologue. Plum even uses it to have her pull away from conversations that are going on around her. This seems to happen because Plum struggles with writing dialogue. So, we get a lot of inner thought. And from regular references spelling out Scarlet’s intelligence to not relating to her friends, we hear how she’s not like other girls.
I don’t know what frustrated me more: the fact that we had to have all of this spelled out for us or the fact that she just…wasn’t like other girls.
“Sometimes you have to do undesirable things to fix problems.”
I don’t really have a lot of feelings about Elijah. He was okay? But nothing about him really stands out. You kind of like him solely because he’s the only character in the entire story that isn’t awful. And, quite frankly, that’s not enough to make him a good character. He’s just the best from the slush pile.
He’s referenced as a bad boy, but only because of the “deadbeat older brother–who died…due to a heroin overdose.” What’s ironic is that he could have easily fit the bad boy persona, considering he’s involved in an illegal–or, at least, pushing the boundary of legality–boxing ring that results in numerous injuries. And it’s like…if you wanted to have that bad boy persona, why not push that a little more in the introduction?
Why are we focused on the dead brother who has no real influence over Elijah’s reputation? Why is he getting bullied because of something his brother did? Plum obviously wanted him to be a “bad boy” and wanted him to be bullied. But it doesn’t seem like she put any real thought into how to make this happen realistically or organically.
Which is so unfortunate, because she had the plot all set up to make this a reality. And she just wasted that opportunity.
I wanted to go to Elijah and comfort him after hearing what happened, because I knew how hard it was to lose a brother. I knew what he was going through. But I’ve always thought Elijah was an uninviting personality.
So, I’ve mentioned numerous times that Scarlet is awful. Like, she’s literally just an awful human being. I’m not even concerned about how poorly written she is at this point. How can I be? She’s a terrible person.
Not only does she put up with Jack’s asinine and horrific behavior, but she regularly makes excuses for him based on this love connection because he made her forget she was depressed about her brother dying. She references the Jack she sees when no one else is around, but even then that’s not enough to make up for the fact that she defends him. He’s not even that great when other people aren’t around.
Jack is a horrible person who bullies a kid because his brother died of an overdose.
This is a kid that she feels a connection to, someone she likes as a person. But, she just lets Jack bully him. She never says anything, never stands up to Jack. She tries to apologize to Elijah, but her apology is so half-assed that I couldn’t even take it seriously. And Elijah just tells her she shouldn’t have to be sorry. And I’m like, yes she should.
Scarlet stayed with the guy. She never told him to stop. She defends him regularly. At no point does she ever try to call out his disgusting behavior. Granted, I didn’t finish the novel, but you’d think if she actually cared about Elijah or about her boyfriend being a decent human being, she would have fucking said something. I’m sorry, but we’re halfway through the novel and it’s absolute bullshit that she’s still acting like this.
And maybe I’d try to give the benefit of the doubt and say she was afraid of what his reaction would be. Perhaps Jack really is abusive. And perhaps that is why she never said anything. But, looking at other reviews, that doesn’t seem to be the direction Plum goes in. Instead, Jack gets a redemption.
Like, come on guys. Did we even read the same book? What the hell is there to like about this character?
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
| Reader Fox Links |