What to say about this book? It was ok I guess but it wasn't at all what I was expecting.
I think the whole idea of the book was good; a reformed bully stopping another bully from doing the same thing he did and suffering the same fate he did but the execution of it was not really great. For more than half the book the author spends time developing the romance relationship between the two of characters, with the whole bully plot taking a back seat.
So basically the book is about Dan Ellison, who is a reformed bully. His actions caused the suicide of a 12 year old kid, Liam, and he was arrested and sentenced to juvie for a year, where he was repeatedly attacked and bullied himself. Now five years later at 18 years old, Dan moves to Long Island with his family, changed his name to Dan Ellison (so the boy's father that commited suicide can't find him) and he starts a new school. One his first day he stops a bully, Jeff, from beating the crap out of the victim, Brandon. From there Dan makes it his mission to protect Brandon and setting things between the Brandon and Jeff. During him stopping the fight, Dan gets punched by Jeff and there he meets Julie, the romantic interest, who tells the security guards what happened. Dan gets upset at Julie because she saw the whole confrontation with Jeff and Brandon and did nothing to help. Apparently this becomes a huge issue between them. Then the rest of the book is the love hate relationship between Julie and Dan, with some parts of the bullying by Jeff to Brandon mixed in. Nothing really happens until the last quarter of the book where I'll admit got pretty exciting. However that doesn't really make up for how boring the book was up until that point.
Now on to the characters
Dan. He's ok I guess for a former bully who hears and hallucinates himself as his 13 year old self in his head. That part about him is really creepy. He was 13 when he committed his crime and sent to juvie so the voice in his head (his inner voice?) takes on the form of his 13 year old self, who he calls Kenny (more on him later). He has changed a lot from who he used to be and he is on a war path to stop the bullying between Brandon and Jeff. He strongly believes in helping both the bully and the victim and does all he can to help. He also believes in helping people who are in trouble in general, whether by defending them, fighting for them or calling 911. He doesn't believe anyone should just stand by and do nothing when someone is in trouble. Which is why he goes to the lengths he does to help both Brandon and Jeff. He is haunted by his guilt about what he did to Liam and hates that he has to lie to everyone around him about who he really is. I admire him in this aspect.
For me Dan was like a girl in the book when it comes to Julie. He constantly gushes about her, her eyes and how her smile is like the sun or some other object. He says corny cliche things that made me wanna slap the crap outta him. For example:
"Julie Murphy smelled like some exotic tropical place- it was full out the most amazing thing I ever smelled. I looked up, leaned in and breathed in deeply before I remembered I hated her" p16
"I tangled my hand in her hair. Melted gold, pouring between my fingers. I had to pry my lips from hers so I could bury my nose in that scent like some deranged actor from a Febreze commercial, but I was past coherent thought now." p155
or this winner
"No, I think you're
great Julie" p129
I mean God man grow a pair. I know you like her and all but you don't need to turn into a girl. In this aspect Dan annoyed the hell outta me.
Now on to Kenny. He is the 13 year old version of Dan, who lives in Dan's head and talks to him. Kenny has his own room in Dan's head where he slams doors when he's pissed at Dan and where he plays music that Dan hears. Yeah its weird. Kenny is sarcastic, mean and hilarious. I love his little quips that come out at the most inappropriate time. He is a constant reminder of what Dan did at 13 and at times he reminds Dan of it. Kenny is also the reason why Dan went after Julie because Kenny told him that he wants Julie. Because I ALWAYS do what the voice in my head tells me to do...Kenny also helps Dan when he's "fighting" or in danger by giving him a heads up when someone is coming or telling him when to block a punch or where to hit someone. Kenny actually becomes "real" (hallucinations) that Dan sees. Kenny sits on Dan's bed or in his car at times to talk to him. It's actually really freaky. Dan isn't sure what he feels for Kenny, whether he wants him gone or wants him to stay. He doesn't tell anyone about Kenny, not his parents, grandpa or his shrink. I don't know about anyone else but I'd be deathly scared if there was a voice in my head talking to me that is a younger version of myself that I sometimes hallucinate as a real person. You couldn't get me to a shrink fast enough. But I digress.
Now on to Julie. Wow what a bitch. I mean yes she has lots of problems but she treats Dan crappily (but he still goes back for more) for half the book. Its like she has PMS all the time with her mood swings. One day she's nice to Dan, kissing him and being sweet, the next she ignores him and acts like hes's a leper. She hates him in the beginning but then she falls for him. She says mean things to him but then says she loves him. I mean come on. It was painful to read because Dan kept going back to her like a big stupid. Julie also rubbed me the wrong way about how indifferent she was about Brandon's bullying. It's almost like she though he deserved it because of what happened between him and Jeff. I can't really say more about he without giving stuff away but let me just say this. She is not worth all the trouble Dan goes through- and its a lot.
This book could have been so much better without the whole romance taking center stage. All the "does she like me or does she not like me in that way" stuff annoyed the hell outta me and made me feel like I was back in junior high. And I Knew
this would be a case of insta love when I read the sentence where Dan sees Julie for the first time- "I squinted up at the most beautiful girl I thought I'd ever seen. I was having trouble focusing on anything but her face". Gimme a break. And this was on page 5! Just like I called it, it was insta love. After Julie and Dan have a hot/cold relationship where they both get angry at each other easily, after a few conversations and a few kisses, they're in love. They actually say they love each other. Really? Come on now. Half the time they can't stand each other but they're in love. Please. Like I said the romance takes center stage with Dan obsessing over Julie, obsessing over how to get her and when he finally has her obsessing over how she doesn't really know who he is or what he's done. Just no..Its kind of like the bullying plot was an after thought or just put in there so the whole book wasn't about the romance.
What I did like about the book was the bully plot when it was remembered. It was well thought out and executed nicely. It shows how bullying can badly affect the lives of not only the the victims and the're families but how the bully's life is affected when they've gone too far. Like I said the saving grace of the book, for me anyway, was this story line and the awesome ending. The last quarter of the book was where all the action it and where everything unravels.
This review is also posted on Spantalian's Book Reviews