Fool Me Twice -- Mandy Hubbard
Book 1 of If Only... series
First of all--Yes, this review got really long-winded and I got carried away. I'm sorry. Second of all--I'm too lazy to go through and shorten it at the moment and there might be some duplicate sentiments here and there. Again, I'm sorry.
Moving along now...
I have a lot of wavering feelings about this book, but in the long run, Fool Me Twice was simply one of those cutesy, yet bipolar-ish experiences where parts of the story make you wince and get all irritated and frustrated, and parts of the story are actually quite enjoyable and fun.
Because from the beginning, Book and I got off to quite the rocky start; however, by the time Book got going, past the halfway point, I had trouble continuing my resentment of Book and we came to a mutual understanding. I simply allowed myself to just be entertained (it was a short and easy to read story, after all), even if I wasn't a hundred percent enamored by Book; and Book seemed to tone down on the things that bothered me. Unfortunately, Book also didn’t give me a sense of satisfaction about the story line or the romance, even if Book managed to maintain a semblance of story.
However, the conclusion to the romance felt a little too easy... I'm not sure I agree with how easily Landon gets his 'Get Out of Jail Free' card. I still don't think he's made up for how he treated MacKenzie at the beginning of the book and what we know of their back story. But I'm moving on anyway, because Happily Ever After™ was had by all, and really, that's all we can ask for anyway.
And so I feel like he got off too easily and I'm still not happy with him.
But then again, maybe that's the whole point and maybe a simple love story is better than a dragging, angst-strewn one. I don’t know. I didn’t feel satisfied with the way the reconciliation happened.
I get the underlying message in this story, because it's presented in two-fold: Between Mack and Landon's rekindled second-chance romance, and even between side characters, Bailey and Adam's budding romance. It never hurts to toss a little "Be true to yourself" self-revelation into a young adult novel--it's a good message no matter the type of book, anyhow, and just makes it a little bit harder to resent a book that tries so hard to very subtly fling the message at the reader.
MacKenzie and Landon had had a perfect, whirlwind summer romance that she had thought would continue outside of their summer locale at Serenity Ranch. But when the two return to their hometown and to high school, Mack finds Landon kissing his ex-girlfriend and eventually getting back together with her, leaving Mack heart-broken.
A year later, Mack and her best friend are back working at Serenity Ranch and Spa for the summer, and of course, Landon is there, too. And no matter what she does, it seems like the boy won't leave her alone. But then he takes a nasty fall off his horse and all memory of the past year has been wiped away in Landon's mind--he thinks it was the summer before and that he and Mack are in the middle of their summer romance.
With the need for some emotional revenge, Mack let's her best friend convince her that this is the perfect chance to get back at Landon--pretend that they're still together, make him fall in love with her much harder than she had for him, then dump his ass when all is said and done. Of course, for this plan to actually work, it means that MacKenzie cannot fall for Landon this time around.
More of My Rambling Thoughts:
Revenge plots are hard to do, because revenge is always a tricky subject--and I don't just mean in book plots. Revenge typically leads to stooping to the same level as the person who hurt you so that you can hurt them equally, sometimes twice as badly. And it's hard for anyone with a guilty conscience to NOT feel bad about intentionally striking out to hurt someone else, no matter how much the other person might deserve it.
But when done in a cute and breezy rom-com fashion, these plots may be a little easier to follow with. So I kind of expected something cute and breezy and not quite so emotionally trying... and y'know, that's probably what Fool Me Twice turned out to be: Cute and breezy and superficial... and frustrating as hell.
Admittedly, I started off by listening to an audio book sample of Fool Me Twice a few days before I actually decided to pick it for one of my four August Reading Assignment Challenge choices (a decision also reinforced by the fact that this is a short read and I realized that I was running out of month to finish my assignment for August). The short four minute sample audio clip was all I needed to decide that I probably wasn't going to like this book.
For one, MacKenzie came off sounding like a pretentious, uptight, anti-snob wannabe with her stereotypes and her "holier than thou" attitude. Secondly, the attempts at dry sarcasm in the narration felt tacky and awkward. I know it sounds like very little to go on for me to dislike the book already, but the short sample just gave me a really bad first impression. But since I had already pre-chosen this book for a reading challenge, I thought that I should at least give it a shot.
The story itself, when I started reading it, was a bit of a haphazard throw-together of anecdotes akin to "A Summer at Serenity Ranch" with romantic escapades, a background revenge plot, and lots of mundane, daily activities sprinkled around. The brief mentions of ranching activity and horses were entertaining and there was a definite direction for the romance. I very much enjoyed the friendship between Mack and Bailey--this is a pair of best friends to be reckoned with and it's great to see girls in YA scheming with each other rather than against one another for a change.
The relationship between Mack and Landon could even be said to be cute and sweet... if you can forget what a tool Landon had been towards Mack pre-amnesia (see my spoiler above). If not for his douche-y actions described in full at the beginning of the story, I would have found it easier to root for him. But even up until the very end, I STILL find it hard to like him or to forgive him his douche-holery, and the conveniently inserted Daddy Issues™ device that was supposed to give him his excuse for being a jerk didn't help me understand any better why he did what he did.
The amnesia angle could have been done a little bit more believable. Because I found it hard to believe that Mack and Bailey could maintain the farce that without a proper calendar and if they just ran interference enough, Landon would never suspect that the setting wasn’t last summer. I find it hard to believe that Landon didn’t notice the dates on his Facebook page, or that of all the people he had contact with at the ranch NOTHING gave away the fact that an entire year has already gone by and that he’s eighteen and not seventeen. How would no one have spoken to him about the stuff that happened last summer or quiz him about what he has planned to do now that he's graduated from high school? How is it that even his mother wouldn't have called to talk to him and they wouldn't have struck up a conversation about him going to college in the fall? Either everything was just oh, so convenient, or Landon was THAT oblivious, because unless Mack kept him hidden in his cabin, there was NO WAY he could have been kept from realizing he’s no longer living his previous summer.
The pranks that Mack plays on Landon (outside of the really big one where she lies to him about still being together) are also harmless, youthful fun (except for that one disastrous prank that got a little out of hand). At best, they're the kind of pranks that all friends play on each other when they're young and stupid and look back on in the future to laugh about; at worst, they were kind of juvenile and tacky.
But what bugged me the most at the beginning of the book had been the narration. One moment the book would be breezing along just fine with serviceable writing and progression, fun dialogue, some cutesy stuff here and there... and then it felt like someone came along and decide to edit in really awkward instances wherein one of the following would jump out and irritate me:
- Extremely critical stereotyping of all types of people, such as the rich, the cowboys, the tourists...
- Random classic horror lines being quoted too frequently as if lives depended on it.
- Moments wherein a simple sentence or a simple piece of dialogue or action tries too deliberately to infuse a whole basket full of meaning into it.
- Some things said by Mack that made me quite annoyed with her and continue to believe she was a pretentious bitch who made big assumptions about the people around her in the most negative way just because she could.
- All the times that Landon comes around with his cryptic words and declarations and how, rather than just ignoring his ass, Mack continued to let him push her around and do as he pleased.
(Okay, maybe that last one wasn't one of the "this feels randomly out of place" scenarios, but it DID frustrate me a lot.)
But as the book progressed things seemed to get a bit better. I found myself actually starting to find the classic horror movie quote-dropping kind of cute... especially when they got dialed back a little bit and I understood that it was more of a game than anything else. I kind of enjoyed some of the mundane, everyday activities every other chapter. And the stereotyping monologues were more infrequent which was a relief.
Mack's personality became less of an irritation because she quit making snide comments about the Serenity Ranch and Spa vacationers and tourists as frequently; I might even say that her character's personality shifted slightly and and started presenting a lot less frustratingly "holier than thou" and more "almost-Mary Sue" with a touch of likable female protagonist.
(On the point about the whole "rich snobby people" schtick: I found those frequent references at the beginning of the book pointless anyway because those details don't seem to strengthen the story at all and only managed to make Mack annoying for constantly making snide, sarcastic quips about them. Because there are no instances of Mack being treated poorly or unfairly by any of the vacationers at the ranch and neither do any of the managers or higher ups give her a hard time about catering to the tourists every whim and every need. In fact, these background characters don't even play any role whatsoever in the story line, and all that talk about "Don't let the snobs bite." and "Don't let the horses condescend!" seemed unnecessary and got old really fast. It feels like the "rich snobby people" references were just dropped into the story for the sake of just being there and no other purpose.)
Anyway... MOVING ALONG...
This review turned out a lot longer than I had intended (as is typical of my rambling). Really, if not for all the quibbles I found in the book at the beginning and with the conclusion, this review would have been a lot shorter if only because the romance is pretty short and straight-forward and predictably formulaic.
Fool Me Twice was easy to start liking as the story progressed--while finding it irritating for the first 20% or so, we started easing off on all the things that I had found irritating. The cute and sweet romance continued to progress in predictable fashion and the whole "Summer Romance in Serenity Ranch" starts to find its conclusion.
And to be honest, I really DID find it entertaining enough and easy to finish reading without too many other issues.
This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):