Hold me: A Book Review

Book: Hold me (Cyclone#2)

Author: Courtney Milan

Blurb:

Jay na Thalang is a demanding, driven genius. He doesn’t know how to stop or even slow down. The instant he lays eyes on Maria Lopez, he knows that she is a sexy distraction he can’t afford. He’s done his best to keep her at arm’s length, and he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

Maria has always been cautious. Now that her once-tiny, apocalypse-centered blog is hitting the mainstream, she’s even more careful about preserving her online anonymity. She hasn’t sent so much as a picture to the commenter she’s interacted with for eighteen months—not even after emails, hour-long chats, and a friendship that is slowly turning into more. Maybe one day, they’ll meet and see what happens.

But unbeknownst to them both, Jay is Maria’s commenter. They’ve already met. They already hate each other. And two determined enemies are about to discover that they’ve been secretly falling in love…

My thoughts:

This book was hugely anticipated for its diversity. A Latina, transgender main character and a bisexual, Asian love-interest. Compared to Trade Me (the first book in the Cyclone series), the cultural diversity issues take a backseat.

I haven’t included the cover.Don’t worry, it was purposeful. I feel a bit awkward about posting such an obvious romance book clinch on my young-adult blog. I wouldn’t say the cover is misleading–there’s definitely sex in the book, (after all, this is new adult) so the somewhat racier cover fits.

I’m torn on whether I mind the lack of emphasis on cultural diversity. On one hand, I loved the culture-clash in the last book; as an Asian, I easily related to the embarrassment that some customs of your culture can cause, and the guilt that your parents (who grew up in the culture) know how to take advantage of. On the other hand, I like that this book wasn’t about diversity– it was about a character who happened to be diverse, and as a result, there story seemed to feel so much more natural.

Additionally, I wonder where all these cultural-struggles would have gone. This book focused on gender stereotypes that women in STEM have to combat. It also spent a good amount of time on how childhood traumas affects adult life. Maria was kicked out of her house at age 12, when she told her parents she identified as female; her fear of being kicked out of her house followed her to college.

I’ve heard Hold Me compared to “You’ve Got Mail”. Not having watched the movie, I can compare it only superficially. There is obviously this whole element of 2 protagonists getting on like a house on fire online, but hating each other (for reasons of varying validity) in real-life.

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for the hate-at-first-sight trope. I especially like watching 2 sworn enemies find something they admire in each other, and seeing the chemistry explode.  And there’s something satisfying about watching two people flirt online–with math of all things– that makes this interesting. The one thing that I worried about in this book was whether Milan would draw out this book endlessly using petty jealousy and terrible communication between the characters. No, despite the pranks and the passive-aggressiveness at the beginning of the book,  by the time the characters get to the middle, they are communicating like real adults.

I still don’t know if I like Jay. Like Maria, I find myself taking umbrage to the way he took one look at her and dismissed her as a ditzy girl with a limited IQ. His reasons for it seem weak. Though the reason he shares is that he blames a pretty, shallow girl for distracting him enough to prevent his younger brother from suicide, I wonder how much of it is because he’s intimidated.

“I’m more of a pickup basketball kind of guy, and she’s… Well, she’s into whatever game you play with a French manicure and Louboutins. The game she’s playing sucks, the players are mean, and I want nothing to do with it or them.

Nothing, except… My stupid lizard brain wouldn’t mind watching her play.”

Yet, he’s the character that grows the most in this book. He comes a long way from dismissing accusations of sexism because he works with women.

“You’re a goddamned professor. If you assume your female students who care about their appearance don’t know math, you’re doing them an incredible disservice.”

 Unlike other books where you can see the love interest has a deep antipathy for women, and even while falling in love with one (*cough* Whitney, My Love *cough*), falls in love with her because she is different and completely unlike other women, by the end you can see that for Jay respecting women is not theoretical, he has concrete examples.

This book was good, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly amazing. The first part was fun to read if I suspended disbelief that characters in their late 20s would act that way (people who are older than me may agree that this is normal, but as a measly teen–I think I expect more). It was a good read–Courtney Milan is an amazing writer.  But i dove in the book, expecting to be wowed; here expectations worked against me and so I’m a little disappointed.

Overall rating: 4/5

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