(#70) Book Review: But I Love Him by Amanda Grace

When Ann meets Connor, she is a straight-A student who runs track and is on the path to a successful, happy life.  The problem is that Connor is a troubled young man with abusive tendencies.  Of course, Ann doesn’t know this when she gets involved with him, and by the time she finds out, it’s too late: she’s in love with him.  If she’s the only one who can fix him and he’s the one who seems to be breaking her, what is the right thing to do?

Amanda Grace is a pen name for Mandy Hubbard, and her first novel under the name is a big old mess.  Gimmicky, poorly written, and shoddily executed, nothing about But I Love Him works the way Hubbard intended it to.  It starts with the reverse-chronological order and devolves from there.

Hubbard has said in interviews that she chose to tell the story in reverse-chronological order because it removes the reader’s judgment about Connor.  I’m not sure of the logic there, because by telling the story backwards, readers have no connection whatsoever to either character and therefore any sympathy for them is minimal at best.  Without having gotten to know the sweet side of Connor first, how are readers supposed to connect to him as he literally beats Ann to a bloody pulp?

Then there is the characterization itself.  Ann is an unreliable narrator (which I think was Hubbard’s intention), but she’s so poorly developed that it’s hard to even care that she might not be giving readers the full story.  As the book moves backward through time, readers are given very little insight into who Ann is or what her attraction to Connor is.  Connor himself is treated in much the same way: neither one of these characters have any dimension whatsoever.  Who are they?  What are their motivations?  We don’t know, and by the end of the book, I started to wonder if Hubbard does, either.

Added to the fact that the book feels gimmicky is the fact that it’s incredibly heavy-handed.  Ann spends much of the book thinking about and working on a gift for Connor: a sculpture of a heart made out of broken pieces of glass.  Seriously.  It’s too much, you know?

The good news is that But I Love Him is a quick read.  It’s fast-paced (because it wastes no time establishing its characters), the book will resonate with some readers who aren’t looking for anything more than a surface-level story about abuse.  Those looking to go deeper might check out something with a bit more substance.  Deb Caletti’s Stay comes to mind.

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace. Flux: 2011.  Library copy.

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8 thoughts on “(#70) Book Review: But I Love Him by Amanda Grace

  1. I’ve seen mixed reviews on this one. I loved STAY and considered reading this one, too, but from everything I read it seemed a bit TOO focused on the abuse issue for me. (Like, one of the things I really loved about STAY were the relationships outside of the “romantic” one — like her relationship with her dad.)

    • Clementine Bojangles says:

      It’s not just that it’s too focused on the abuse issue: it’s that it’s all this book has to offer. Everything suffers as a consequence.

      I agree about Caletti’s Stay. So much better, in terms of character development and everything else.

    • Clementine Bojangles says:

      I haven’t read it. I did read Brown’s first novel, Hate List, which I really liked. I’ve been meaning to read Bitter End, and I just put in a request for it at the library, so hopefully I’ll get it soon.

      (Full disclosure: When I looked it up on Goodreads, I saw that you didn’t finish it. How slow is too slow?)

  2. Umm I think I had read 80 pages or so (if I remember correctly) and up until that point it was mostly her and her two friends planning a road trip for the summer. I think she’d had one sort-of date with the new boyfriend, but I really felt like nothing was happening.

    Full disclosure though, my grandma was in the hospital at the time and probably such a serious/sad book was not the best thing for me to be reading because I was already sad. Maybe if I’d read it at a different time I would have finished it.

  3. I just got this from the library on Saturday and I have several books to read before I get to it but I’m wondering if I’ll feel the same. I don’t know about the whole reverse-order thing, but we’ll see. I really need to read Stay, I think.

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