REVIEW: All the Wrong Chords, Christine Hurley Deriso

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Scarlett Stiles is desperate for a change of scenery after her older brother, Liam, dies of a drug overdose. But spending the summer with her grandfather wasn't exactly what she had in mind. Luckily, Scarlett finds something to keep her busy--a local rock band looking for a guitarist. Even though playing guitar has been hard since Liam died, Scarlett can't pass on an opportunity like this, and she can't take her eyes off the band's hot lead singer either. Is real happiness just around the corner? Or will she always be haunted by her brother's death?

As soon as I heard that All the Wrong Chord's plot concerned pretty boy guitarist I was like, ‘hell yes, sign me up’. Damn, there is nothing that I love more than someone who can write me a catchy rock banger (until they actually write me one, and then it is cringey as hell). I probably should’ve expected going into this book, that it would be incredibly trope-y and incredibly YA, but I just think that I was blinded by the thought of hot musicians that the conventions of the genre hit me like a slap in the face.
One question: why does the girl always have to be a virgin? It has been ten years since I started with this genre and I still don’t have the foggiest idea why. Is it because authors (or maybe perhaps, publishers?) don’t believe that their audience would be able to root for a girl who has touched a penis? Because come on, honey, come on... This trope drives me up the wall, but it wasn’t the only issue I had with our dear main character. Oh, no.
Another is that she was ridiculously self-centred (even more than I am, which is saying something) - she never asks, or seems to care, about anyone’s life apart from her own and that of her love interest. Which means that I, as the reader, read however-many-pages and I still know nothing about her sister (aside from the main character's own resentments) or her best friend, or really anything about anyone who she wasn’t attracted to. The drummer and bassist of the band are essentially cardboard cutouts who really hold no other function than to complain about the lead singer, who is honestly the most ridiculous option in a love triangle that I have EVER seen. A personal highlight of the book is that, at one point he is given a flaw (and what a shit flaw it is) and tells a story about being ribbed by his mates for having dyslexia, and the main character’s best friend responds to a relay of the tale by saying “you’ll excuse me for not hosting a prayer vigil for what a gorgeous straight white guy had to endure in high school”. #Preach.
The only fleshed-out character in this book is her love interest; a soulful songwriter and college student who doesn’t have a single girl (apart from the main character) in his sights as a potential romantic/sexual partner and who instead, spends most of his time caring for his sick mother. This isn’t a real person, guys! This is a figment of 14-year-old Cass’ imagination because believe me, I know a lot of boys at university and being a Marty Stu is laughably far from their reality.
All in all, despite the book being a quick and easy read, it definitely could’ve benefitted from another hundred or so pages to give the other characters a bit less of a paper quality. As well as some revisions on the fleshed-out characters because no, just no.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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