REVIEW: Toxic, Nicci Cloke

Friday, 22 February 2019

Hope has never been happier. She's on her way to Crete, after a group of her friends have made her an honorary 'lad' and let her tag along on their boys' holiday. There's a slight complication in that one of those boys, Logan, is Hope's ex-boyfriend, but they're still friends and Hope's pretty confident it won't be too awkward. The next couple of days are exactly what Hope was hoping for - lazy days in the sun, and long, drunken conversations. She can't help but notice that Logan's flirting with her. Logan and Hope end up alone and Hope is horrified when, after she leans in to kiss him, Logan completely rejects her. Embarrassed and annoyed, Hope is on a mission to get drunk, and with the alcohol flowing, and the sun going down, Hope's starts having a great time. The next thing Hope knows, she's being woken up on the beach by two strangers. It's 9 o'clock the next morning and she can't remember anything about the previous night . . . what on earth happened?

Lads. Fuckboys. Dudebros.
You know the guys I mean.
The ones who think getting drunk and talking about the girls they’re going to sleep with are enough to replace a personality.
Try to talk to them about something else, I dare you. I can already tell you now, that you’re not going to get much of an answer.
Whilst Toxic could’ve been a timely examination of ‘lad culture’, toxic masculinity and all of the horrors that it entails, it devolved into something that wouldn’t have looked out of place on an episode of The Inbetweeners.
I mean, sorry but you can’t given the Freudian excuse that a guy is a misogynistic, homophobic arsehole just because his dad is. My dad is one too, and you don’t see me acting like that.
It worked for Jay, it won’t for this.
Hope, the supposed focus of our story and our eyes into the raucous, sex-obsessed (despite none of them actually getting any ooooOH) shenanigans of a lads’ holiday (which were, to be honest, not much different to the girls’ holidays I’ve been on) and the group dynamic. She was a cool chick - a drinking, fun-loving protagonist who actually resembled a real teenager.
These girls who still call their parents ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’ have nothing on her.
But unfortunately, what should have been Hope’s tale about the ever-present dangers of boozy nights out when your friends fuck off and don’t look after you (I hate people that do this, seriously) suddenly changed point-of-view into the one of her ex-boyfriend.
Let me spell this out right now, for those who might not get it: Hope should have been the one to tell her story about her potential sexual assault, its aftermath, and the trauma that comes just with the worry and the not knowing. It shouldn’t have been told through the eyes of some dude who didn’t even realise that leaving her alone in some town they didn’t know wasn’t something he should have done.
I mean, seriously?
And, then (then!), to make matters worse and really hammer home the fact that this book was going to be a 1* read, a novel that initially was about topics like lad culture, sexual assault and toxic masculinity that, now more than ever, need to be talked about, randomly turned into one about a random girl posting fan fiction on Live Journal.
You couldn’t make it up.
I mean, the author did, but anyway.
I know so many lads, I have been on so many of these boozy holidays, dealt over and over again with these kinds of situations and I know, for a fact, that nearly every other girl in my life has dealt with them too. Toxic tried to reflect the culture in the UK that is so damn recognisable to 99.9% of 17-25 year-olds (an age group that is wilfully ignored again and again by authors and the publishing industry as a whole) and it managed to fall at every damn hurdle. This should have been a vital piece of literature and yet…

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

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