I took a risk with this one when I requested it from NetGalley, because it had one of the least informative blurbs I’ve ever seen — about two lines long and vague as anything. It meant I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into, and while that doesn’t necessarily bother me, it still affected how I approached the book.
Sadly, I didn’t enjoy The Unforgettables the way I’d hoped I would. To prevent others from having the same lack-of-blurb problem that I had, let me quickly summarise the story: a dyslexic boy who loves art and dance moves from Chicago to Maine, where he finds himself living next to a girl interested in the same obscure comics as him. This shared interest and the fact that they’re neighbours means they become friends… and then romance happens and complicates everything.
For the first third of the book or thereabouts, I was enjoying the storyline and characters (who were plenty diverse), but I felt the writing was somewhat weak. Here and there it jumped about or there was missing punctuation that made it a little hard to follow, as well as some errors — though admittedly this was an ARC, so some of them might have been fixed. Nevertheless, I was prepared to overlook weaker writing because I was intrigued by the characters, as they were racially diverse but well-developed. There was also a trans character, although she didn’t play a significant role, and some other background LGBTQ characters.
As long as plot and character were holding my interest, I could just about ignore the writing style, which as I’ve said seemed somewhat weak. However, the plot failed me partway through when it became about romance, love triangles, jealousy, miscommunication… you know, all of the things that befall straight people in books, and which really don’t interest me.
Oh, and prom. Another baffling American tradition. Don’t get me wrong, my British school had a prom, but it wasn’t about dates because you couldn’t bring guests or whatever, and it was totally not a big deal. (I didn’t even bother going.) But this book featured both homecoming and prom, and yet I still don’t fully understand what homecoming is. Or school spirit week. And what are class colours? These accompanied a fair few of what I assumed were pop culture references, and went straight over my head. I just can’t relate to these things when I don’t even know what they are.
Then there was the fact that the characters’ parents behaved in a way mine never have, being totally strict about all sorts of stuff while relaxed about others. (I never realised how not-strict my parents were until quite recently. Mine would never talk frankly and casually about sex, but they also wouldn’t try and make decisions about my uni choices, tell me I couldn’t wear makeup or date, or ground me. They’ve never had reason to, but I don’t know, I just couldn’t understand a lot of their priorities, and they seemed really controlling.)
Add to that the focus on romantic feelings and sex and so on, which completely doesn’t click with me as someone with no interest in that, and I found it extremely difficult to relate to or engage with the rest of the book. Some of the characters also had slightly unconvincing changes of heart, their feelings yo-yoing all over the place, and maybe that’s me not understanding romance, but it didn’t seem particularly likely.
I don’t think the plot of the book was bad, though it was a fairly conventional story of family and the strife associated with teenage romance. However, it was neither a story I could relate to nor one that particularly interested me, because it was so overwhelmingly focused on things I just don’t care about or can’t understand. (Romance, sex, prom; America, strict parents.) Combine that with a writing style that felt unpolished to the point of sometimes inhibiting my understanding of events, and I’m afraid it’s going to have to be a negative response from me.