Alright. So Angie reviewed Easy on Tuesday and by that evening I had bought the book, fully intending to hold on to it while I finished off other books I was reading. But then, I read a few pages. By lunch the next day I’d read the whole thing.
The Premise: Jacqueline Wallace is having a horrible sophomore semester in college. After 3 years together, her boyfriend Kennedy dumps her so that he can sleep with other girls. Two weeks after that, his frat brother Buck attacks Jacqueline in a parking lot and tries to rape her. She escapes only because a guy in her economics class was there. Shaken by the assault, all Jacqueline wants to do is to move on and act like nothing is wrong. She doesn’t tell anyone what happened, but Lucas, the boy who saved her knows, and suddenly she’s noticing him everywhere. To add to everything else, Jacqueline has missed two weeks of Economics because she was avoiding Kennedy and if she doesn’t make up the midterm she missed, she’s going to fail the class.
My Thoughts: Since I didn’t really look at any reviews besides the one before beginning Easy, I was genuinely freaked out by the first few pages. I didn’t know what would happen to Jacqueline, and I had a sinking feeling at the pit of my stomach when she walked to her truck and was suddenly pinned down from behind. I was relieved when a savior appeared, but after this incident I still worried since Jacqueline didn’t report Buck for the attempted rape. I’m putting that out there now for anyone for whom this would be uncomfortable with descriptions of sexual assault. My rule of thumb is not to discuss what happens after the first fifty pages of a book, so I won’t say whether things get darker for Jacqueline, but I will say that the first few pages with the attempted assault is at the threshold of what the reader actually gets to “see”.
As can be expected, Jacqueline wants to put the attack behind her. She has a lot of other things to deal with on top of her trauma. Besides getting over her breakup with Kennedy, tutoring upright bass, and working towards her music education major, she has to save her GPA by not failing in Economics. This means getting in touch with the class tutor, Landon Maxfield. As Jacqueline’s busy schedule would have it, she can’t make any of the face-to-face session with Landon, so instead they communicate by email, and what starts off as a formal interaction (“Mr. Maxfield”, “Ms. Wallace”), soon becomes a light flirtation (“I already looked forward to his name in my inbox, our back-and-forth banter”). At the same time, Jacqueline is also noticing someone else — Lucas, the guy who saved her from Buck. He sits in the back of her Economics class, sketching instead of taking notes, makes her coffee at Starbucks (he’s the barista), and shows up at the club to ask her to dance. He’s got a mysterious bad boy edge — lip piercing and tattoos, and girls coming up to him after class. At first seeing him makes Jacqueline relive that night, but after she’s noticed him, she’s drawn in, and it looks like the feeling is mutual.
Minutes before the end of class, I turned and reached into my backpack as an excuse to sneak a look at the guy on the back row. He was staring at me, a black pencil loose between his fingers, tapping the notebook in front of him. He slouched into his seat, one elbow over the back of it, one booted foot casually propped on the support under his desk. As our eyes held, his expression changed subtly from unreadable to the barest of smiles, though guarded. He didn’t look away, even when I glanced into my bag and then back at him.
I snapped forward, my face warming.
If you like romance with that delicious build-up of falling in love, where a couple’s addiction for one another is a force you can feel, this is probably a book you will like. Jacqueline is decidedly pursued over the course of seven weeks by a guy who says and does all the right things. I mean, this guy is good. Things begin with light touches and long stares and progress until the electricity is fairly crackling, but this guy is also respectful and not aggressive (mysterious too). When Jacqueline’s best friend and roommate Erin advises her to “make him chase you” that’s when things get interesting. And here’s when I get contrary. Yes, I was sucked in, but my own cynicism kept rearing its head. The male romantic lead here was too much of a fantasy for me, by all accounts some sort of dream guy, showing up at just the right time to boost Jacqueline’s confidence. I couldn’t stop myself from feeling disbelieving even as I raced to finish the book. It felt like there was so much going on with him that he unbalanced the story a little.
If Easy was just about the romance, I wouldn’t have liked this book as much as I did. I liked it’s depiction of college. This is not a book where the college setting is just icing — no, this story is permeated by its setting: dorm hallways as hangout areas, lectures with auditorium seating, lugging laundry to the basement, and equal parts study and being with friends. College life is shown with ups (like independence and intense friendships) as well as downs (like rumors and clique culture). The dialogue was particularly good — utterly natural and believable. I always felt like it captured the emotions of the moment.
I also liked Easy for being a story with a positive message. It put the blame of sexual assault where it belongs and had a proactive message to women as well. Those who blame the victim and support the abuser exist here, but are clearly not in the right. I loved the message of sisterhood and of women looking out for one another, and I was really invested in Jacqueline move upwards and forward from what happened. My empathy for Jacqueline made me cheer for all the positive things that came her way. This story wasn’t perfect (see above), but it was a good one.
Overall: An entertaining New Adult contemporary with a pro-female message. I quite happily was swept along by the easy writing style, the banter of the college set, and the electric romance. Even if part of me found Jacqueline’s hero too conveniently perfect to suspend my disbelief (he fell in that uncanny valley between an awesome guy and a god), I liked this one. Definitely worth the $3.99 I spent on it.
Dear Author – B+
Clear Eyes, Full Shelves – “I’m usually quite wary of self-published books, but Easy was worth the risk.”
Angieville – “Highly recommended, especially for fans of Jessica Park’s Flat-out Love, Jennifer Echols’ Going Too Far, all things new adult, and just substantial, swoony contemporaries in general.”