What it’s kinda, sorta about
Reggie is friends with Asher. Reggie is also friends with Teddy. When Reggie introduces Asher to Teddy, things get heated under covers, on couches, in stairways and wherever else Asher and Teddy’s bodies lead them in the moment. Did I also mention that Teddy and Reggie used to have sex – and Teddy’s not sure she wants to stop that? Sounds like the opening to one helluva melodrama. But that’s not all. Teddy has some serious life-altering issues she’s contending with. So, investing in a committed relationship is not ideal for her now. Too bad she doesn’t clue her friends with benefits in on that before hearts and minds get caught up.
A Duo Review
The Friends That Have Sex duology was clearly not written for my demographic; age thirty-five and over Gen Xers that are allergic to fuckboyitis. While the books covered all politically correct bases—making sure not to offend anyone by including its racial, sexual orientation, size and handicapble quotas—it damn near offended me with its lack of polish and maturity. It’s simply a series of moments and conversations between three people that are oftentimes deeply immature, annoyingly selfish, and lacking in ambition beyond when they’ll have their next weed-smoking and fuck session. With that said, these characters are embarrassingly real for the Millennial audience it targets (and even some burnout Gen Y and Xers if I’m being completely honest). But does it make for a satisfying New Adult story in this IRR subgenre? For me, that’s a hard question to answer.
For the Tomas twins (authors G.L. Tomas) the strength of this series is in its realness. I hate to sound redundant, but I want to be clear. These characters are millennials through and through. They are twenty-somethings through and through. Americans with flavoring through and through. They are self-absorbed, emotionally overly complicated on things that are clear-cut and simple, unambitious to frightening degrees, and inconsequential in thought and action about who they casually share their time and bodies with. Simply put, they are hot messes defined. Nothing matters beyond the next moment, day, evening. Beyond the next fuck and the next argument. The next laisse-faire text message. Not even in life and death circumstances. Teddy, Asher and Reggie are people we’ve seen, may even know and loathe. People we may have discarded as friends at one time or the other, because of the very reasons I listed above. So, again, the question that rolled around in my mind after reading these two books: does this make for a satisfying New Adult romance read? As I thought it over, my answer became clearer. No. But did this make for a relevant New Adult IR take on the hook-up generation? Yes. It’s a dichotomy I’m still trying to wrap my mind around.
This isn’t romance. It’s not street lit either. It’s something in between. Something not yet defined. Hook up lit, perhaps? However you classify it, that hanging chad of a question makes it a somewhat interesting read. Something between a promise unfulfilled, and a headache that won’t go away.
Going back to the characters: Teddy, even with her life altering, sympathetic dilemma, comes across as a very unsympathetic Heroine. She’s confusing when she doesn’t need to be, selfish to degrees that confound understanding and ungrateful. But not only to others, with herself as well. But I’ll get to that later in the spoilerish part of this review. Anyway…usually, even if I stick with a book or series with that kind of character, it doesn’t end well. Even if the male lead is what keeps me most interested. This was no different. And I think I know why. I’ve read so many billionaire books during this reading streak, that anytime a character colors outside those lines, I perk up. I’m instantly drawn in.
But sadly, that’s not enough for this one. For all of Asher’s empathetic qualities, his inability to see his own worth (which, at one moment in book two, he acknowledges) was painstaking to read. His lack of ambition was also a turn-off. Reggie’s reliance on the women in his life to stroke his ego, provide him shelter, rides and discount weed, was even more disturbing. While we were supposed to be getting this all-inclusive romance with sexually fluid characters of various racial, cultural, economic, and able make-ups, what we got was a reinforcement of the sometimes-negative stereotypes attributed to people that fall into these categories. People we don’t imagine ourselves aspiring to be or aspiring to want to be around. For all the authenticity put into Reggie and Asher’s characters, they both made for some seriously emasculated and uninspiring romantic interests. I mean, would you aspire to have one of these guys as a boyfriend or husband? Hell, I would not aspire to have Reggie as a friend. I don’t even know why the characters are friends to be honest. They don’t seem to like each other much. While I’m on that topic, the following is kind of spoilerish but here goes…
To expand on why this very promising duology fell apart the most, let’s examine the characters further and the central conflicts presented. Some of these things are all too familiar in this genre (even if parts of the execution differs from what we’re read so many times before). In this toxic love triangle, there is not much to root for. Teddy is a privileged twenty-five-year-old who lives in a nice condo paid for by her well-to-do parents. Though she’s dealing with a major issue of having Cancer, she laments the most about the loss of superficial things like hair and weight. Her deeper feelings associated with death come across as inauthentic because of her actions. Illegal drug and nicotine use, alcohol use, lack of exercise and, wearing cold caps to chemo therapy, and unhealthy eating and sexual habits screams that this person has no interest in caring for herself, or extending the life she fears losing. So why should we, the readers, care? But she’s not the only character that elicits this kind of apathy. Reggie, her on and off OG friend with benefits, is a twenty-something free-loader who lives in his grandma’s basement, works part-time at a grocery store and lives to smoke weed, party, and search for the next girl to hook up with. The closest we have to a truly sympathetic character is Asher, and though he doesn’t check some of Reggie’s worst boxes, he is gravely unambitious outside the bedroom. He’s uneducated, under employed, a habitual drug user, and at worst a conniving friend. When Teddy and Asher hookup it all comes across as sleazy. Then her back and forth between the men, and indecisiveness was head-scratching, especially in the case of Reggie. He came to the table with literally nothing to offer. Where is the conflict in that? Where is the romance and why should we care about how these people resolve their love triangle?
We shouldn’t. We just go along for the train wreck it is. It’s melodramatic without heart, it’s hood, and it’s embarrassingly, painfully real. So here’s the run-down and then my concluding thoughts:
- Characters – Authentic characters that speak and act true to their environment.
- Diversity – A lot of the diversity boxes are ticked in these books: racial, sexual orientation, ethnic and cultural, economic, handicapable…did I miss one? I’m sure I might have. But many were represented. The attempt should be applauded (with a caveat – see cons).
- Chemistry – The H/h had sexual chemistry. Dare I say too much at times.
- Potential – I wonder where this story could have gone with a more mature approach. I give it a P for plenty of potential.
- Editing – Both books needed a serious copy edit. There were a lot of typos.
- Politicizing – Remember that point I made in pros about diversity. Well, diversity is great, I prefer my books with a splash, hell a whole paint jar of color. But…in this book certain aspects of this felt like diversity overkill. It came across as forced and appeasing, rather than natural. Some aspects didn’t seem necessary to the story and just put in there to make a character or the overall story seem different, rather than be different. Kind of took away from the authenticity of it in other aspects.
- Conflict – Very weak; extremely weak. The love triangle was lackluster to say the least, and the Heroine’s personal dilemma, outside of the aforementioned, at times felt like it was only added for the sake of making her sympathetic without actually eliciting sympathy. This could have worked with a mature undertaking of the subject matter, alas, that didn’t happen.
- Sex Scenes – The never-ending faux pas in romance/erotic literature. Sex scene after sex scene, after sex scene. It puts crater size dents into the main story and makes else feel like filler wrapped around a series of sex scenes. Not the first nor will it be the last book series in this genre to fall into this pattern. I guess after so many I’m thinking when is enough, enough? Give us a breather, gheesh!
Aside from the editing issues, I think this book will draw a the millennial audience. They will see themselves or someone they know among the urban vernacular and all boxes ticked characters. For Gen Y and Gen Xer’s (like me) not so much. Some might find it excruciating and not collection worthy. But in my opinion, it’s not without merit and worthy to pass the time on a long flight or afternoon at the beach. I even bought the novella and plan to read it at some point. Just today. I’m mentally winded.
I guess I’ll end it here how fitting the Tomas twins penned this brilliant line of inner dialogue from Friends that Still… It’s from a moment with Asher as he reflects on Reggie’s marathon laments about Teddy: “Another Drake verse dressed in conversation.” Because, Drake is much like this series; dichotomous. He’s black and he’s white, he’s hood and not hood. He’s likable and many times unlikable. He’s real and unreal. Sexy and unsexy. He’s inclusive while being exclusive. He wants to be liked by all, but that’s an impossible feat even for the best of us. He’s too in the middle for me. Too lacking in conviction to back up the authenticity he claims. He doesn’t capture my heart and mind, though he’s effortless in making my body dance.
My rating: Another Drake verse dressed in IR Romance 3.35