This. Is. Not. Over.
Malcolm Blair comes from a prestigious politically connected family. He’s one of those people that seems to have it all: looks, intelligence, charm, wealth, and power. But there’s one thing that he hasn’t been able to get. One thing he wants the most and has eluded him for 12 years: Red. The redhead, black creole girl he fell for at his prestigious boarding school. She’s all grown up now; successful and married to another. But as he told her 12 years ago “this.is.not.over.” Get ready for the crazy.
When I read book one in this series, I did not know what to think. I knew I liked the approach the writer took. I liked her style. I liked her boldness and unflinching way of throwing an utterly nonredeemable heroine in your face, and daring you to stop reading (like she didn’t care whether you did or did not). Still, I did not want to judge the series based on the first book when there was a second that (per other reviews) wrapped up the main story line. I immediately started the second book and read it straight through. That’s where we are now.
The first two books in this series forced me to think deeper (struggle even) to formulate an opinion on the story even though I did not feel like investing the time to do so. I had a physical reaction to the end, a bad one. But if I’m going to review a book, especially by a fellow writer, then I must do it thoroughly and with honesty. So, I could not throw in the towel when shit got real. Shannon Diane is a damn good writer. One of the best, if not the best, I’ve read during my two-month book challenge What makes her writing most impressive is that it’s delivered with unapologetic truth wrapped in levity. You may love it, cringe or hate it, but you cannot deny it.
With that said, no more delays, here’s the breakdown of Shh…Mine and Over in the This.Is.Not.Over series…
A. Love. Most. Unkind.
In Shh… We are introduced to our hero and heroine Malcolm Blair and Danielle Rouge (Who is commonly referred to as Red or Danny, depending on who’s doing the talking). The story opens with Malcolm’s POV. The characters are teenagers and at first you think you’re getting the beginnings of a potentially all-consuming love story. Well, wait a minute and don’t hold your breath. This.Is.Not.Over; Malcolm’s words to Red at the close of his initial POV are prophetic not only to the characters but to us, the readers. Is this good or bad? Our answer comes when the POV switches to Danielle. This isn’t the Red we’ve come to see through Malcolm’s glorified gaze. This is the true her. No longer selectively mute and aloof. She’s a grown woman now and wastes no time letting us know she’s probably not someone we’d want to be friends with, and surely not someone we should trust. Surely not someone to pine over and want to marry. The only additional character we’re given any significant POV insight into is Danielle’s so-to-be ex-husband, Jon. His relentless pursuit and rose colored view of Danielle is as problematic as Malcolm’s, and again our quest for a hero is unfulfilled. As the story moves on, I’m engrossed in Malcolm and what seems to be his well-intentions, despite his flaws and misguided view of Danielle. He’s for sure no hero. But it’s the glue that keeps me stuck to the story, it’s the thread that keeps me hanging on, because it carries the most emotional weight. By the end, that feeling corrodes. I begin to realize that Malcolm is only as good as his love for Red allows him to be. His love for her doesn’t allow him to be his better self. But then again, was Malcolm ever good to begin with? The second book answers that question definitively (at least for me it did).
Heroines. Heroes. Need. Not. Apply.
In Over, the story picks up where it left off. Felonies have been committed. There’s a missing person. Paranoia reigns supreme, and Malcolm is still overly occupied with the thoughts and whereabouts of Red and this idyllic future he’s built around her. There are three things that keep this book afloat: The first is Malcolm’s unwavering motto and moments of cold and direct communication when it comes to Red. It boils down to this: Don’t. Fuck. With Red. Which proves he’s anything but inconsistent. Second, is Danielle’s contact high; an extended moment in the story that makes her an inch shy of palatable. Too bad it doesn’t last. Third, Laura’s POV; which I must say, gave me the much-needed levity to push through a very high-handed story. Where things faltered was in the oppressive nature of the storytelling. There’s no one to root for or care about. Malcolm, our once potential hero, goes zero dark thirty by the end and not for the sake of something as noble as national security. Sorry, Malcolm, but getting into Red’s panties is not a matter of state. Jon is completely castrated in this story. Apologies, Jon, but I’ve seen bigger balls on a Chihuahua. Danielle/Red is still as classist, intra-racist, and self-absorbed as ever. Sorry Danielle but the world does not revolve around you – you’re not the greatest everything of all time. Sadly, if you think a comeuppance is on the horizon, you’ll be greatly disappointed; she gets everything she wants and drags what’s left of her decent friends into the darkness with her. By the end, the fun’s gone. There’s this long epilogue with a bunch of telling not showing. A drain, really. And an ending that would make you want to buy out the MAC counter at Macy’s and set it all aflame on Danielle’s front lawn. This book brings out the cruelty in everyone.
Cruel. Is. The. New. Black.
You see, for all the clever wit and spot-on cultural and political insight Dianne utilizes throughout this tale, the one thing that’s missing, is the one thing it cannot do without; heart. There is no heartbeat to this story. It thrives on cruelty. Despicable acts by despicable people. Sure, life be that way some times and at least her characters’ tyranny comes with laughs. But is it worth it? Does it balance the narrative? No. But hey what’s a little inhumanity among friends? For me, that’s the hard sell of this book. It lacks heart. The malevolence isn’t like seasoning. It doesn’t pepper the story with edge. It overpowers it. While reading Over, I began with laughter and then slowly, and like one of those wind-up toys that get slower and slower as the momentum seeps away, I felt the humor drain away and with it the enjoyment. Dianne’s satire becomes less of an insightful journey into contemporary race and class relations and more of a pop culture journey with the implacable cool kids, and their empty but idolized love stories. As I closed the chapter on this series, I could not help but feel like a sledge hammer had come down on my head over and over. Pain knocked against my temples. I felt as though I’d be assaulted with enough emotional brutality to fill a Saudi Prince’s bank account. In the world of This. Is. Not. Over – Cruel. Is. The. New. Black. Pun intended.
The Run down.
So here are the quick pros and cons of this story with as little spoiling as I can humanely muster:
• Copy editing – needs some work. Typos here and there.
• Characters – nonredeemable, vile. I’m talking Racist. Classist. Heartless. Hypocritical. Criminal.
• Pacing – Okay but could have used a trim. Especially in book two (Over).
• Thankfully – This is not a love story. Could have been a unique one. But no. Some reviews will make you think otherwise. Believe Ms. Dianne when she assures you. This.Is.Not.A.Love.Story .
This. Is. The. End – My. Only. Friend – The. End.
If I thought Shannon Diane meant to do that, this review would have gone a very different way. But in the end, I think she’s intelligent enough and talented enough to translate quite clear her intentions. And my verdict is this: The characters are nonredeemable, too self-centered, too-self-important, too superficial, too classicist, too elitist, too racist, and their reactions to events too over-the-top to care how it all turns out for them. But it’s satire…But, it’s supposed to be exaggerated… But Malcolm and Red are so adorbs! No. They’re frozen in their bubble of privilege. Yeah. This story lacks heart. Without it, I cannot call it a triumph and I could not continue with the series. Otherwise, I would have one clicked the remaining and any future books, and clapped in a standing ovation until my palms bled. But I wasn’t afforded the opportunity, because by the end of book two the series did not deliver on its most crucial element; making me give a damn. That’s a shame. I find myself saying and writing that often nowadays. I guess it’s a sign of the writing times.
There were moments over the past couple days I wanted to go deep with this review. I’m talking bone-marrow deep. There were some passages (especially in regards to Danielle’s POV that left me mouth agape and fuming). But I get what Dianne was attempting to do (at least I think I do). I get the satire. I just wish it didn’t have to sacrifice so much to make a point. Maybe this would have fit better in a different genre. I don’t think it belongs anywhere near romance or mystery. Maybe women’s fiction, and that’s a big maybe despite all its feminist flag waving. But that’s the most I’m willing to say in the negative about it. I think Shannon Diane is a very talented writer. Curious to see what she comes up with next.
My series Rating: An icy 4.0