Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sleeping Tom by E.V. Fairfall

Title: Sleeping Tom
Author: E.V. Fairfall
Format I Read: Kindle
Pages: 343
Genres: Romance, Psychological
Release Date: February 14, 2015
Stars: 3
Goodreads Link

*I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Please read through the entire review!

After plowing through this novel, I have to say: it was alright. I wouldn't say it was amazing or earth-shattering. The concept was good. The execution was good. The writing was a bit better than good. The ending salvaged it a bit. However, I wasn't in love. The biggest appeal to a novel is the characters. And these characters just didn't do it for me.

I'll start with a quick synopsis for those who are still a little unfamiliar. Basically, Rebecca suffers from an abusive relationship. Her boyfriend abandons her at a bridge. Gabriel, a dark stranger, picks her up and lets her stay at his house. He's harsh and aggressive, completely unsympathetic to her situation. However, Rebecca (who has renamed herself Caden to try to shed her weak side) soon learns that Gabriel is more than just Gabriel. During the day, he is Gabriel. At night, he is Tom. Tom is a playful child inside a man's body. Caden must juggle these two personalities as she tries to discover the truth about Gabriel and the truth about herself.

I initially liked Caden's own struggle. I enjoyed her personal turmoil as she tried to figure out who she was: Caden, Rebecca, or both. Caden was strong and forceful, her own being. Rebecca was submissive and subservient, a people pleaser. The struggle was interesting. However, it soon became exhausting. At a particularly point in the book (around 70-80% maybe), every other sentence was "Rebecca this, Rebecca that." I started to consider that Caden had dissociative identity disorder. I felt as if Ms. Fairfall was trying to convey a theme that just wouldn't fit. She was trying to explain that your past and the events don't define you, but they do change who you are. It was a good concept, but it just became too forced. Again, the struggle was effective at first, and it made me immediately interested at the beginning of the book. It was a good hook. I just didn't feel like the follow up was successful. It was distracting and confusing.

Not only that, but I just didn't like Caden. I completely understand that she's a victim of abuse, and that has damaged her views of love and relationships. I understand that she's human and she isn't really supposed to be likable. She's supposed to be real. But when the main character is so unappealing that I considered closing the book? That's a little too much. She wasn't really likable at all, past the first quarter of the book. We learn how much she hates Angelica, yet we clearly see that Angelica isn't terrible. We see beyond the facade she puts on at parts, yet Caden is still aggressive and bitterly jealous. I felt that the slut shame and the hate toward Angelica was far too extensive.

Caden's actions with Tom Gabriel also left much to be desired in terms of likability. She thinks, Ugh, Gabriel is so aggressive and he broke a mug, he's such a jerk, but he's so manly. Aw, Tom is so adorable, but gosh I wish he was Gabriel. She likes Tom more than Gabriel for the first half of the book, yet suddenly flips and gets sick of Tom? Yet she still likes Tom more than Gabriel? But wait no, now she only wants Gabriel? I just felt that it was so back and forth that it had no reasoning behind the switches. It just seemed to add drama. Fortunately, she did seem to make a definitive choice in the end, just in time for (spoiler-DUNDUNDUN).

Beyond her relationship with Tom Gabriel, she was also terrible to her mother. There was a chunk in the middle of the book where Caden returns to her mother's house and gosh did I want to slap Caden every other page. The way that Caden was written, my sympathy for her decreased as I continued reading.

Caden was also a complete masochist. I don't have enough fingers for how many times I wanted to scream at her. She just kept torturing herself. Living with this constant back and forth between Gabriel and Tom was not healthy, yet she stayed. I understand that she felt like she had few options. But at a certain point, she just had to leave. She left one abusive relationship for another unhealthy relationship. Hadn't she learned her lesson? Again, I understand that those who suffer abuse usually get stuck in this cycle. I just felt like that wasn't explained enough for it to be a valid excuse.

However, I will say that there were redeeming qualities. I thought the concept was fascinating. It was very interesting how Gabriel was day and Tom was night, yet their personalities were better fitted for the opposite. As a psychology student, I also did a little fist pump when the librarian corrected Caden: it's now "dissociative identity disorder," rather than "multiple personality disorder."

I felt that the structure was helpful and effective; Ms. Fairfall labels the days and nights so that it's easier to understand when Tom is out to play and when Gabriel is out. I did find a few grammatical errors ("try and", rather than "try to"; "then" rather than "than").

I felt like the ending with Nikolai was kinda why? However, I did like the lead in to the sequel. I'm interested enough to want to read Waking Gabriel, which I guess speaks for itself. Hopefully, it'll be different now that Gabriel has changed and now that (insert spoiler).

I just don't quite know what to say. I truly did want to stop reading around the halfway mark. Fortunately, I pushed on and it did salvage itself. My advice though? Make your characters likable. Make them more than their past, just as the theme tried to convey. I want to know more about Rebecca (and Caden) than the fact that she wears black, was in an abusive relationship, and dyed a heart on her carpet. I just didn't get that. Again, I understand that that's the problem with abuse. It takes away someone's personality and makes them a shadow of herself/himself. But you have to pick: is this going to be a novel about abuse or a novel about psychological struggle? Is it going to be about Caden/Rebecca or about Gabriel/Tom? I felt that you had to just choose one in order to do it justice. The abuse was a huge distraction that made me constantly wonder what was going on.

Overall, I'd give it 3 stars. I am looking forward to the sequel though. The concept was interesting enough that I'll come back for more.

Best of luck with the release, Ms. Fairfall!

(Sorry I'm such a harsh critic. I love you, I promise.)