If I had a choice between reading a standalone book or starting the first book in a huge series, I’d undoubtedly choose the latter. I’m admittedly a sucker for book series because they often signify complexity of plot. The most interesting, unique, and complicated premises often need more than just a single book to tell a good story.
That being said, sometimes I need a break from the complexity in such books. After tearing through stories riddled with drama and tension, violence and war, and conflict that determines the fate of humanity, I often find myself physically and emotionally drained. I’m sure someone out there can relate.
This is how I felt after finishing Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds trilogy in early February (which, by the way, is one of my all-time favorite trilogies.) I found myself desiring a nice, long metaphorical “literary nap,” and escape from some of that intensity for awhile.
Thus, I purchased Love, Lucas by Chantele Sedgwick, a short and sweet summer tale of loss and love. And, well, I definitely knew what was coming when I bought it. Here’s my review:
Review of Love, Lucas by Chantele Sedgwick
Publication: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Format I Read: Kindle Edition
Pages: 280 (Kindle)
My Rating: 2.5 / 5
Premise (taken from Goodreads):
“When Oakley Nelson loses her older brother, Lucas, to cancer, she thinks she’ll never recover. Between her parents’ arguing and the battle she’s fighting with depression, she feels nothing inside but a hollow emptiness. When Mom suggests they spend a few months in California with Aunt Jo, Oakley isn’t sure a change of scenery will alter anything, but she’s willing to give it a try.
In California, Oakley discovers a sort of safety and freedom in Aunt Jo’s beach house. Once they’re settled, Mom hands her a notebook full of letters addressed to her—from Lucas. As Oakley reads one each day, she realizes how much he loved her, and each letter challenges her to be better and to continue to enjoy her life. He wants her to move on.
If only it were that easy.
But then a surfer named Carson comes into her life, and Oakley is blindsided. He makes her feel again. As she lets him in, she is surprised by how much she cares for him, and that’s when things get complicated. How can she fall in love and be happy when Lucas never got the chance to do those very same things?
With her brother’s dying words as guidance, Oakley knows she must learn to listen and trust again. But will she have to leave the past behind to find happiness in the future?”
Things I loved:
- The summery (or springy, I guess) feel-good vibes. Since Oakley graduated early, she has a few months free to visit her marine biologist aunt in Huntington Beach to help her cope with her brother’s death. Now who wouldn’t want to spend a few months lounging around the California coast, live in an expensive beach house, and go to teen bonfire parties at night? Needless to say, I’m jealous!
- Carson, Oakley’s surfer dude love interest, is a very real character. I was initially worried that he would come across as one of those “too perfect” boyfriends, one that has no physical or personality faults. (Can you tell I’ve read way too many mediocre teen romance books?) However, despite his “tanned skin” and the “muscles peeking out from beneath his sleeves” (page 19), Carson is very human. He is charming and amiable, yet at times has a temper and lashes out. Thank you, Chantele Sedgwick, for being smart about your character building. That being said… I have a few thoughts on Oakley in the “cons” section below.
- Carson isn’t fundamentally changed by Oakley. Instead of being suddenly inspired by his new girl to stand up to the unfairness in his life, he reveals thoughts and plans he’s had long before meeting Oakley. He is a very independent character. Another reason to like him. This is, again, a very refreshing change from stale boyfriends in other similar novels.
- Chantele Sedgwick’s obsession with the word “expression.” Seriously, guys. I did a word search on my Kindle and came up with 16 instances of the word “expression” to describe how a character’s face changes. Sixteen. All in the length of fewer than 280 pages. Four of which are paired with the word “strange” and used to describe Carson. Is there really no other way to describe emotion? And moreover, what exactly constitutes a “strange expression,” such that our author felt the need to reiterate it four times within a 40-page span? Now I’m no published author, but I’ve learned enough advanced writing skills in my thirteen years in academia to know that a certain amount of redundancy is just…irksome to a reader.
- Too few characters. Granted, this book might have been longer than the author desired if there were any more moving parts. But Oakley seems to have met too unrealistically few people in the span of a few months during her staycation. Not to mention the large group of local teenagers who seem to do nothing but host bonfire parties. Yet, she only really meets three secondary characters.
- Along the same lines as above, Dillon’s character is super random, almost like a filler character. I understand his role by the end, of course, but even this seems unnatural and forced, as if he were conveniently placed in Oakley and Carson’s lives simply to augment their relationship.
- Oakley is a very predictable, typical female protagonist. Crippled by sadness and yet bottling it up the entire duration of the book. Pushing Carson away because she’s “not good enough for him” (page 209). I’ve read it all before in dozens of other books. I do not mean to be facetious—these emotions in real life are very real and very serious—but in the name of fictional originality, I thought Oakley’s traits and development were lacking. But maybe I’m just too used to strong female leads with monumental character development (e.g. Celaena Sardothien, Ruby Daly, Alina Starkov, Tris Prior, and a thousand other badass chicks not yet mentioned.)
- The plot is wildly predictable. Maybe I’m being arrogant, or maybe I’ve simply read too many similar stories, I saw it all coming, even the plot twist at the end. *SPOILER highlight to read: [I mean, what’s the first thing you expect when there’s a disconcerted character paddling out in murky waters on a surfboard, a leg dangling in the water, in the midst of a high-tension scene?]
Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Language and Vocabulary Level: Fairly basic/simple. Some of her most beautiful descriptions are extremely simple.
Sexual Content: Mild.
POV: First-person, present-tense
You should read this book if:
- You want a feel-good, summery romance novel.
- You need a “literary nap,” aka a break from an intense trilogy or series.
- You like stories of sweet, innocent first loves.
Yes, I have a lot of things I disliked about this novel. However, it gains 2.5 stars from me due to the fact that the good parts of the novel held my attention long enough to read the whole thing and write this review. And that says something in and of itself.
But my literary nap ended as soon as it started, kudos to a good friend who allowed me to borrow her collection of the Throne of Glass book series. Aly, you rock!
Thank you for reading! If you would like emailed updates from my blog, please scroll to the top of this page (or go to my homepage) and press the “+Follow” button at the bottom right of your screen to enter your email address. Don’t forget about my bullet journal and hobbies Instagram account, also called turbulentrhapsodies, to see all of my creative and academic endeavors!