Swear on This Life by Renee Carlino
Adult – Contemporary
Published August 9th 2016 by Atria Books
“When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.
Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.
That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.
The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?” (Goodreads)
Oh man, the blurb for this book sounded perfect. I loved the setup and idea of a past/lost-love publishing the story of your childhood, his version of it at least, then profiting off of it. I wanted to love this story, and I should’ve loved this story, but I really truly could not stand this story. The story alternates between long chapters from inside the infamous books and and shorter chapters from the present with our main character Emiline having a breakdown of what she just read, over and over again.
A huge problem I had was the flashback just didn’t work for me. It got to the point where I knew the fictional characters in the book more than the actual characters and it was exhausting to constantly switch focuses to almost completely different storylines. Plus, the disconnect felt by their being almost zero time spent in the present was not helped along by the fact every single one of these characters was awful, and not in some complex way. The children were more mature and responsible than the adults they were supposed to grow into. Emiline and Jason were out of contact for twelve years. In that time they both grew and found better lives. When he comes back were are just supposed to accept them as true loves which is fine and dandy but I needed to be shown they truly belonged together and that never happened. Instead I get a lot of them as teenagers deciding they can’t live without each other…then 12 years of them living and surviving without each other. Their present relationship we are supposed to root for is based solely on their teenage interactions and none from the present.
Overall the whole book just felt anticlimactic to me. The characters were dealing with a mess that was made 12 years ago, not the mess of YOU PROFITED OFF MY LIFE STORY, which would have been way more interesting and what I expected. The ending of the book-inside-the-book is the call to Emiline and supposed to be mind-blowing for her. It just felt so predictable and not in the fun beach-read way. This entire thing could have been solved if either one quit playing the game and just said “we’re adults, let’s talk,” instead we get a book full of pointless hoops they build themselves.
I know it sounds like i think this is the worst book in the entire world, but I did enjoy parts. I read it all in two sittings, I just don’t think it delivered the emotions that I was expecting from the blurb and all of the good reviews. It fizzled when I was expecting it to wow. The themes were great, I just don’t think the narrative delivered.
“We can’t always control our circumstances, who our parents are, where we live, or how much money we make, but in those rare moments when we can shape our fate, when we do have the power to make our own happiness, we can’t be too scared to do it.”
No, overall the things I found frustrating others might love, but I just couldn’t get past them.