Friday, February 21, 2014

Review: Deeper by Robin York

Deeper, by Robin York
Bantam, available now
Reviewed by: Sarah P., honorary sis
The sisters say: impressive writing, a timely and wonderful New Adult novel

When Caroline Piasecki’s ex-boyfriend posts their sex pictures on the Internet, it destroys her reputation as a nice college girl. Suddenly her once-promising future doesn’t look so bright. Caroline tries to make the pictures disappear, hoping time will bury her shame. Then a guy she barely knows rises to her defense and punches her ex to the ground.

West Leavitt is the last person Caroline needs in her life. Everyone knows he’s shady. Still, Caroline is drawn to his confidence and swagger—even after promising her dad she’ll keep her distance. On late, sleepless nights, Caroline starts wandering into the bakery where West works.

They hang out, they talk, they listen. Though Caroline and West tell each other they’re “just friends,” their feelings intensify until it becomes impossible to pretend. The more complicated her relationship with West gets, the harder Caroline has to struggle to discover what she wants for herself—and the easier it becomes to find the courage she needs to fight back against the people who would judge her.

When all seems lost, sometimes the only place to go is deeper.

This book is getting a lot of internet chatter, because “revenge porn” (the posting of naked or compromising pictures of an ex or acquaintance) is a real-life problem. And this is surely the first book I’ve ever read on the modern day ill.

But even if Deeper weren’t groundbreaking in its subject matter, the book would still be worth talking about. Because the writing is just gorgeous. Robin York has crafted a smart and charming first person narrative which captured me from page one. Caroline’s embarrassment, confusion and awkward yearnings are rendered in such heartbreaking, knee-slapping clarity that you can’t help but keep turning pages.

Caroline’s character is so incredibly well developed that her indiscretions on camera are entirely believable. Even for a “good girl” character:
“Because the thing about being a good girl is, you spend your whole life developing a finely honed radar for detecting anything that could potentially cause people to love you less. Girls like me—or, I guess, girls like the one I was last August—we eat approval. We live for it. So when we do something dumb—or, say, when we do something really monumentally idiotic—we know.”
Caroline’s downfall—trusting her idiot ex-boyfriend—perfectly captures that early stage of sexual floundering which most everyone must survive. And the fallout is painful. Even walking into the college cafeteria afterwards becomes an unique act of courage. Caroline has to wonder whether each person she meets has seen pictures of her naked. Because so many of them have.

Of course, there’s a new romance with West which figures heavily into the plot. But unlike so many books in this genre, the guy’s job is not really to reinitiate the wounded damsel into the joys of sex after trauma. There’s plenty of sex in the book. Plenty. But it isn’t handled in that swoony I’ll-wait-right-here-with-these-popping-biceps-to-save-you-when-you’re-ready manner that’s so common in New Adult novels. It’s not West’s panty-melting gentleness that allows Caroline to regain control over her own sexuality. In fact, that trope is laid right down onto its ear here, because sex is the only thing that's easy between Caroline and West. Outside the bedroom, their relationship has several dozen other gritty, real-world obstacles.

In fact, those obstacles keep on buzzing right up to the last page, which sets the reader up quite nicely for book #2, Harder, which will publish in July.

And I, for one, cannot wait.

(Warning: Deeper contains a number of sexual situations, and is suitable for mature readers only.)