Paper Hearts by Ali Novak
Published by: Sourcebooks Fire
Released: July 4 2017
Read: 25 June 2017
When writing a romance novel, the most important thing is to get everything else right. Because basically readers don’t come for the ending. They know it’s a HEA. It’s a given. So the journey, the on-the-way, the path taken to reach it? That’s important. It has to feel right, because otherwise the romance won’t hold up.
At times, Paper Hearts doesn’t feel right. There are too many questions for which I wanted answers. The twist in the plot had too many holes, and it didn’t quite hit the shock value it was aiming for. But most unfortunately, I didn’t feel like I ever really knew Alec. I read the first book in this loosely connected series (about a boy band called The Heartbreakers), and even in that review I noted he seemed enigmatic, and one would think that, given this is HIS book, we would feel more connected. I didn’t. He’s as much a mystery by the end as he was in the beginning.
Everything is seen through Felicity’s point of view. She’s an open book. Her feelings, however, are closed up tight, and for much of the story, she remains focused on good grades, and getting into Harvard, even though anyone with their eyes half open can tell her passion lies elsewhere. Her decisions about her future were made when she was 13, when her older sister left and never returned. Felicity took on the burden of the well-behaved daughter, the reliable one, and we all know that meeting Alec is going to shake the foundations of her well-intentioned plans.
Felicity’s mother is a cardboard cut-out of a character. She serves only to be critical and meddlesome. Felicity has let her mother get away with some bad decisions, but at least we know why. We understand the loss of sister Rose has affected their mother badly, and it’s a clear reflection of Felicity’s generous heart. I wanted her to more appreciative of Felicity and oh, how about, not lie to her for years! (sorry, heading into spoiler territory there!)
I did like the way Felicity developed over the course of the novel. But really, aren’t the books meant to be about the boys in the band? Yes, by the end of the novel, Alec is also more confident, more independent, but we have little understanding of how he gets to that point, because of course, when the big misunderstanding happens, we follow Felicity and never see how Alec deals with the breakup. It’s frustrating. There was also way too much reliance on Felicity overhearing half-understood conversations, which didn’t help provide any insight into Alec.
A little research shows that these books started on as online stories, and now are being published in print. It’s great to see authors who have gained fans via an online forum getting to see their work in traditional media, and I will be interested to see the following titles that will show us the other two band members, Xander and JJ find their happy-ever-after. You might ask, why read these books if I’m just going to be critical? Well, I do love a romance. I always have. But I want more than eyes lighting up at the sight of him/her, and I don’t deserve you. And Paper Hearts just didn’t hit those highs.
Thanks to publisher, Sourcebooks Fire and Netgalley for the advanced copy. If you read the first book, you will want to catch up with all the band members here. There is one long extended sequence in which the Heartbreakers all appear. It’s a lovely bit of bonding. The road trip has some funny moments, and Felicity’s best friends, Asha and Boomer are their own special sub-plot.
Published on July 4.