BOOK REVIEW! Love Me Not by Holly Smale

Title: Love Me Not 

Series: The Valentines #3

Author: Holly Smale

Publication: May 13 2021, HarperCollins Childrens Books

Pages: 528 Pages, Paperback

Source: Library

Rating: 2.5/5 cupcakes! 

The stunning conclusion to the mega fame-busting 11-13 trilogy from the multi-million bestselling author of GEEK GIRL.

Party girl actress Mercy Valentine is nobody’s hero and that’s how she wants it. She’s sarcastic, sharp and always defensive – so no one can hurt her ever again. Mercy’s starring in a major theatre show and hitting the gossip headlines, but her glamorous world is about to come crashing down. And when Mercy crashes there will be fireworks…

LOVE ME NOT is an eye-opening, heart-warming, darkly funny exploration of what it really means to be famous, and how to heal a broken heart.

You know when you can't find anything you particularly like about a book but you also can't stop reading it? That's how I felt about Love Me Not. It was weirdly compelling; perhaps it was because I wanted to find out what happened to Charity, Mercy's twin sister who died, or maybe it was because I wanted to see Mercy have a complete character overhaul, or maybe it was because this book was filled with drama and angst which was a welcome distraction from the deadlines I have at the moment. That being said, reading this book felt like experiencing a fever dream - slightly disorientating and markedly strange at times and not altogether enjoyable.

There was a significant portion of this book I didn't particularly like. I think the main reason being it seemed incredibly unrealistic. The concept was good - who doesn't love reading about the drama and secrets in a dysfunctional famous family? Books that look at how the other half live are almost always entertaining, with the chance to explore a broad variety of topics. I feel like if this book was written for upper YA/New Adult it would have reached its full potential, but due to the immaturity of the characters and the simplistic writing the characters seemed almost caricatural in nature. 

For me the characters in a book are integral to how much I enjoyment I get from my reading experience. With Love Me Not, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about them. I'm not sure why I kept reading this series as I never really clicked with any of the characters, but perhaps I am an optimist at heart and believed with every book I would have a deeper appreciation of them. Mercy, the main character, is complicated. She's angry and she's cruel and pushes people away. I understood her hurting and the way she thought, but the way it was written made her "badness" came across as satirical almost. She said the most ridiculous things and was quite a volatile character, but instead of the writing capturing a more realistic anger it just made it seem cartoonish and slightly maniacal. 

I also would get incredibly frustrated with her as she was handed movie/theatre roles on a silver platter due to her family lineage, but she didn't take it seriously at all. She would miss rehearsals, make a scene when she did go to rehearsals, and never seemed to do work ever. For a book about a famous acting family, Mercy just didn't seem to care about acting at all. Eventually, it seemed like she did, but for a significant portion of the book I just didn't understand Mercy's attitude and reaction to things. 

Another reason Mercy's character seemed satirical was the erratic way she would swing from being somewhat decent to being completely awful again. The way she treated Finn and her family was terrible at times, and she recognised that, but would keep doing it. HOWEVER, by the end of the book she was working on herself and had redeemed herself quite a bit. So yay for character development! We love to see it.

Effie, Hope, and Max also played a prominent role in this series. Max came across as narcissistic and fully embraced that. Hope is fifteen-years-old but still can't say basic words properly. Effie is sweet and caring, but again, that seems to be all there is to her character. 

Mercy's friends were the stereotypical rich airheads who share a single brain cell between them. Some of the things they said I couldn't help but laugh at their ridiculous dialogues, as I don't think anyone would say some of the things they said. At least, I hope not.  

Finn was the saving grace in this book. He was one of the stage crew at the theatre who started emailing Mercy for work purposes and from that a friendship began. Finn was so patient and understanding with Mercy, and I absolutely loved him.

Pretty much all the characters in this series (except Finn, who is a human cinnamon roll and must be protected at all costs) act completely unrealistically and seem to have no depth to them.

The relationships in this book weren't terrible, but they weren't great either. I appreciated how, despite Mercy's personality and severe anger issues, her family stuck by her and forgave her and kept loving her, which is an incredible thing about families. Their concern and forgiveness was apparent which was really nice to see! I was glad that in this book the parents finally started taking some responsibility. The siblings were left to their own devices for a lot of this series, with the mom being mentally absent and enshrouded in her own grief and the dad having abandoned the family to do work in America. I understand the parents were grieving in their own ways, but for them to not be there for their children was really sad. I'm glad that the characters in this book finally healed and were able to find closure and support one another. There was apparent growth in the characters and their relationships which was great to see! 

The friendships in this book weren't great. Mercy's friends were horrible to her. She didn't treat them that well either, but some of the things they said to her were also awful. Their friendship also seemed to revolve entirely around partying, clubbing, and popularity. I understand Mercy stayed friends with them as they had been friends since childhood, and I was glad that she finally decided they weren't a good fit for each other anymore and stepped away from that. Again, yay for character development! 

 I will bear in mind that the target audience for this series is the lower-end of YA. I found the writing very simplistic, and the dialogue quite immature. The excessive use of capital letters and the oddly put together phrases disconnected me from the story. There were a lot of moments that the writing made the story seem, as I've said, satirical and like a slightly unreal experience - and not in the best way.

Although there wasn't anything I particularly loved about this book...I couldn't stop reading. I think Holly Smale did a good job of showing glimmers of Mercy's personality and at times managed to capture her hurt and anger with authenticity. I wanted to see Mercy come to terms with her grief and begin healing, and I was grateful that the author addressed Mercy's flaws and developed her into a more likeable character. The other characters also had some character development too which contrasted against how they were in the beginning of the series.
The romance was actually quite sweet. I really liked how Mercy and Finn started getting to know each other over emails, and then the dates they went on were quite cute too! Mercy didn't treat him well quite a lot though, which I found infuriating, but by the end of the book they seemed to be in a healthier relationship. 

I'm not entirely sure why I kept reading, perhaps out of loyalty to honour the nostalgia associated with Smale's books, but I'm glad I did as it was an absorbing read that I felt myself entertained by nonetheless. If you're looking for a book with in-depth characters, a well-written narrative, and a fast-paced plot this probably isn't for you. If, however, you want a read that is dramatic, angsty, and filled with dysfunctional characters with the potential to grow, you might enjoy this. 

Although Love Me Not didn't deliver in the way I hoped it would, it was a highly readable book that kept me engaged with the sweet love interest, lifestyle of the rich and the famous, and the hint of mystery of how the Valentine family fell into grief. 

I give it: 2.5/5 cupcakes