My feelings towards this book is mixed. I dove into this book thinking that I’d get some nice angst and a lot of tears but what I ended up with is a mix of being annoyed and angry with a dash of reluctant understanding.
You see, I didn’t think about how close to home this book could possibly hit. I had only just gotten out of a situation almost entirely the same as the one the characters in But I Love Him are involved in. Without giving too much details because this review isn’t about my life, I was Abby, my ex-best friend was Ann, her ex-boyfriend was Connor. The difference is that he’s emotionally abusive, their relationship lasted two+ years, and I’ve known her for 16+ years. So yeah, while I could relate to But I Love Him to certain degrees, could feel how realistic the book is and maybe see how my ex-best friend felt, I also couldn’t help my anger and how irritated I was at Ann because everything she did reminded me of my ex-best friend (Though Ann does deserve a second chance, Connor’s her first boyfriend after all). They shared the same stubbornness and the same blinded-by-love thing, and heavens, these similarities cemented the fact that But I Love Him is realistic despite being filled with clichés.
That aside, I found the writing incredibly repetitive and flat—a little poetic at times but not enough to eclipse how bad it is. Ann doesn’t develop as a character throughout the entire story and that’s a huge no-no because humans are complex beings and when there’s no development or change, Ann becomes unrealistic. I know this point of mine kind of conflicts with my saying that the book is realistic despite its clichés, but you see, at any point of the story, you can draw the conclusion that Ann is entirely blinded by her love and devotion to Connor—obsessed even. You’ll see that Ann is also stubborn and a little bit of a doormat and she’s like Nancy, Connor’s mother who is abused by his father. Sure, you get to see her frightened and desperately not wanting to do anything that can trigger Connor’s anger but that’s pretty much it. We don’t get enough to solidify an image of Ann before Connor, and the little dialogue in this story barely contributes to anything of importance too. Also, repetition is a good literary device to emphasise something or make things clearer but Amanda Grace overuses it which made the story disingenuous after a few pages.
Other than that, is it just me or is Ann super dramatic? She’s like 13-year-old me when I got dumped by my then-boyfriend, meaning: cringey, over-the-top and stuck in the emo/rebel phase. There are moments when she starts sounding like Lang Leav’s “poetry” as well and it’s just stereotypical and no. So much cringe. Moreover, she’s rather hypocritical. She “…hates that [her] relationship [with her mom] has boiled down to Connor and nothing else” and she doesn’t “…know why [her mom] can’t see past [Connor] to be there for…” her but the thing is, she can’t see past Connor to be there for her mom as well. Ann believes that Connor only has her as his anchor to the world, and she forgets that she’s her mother’s only child and that her mother is widowed.
Additionally, I felt that the narration got a bit inconsistent at times and by this, I mean that I would get a sliver of formality before it changed back to informality. For example, this line “I don’t know if he left in order to find more things to break, or if it was the only thing he could do to stop it” [italics for emphasise]. I think something like “I don’t know if he left so he could find more things…” or “I don’t know if he left to find more things…” might suit this ‘air’ of But I Love Him better.
Another negative thing about this book is that there was too much telling and barely a tiny flicker of showing—so much that I constantly wondered when this novel turned into a long rambling monologue with time skips. Abuse is a serious social problem and despite the accuracy this book has, the impact I could’ve gotten from reading it dwindled further due to this. There are parts of this book with some sage words but they weren’t enough too.
This book could’ve been better. I do understand it and the characters but because of all the cons, I couldn’t feel anything I should’ve been feeling.