Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

without merit.jpg

Hi! I’m back! 🙂

Without Merit is the latest book by Colleen Hoover which was just recently released. I was excited and had been waiting for this book ever since I got to binge read Colleen Hoover’s books a couple of months back since I really liked most of what I have read. However, maybe the excitement and build up was too much as I did not enjoy the book as much as I thought I would.

Don’t get me wrong, the book is still good. I prolly just expected more. Plus it’s short. Without Merit is kinda like a deviation from the usual build up that is seen in Colleen Hoover’s previous books. Everything was laid out in the first few chapters of the story. Each character introduced.

Without Merit is about the crazy, weird Voss family who lives in a refurbished church which they call Dollar Voss. The story centers on Merit Voss who collects trophies she did not earn to relieve stress, and to keep up with all the secret of her family that she is keeping. And when her failed attempt to end it all, to leave everything WITHOUT MERIT, leaving a note with all the secrets, she now have to face the consequences of her action and try to keep the one boy that she loves.

The Voss family is one of the craziest, weirdest family I have read so far in my entire YA reading career. From the head of the house, his ex-wife, current wife, to the eldest child, twins (Honor and Merit), and the youngest, coupled with the current wife’s younger brother, and the unrelated boy who’s love interest of Merit, they all are weird and are full of secrets. The fact that they live in a refurbished church with the image of Jesus still in tact is weird enough. But knowing that the father, ex-wife, wife, and all the kids are living together makes it even weirder.

Without Merit is a short read, jam-packed with crazy characters, each with a lot of baggage to deal with. Like her other novels, Without Merit makes you ponder and think about the greater issue that is incorporated in the novel. The underlying themes this time is depression.

The characters are each given just enough time to know what’s their secret and the reason behind. The father’s reason for buying the church and living with his ex- and current wife. Utah, the oldest brother’s reason why he kissed Merit when they were younger which had been the start of the discord in their relationship. Honor, Merit’s identical twin sister, and why she only kinda goes for guys who are almost at the end of their lives. Luke, the current wife’s younger brother, and why he suddenly turn up into their doorsteps and why he had sex with Utah. Sagan, the love interest of Merit, and why he always drops everything when somebody calls him.

Maybe I expected for Merit’s story to be more fleshed out. Maybe I expected to understand why she was depressed, although she fails to recognize it. I know that being the talk of the town for having a crazy family can be overwhelming and having to bottle up a lot of things, especially heavy secrets, since young, can take a toll on one’s mental health. However, I could not relate to Merit and her struggle with all the secrets she keep. It’s like I want to scream at her “Why not just open up? Why not talk to someone?” But maybe this is where the problem with depression, from an outside perspective, the solution might be so easy but for someone experiencing it, easy things might be a luxury. It’s like I want to know more, understand more, but the book is already ending.

On the other side, the book shows how each one of us is struggling in one way or the other. We can never really judge the actions of another person unless we know the full story behind it. Even the most ridiculous action might have a sensible reason behind. So don’t judge things and don’t hold prejudice before knowing everything. And maybe, just maybe, open communication is just what we need to overcome our baggage. When all the Voss’ secrets were laid out in the open, it started the healing process. Readers will be able to make sense of the actions of the characters and Merit’s relationship with her unconventional family also got better. The reason? They were able to talk.

Still, Without Merit shows Colleen Hoover’s prowess in delivering a story that will tug at your heartstrings. The underlying theme might be heavier than her previous ones but it was told in a manner that’s enough for me to stop and think about but not really pierce deeper unlike the others. Nevertheless, it’s still a book to be recommended.

The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin

The Big F is the debut novel of Maggie Ann Martin. And for a debut novel, I honestly enjoyed it.

1xe6qi.jpg

We all want the perfect life. We all want a reality that seemed to be conjured from our imagination. We all want to please everyone around us. We make plans and we try so, so, so, very hard to stay on path and achieve THE PLAN. But then life happens and it will throw us off balance. This is basically the premise of The Big F. Thus, each one of us will be able to relate to this book. Throw in some romance and isn’t that just perfect? ^^

Story. Danielle is set to go to Ohio State University. That’s where she was groomed to be but an F in her AP English class turned her life upside down. Ohio State retracted her admission and her planned life suddenly is now lost. Then comes in the snap decision to enroll in the Denton Community College (DCC) and try to pass her English class there so she can be in Ohio State by spring. But then here comes Luke, her old neighbor and childhood ultimate crush. Then there’s also Porter! Oh, how complicated life can be?

Characters. I could relate to Danielle so much. Like to the Nth level. On second thought not that high, but high enough. There’s so much expectation from Danielle’s character. Her parent’s expectation. Her expectation on herself. Expectation from her relatives, from people around her. there’s this “perfect”appearance, the “perfect”image that she must continue to show, and this is what’s suffocating. What I love about Danielle is her bright personality and her attitude of not giving up, of just pushing forward, even if at first she is at lost how to face the problem that she failed to get into Ohio. I love her character, however, I have a big question mark in my head about her. She was presented as someone who strives hard to have straight As. But reading thru the novel, I could not really grasp that idea. She was described as having a C in one of her subjects. She doesn’t give off aura that she’s the studious type. So if I were not informed onset that this big F is really, really, a big thing for her, I might not have gotten her. Maybe what I’m missing on the novel is more of a background story of her high school days. A little bit of a throwback here and there might have done the trick.

I love her close relationship with her younger brother. They annoy each other but always have each other’s backs. Reading their interactions is one of the things I enjoy most from this book.

Her relationship with mother is also a beautiful thing. For me, it captures the beauty of having a mother. Her mother’s high expectations of her reflect every mother’s expectation on her children. Failure to achieve this  expectation often results to argument and distance. But I love how they were able to get through the big F. In the end, every mother just wants their kids to be happy and enjoy life.

The snarky remark and feud between Danielle and her cousin also hits the spot. Every family and relatives’ past time when having a gathering always seems to be gossiping who’s doing better and who’s having the upper hand. Sucks.

1xe8em.jpg

And now comes the love triangle. Luke, the first love, and Porter, the One. I’m really a sucker for romance, and maybe for the forbidden ones. Haha. First love never dies but it is seldom that the first one will also be your last love. So I was right in betting on Porter. I love, love, love Porter!!!! I love his character. It’s in between cool and hot with just the right amount of mystery and queerness.

1xe8i8.jpg

I can definitely relate to this book, to Danielle. Like since I was a kid, I was expected to do well in school, graduate with Latin honors in college, have a nice job, be promoted, be rich, etc. But it suffocated me and it still is. I was able to fulfill up to the Latin honors but right now all I feel is that I’m dumb and not really ready for the real world (even though I’ve been in the workforce for almost 4 years already. This made me appreciate the book more.

The Big F reminds us that it’s okay not to perfect, that life does not end with one big mishap, even if it seems like it’s the end of the world already. You just need to have the right attitude. You need to accept your failure. You need to accept that you’ve failed. You need to accept reality. It’s hard, I know, who says it’s easy? But this is the starting point. And who knows? Maybe the road that will open up will lead you to where you truly belong? WE ARE MORE THAN OUR FAILURES.

The book also reminds us that the truth sets us free. When her failure came out in the open, it was chaos at first but through that chaos, she was able to survive. This also applies to her relationship with Luke. Girls, it is never advisable to enter a relationship when you’re drunk, okay?  Never! Even if the guy is your ultimate childhood crush! Getting out of a relationship is pretty trick, especially, if both families are already involved. But in the end, it’s the two person in the relationship that must make a choice. And if you’re not happy anymore and your heart is leaning to another, why stay?

Danielle found her passion in the end along with being honest with herself and with the people involve who she really loves. And so can we.

The Big F is a light read but can make you feel various emotions and can connect with you with so many levels. It’s about acceptance, moving forward, family, love. It is not perfect but it still can mean so much more.