Review: Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

Posted November 27, 2013 by Heather in Book Reviews / 21 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher / She Reads in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn JacksonSomeone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson
Published by William Morrow on November 19, 2013
Genres: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Source: the publisher / She Reads

Goodreads | Amazon

Shandi Pierce is juggling finishing college, raising her delightful three-year-old genius son Nathan, aka Natty Bumppo, and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced parents. She's got enough complications without getting caught in the middle of a stick-up and falling in love with William Ashe, who willingly steps between the robber and her son.

Shandi doesn't know that her blond god Thor has his own complications. When he looked down the barrel of that gun he believed it was destiny: It's been one year to the day since a tragic act of physics shattered his world. But William doesn't define destiny the way others do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in facts and numbers, destiny to him is about choice. Now, he and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head on, making choices that will reveal unexpected truths about love, life, and the world they think they know.

(from Amazon)

This review should have been posted weeks ago, but I’ve been having a hard time deciding what I want to say. Someone Else’s Love Story isn’t the kind of book I usually enjoy reading, really, but it’s a cute story. For the most part. The story has one major flaw that almost outweighs all the good things about it. So for this review, I’m going to go with the Pros/Cons list. Ready?

Pros:

1.  I love the opening line:

“I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K.”

I appreciate how this line immediately drew me into the story. It’s quite vague, if you think about it. Was William Ashe holding the gun? Was the narrator holding the gun? Was someone completely different holding the gun? WHO WAS HOLDING THE GUN? And why did that person decide to hold up a Circle K? And how do you fall in love with someone in that situation? I’ve heard all about the crazy lust that can happen in extreme, life-threatening situations. The threat of death seems to make lots of people randy, but actually falling in love is a very different thing. This sentence made me want to keep reading, which is a good thing considering I’m not really into cutesy romances. (I didn’t read anything about the book before reading the book itself, so I didn’t have the above synopsis to answer all of my questions. I’m glad.)

2.  All of the characters are screwed up in their own ways. No one in the story is perfect. They’re flawed. They have issues. Thank goodness for relatively realistic characters. I think they all could have been a bit more developed, but again, I don’t think Someone Else’s Love Story is meant to be an overly deep story.

3.  The story itself is rather good. It’s not all hugs, butterflies, and cutesy romance. It has some of that stuff in it, but overall it’s pretty down to earth. I don’t remember doing a whole lot of eye-rolling. See, here’s the thing: I’m a hopeless romantic but for some reason I don’t necessarily like romance in my reading. Strange, huh? If Eric had done the things Will does for his wife in the book, I would have been all, “OH MY GOD, YOU ARE THE SWEETEST, BEST THING EVER. I LOVE YOU.” When I read about romance-y stuff in books, I’m more like, “Meh. Whatever. CHEESY.” I don’t know why this is. But I didn’t feel that way too often while reading this book. There is cute, romance-y stuff happening, yes, but there’s also tragedy and heartbreak and realism. It’s a good mix.

CONS:

Okay. There is only one major con in Someone Else’s Love Story, and talking about it might be a bit spoiler-y (even though this detail is predictable and super easy to figure out from the very beginning). If you feel like you might want to read the book, and you don’t want to know anything specific about it, maybe you should skip this part.

SPOILER-Y TALK STARTS NOW:

HOLY RAPE APOLOGIA, BATMAN. Seriously. I don’t think Joshilyn Jackson meant it to come across that way (at least I hope not), but that doesn’t make me any less irritated with it. Here’s the deal: Shandi’s son was conceived when Shandi was still in high school (if I remember correctly…I don’t think she’d made it to college yet, but I could be wrong here). He was conceived when Shandi was raped by a college guy at a frat party. There is no doubt about the fact that she was raped. She was very drunk/drugged (which the guy acknowledges he knew), and there was no way she could make rational decisions about her behavior. This guy took advantage of that and had sex with her as part of his frat pledge, or some such crap. That’s rape. Plain and simple. HOWEVER, by the end of the story, he’s explaining himself and making excuses and trying to blame part of it on Shandi. And Shandi is listening. And she’s considering forgiving him and maybe letting him into her son’s life. It all comes across as Jackson saying, “There are some cases when rape isn’t rape. You know, like when the woman is drunk and acts like she wants it. Yeah, maybe she can’t make rational decisions, but is that the man’s fault? Naaaah. Let him explain himself and then maybe forgive him. After all, it was partly her fault, too.” No. Just no. And this one situation in the book made me want to throw the book across the room and forget every nice thing I had been planning on saying about it. Really. Again, I’m thinking Jackson doesn’t really feel this way, but that doesn’t make it any less terrible.

I’m really surprised that no one else has mentioned this in the reviews I’ve read about Someone Else’s Love Story over the past few weeks. I’m also a bit disheartened. I can’t be the only one who feels this way about it. Did y’all just not feel like addressing it? Curious. (There may be other reviews out there that address this, but I personally haven’t read any.)

(END OF SPOILER-Y TALK)

Would I recommend this book to others? Sure. If you’re into Chick Lit (for lack of a more acceptable description), I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. The story is good, the writing is good, and it’s a quick, easy read. Am I disappointed that those things were kind of ruined by the thing I talked about above? Yep. That part of the story could have and should have been handled differently. Lots of bloggers who share my reading tastes really like Jackson’s books, though, so I’m willing to give her another chance and read something else by her in the future. If you’ve read Someone Else’s Love Story, what did you think of the issue I have with the book? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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  • I think you are right on target with the moral qualm you have with this book in your “Con” spoiler-y part! (I appreciate such spoilers!) It isn’t always the subject matter that determines whether a book crosses the line, but how the author presents it, through the words or thoughts of a major, presumably sympathetic, character.

    • Heather

      Exactly.

  • I actually agree with you completely about being angered by the rape apologizing and although I didn’t mention it in my review, it definitely upset me. However, after thinking about it a lot I felt more like Jackson wasn’t saying the rape was OK by any means, but more like, people are flawed and do terrible, awful, unforgivable things, but that doesn’t make them terrible, awful people who can never redeem themselves from what they’ve done. Like even though he did a horrible thing and Shandi would be perfectly within her right to never look at him, speak to him, or of course allow him to be around her son, it’s also ok for Shandi to find it in her heart to forgive him and understand that one action doesn’t define a person’s entire personality, and that he may just recognize how atrocious the rape was and regret it every day of his life, and learn and grow from that choice.

    Does that make sense or am I crazy?

    • Heather

      What you’re saying makes sense, yes. I just personally find it inexcusable. He may not be a horrible person overall, but rape is something I just would never be able to forgive. I *think* most women would say the same thing, but I obviously have no numbers to back that up.

      But no, you’re not crazy. 🙂

      • I think you’re right in that most people wouldn’t be able to forgive their rapist. But I do like that you bringing up the issue sparked some conversation here and I think that’s what Jackson intended. I don’t know if you’ve read her other books, but she has a pattern of writing incredibly flawed characters that have done really bad things but are still deserving of redemption … but I do think rape is in a different category from most of her other books. Although in one (I want to say Backseat Saints) there was a physically abusive husband.

  • I agree with your cons and struggled with my rating for this book. I did enjoy it and read it almost non-stop. In the end, I decided that even though I did not agree with the forgiveness part of the book (which was probably an intentional effect by the author) and some other representations of what might be considered acceptable behavior, Jackson does an excellent job presenting this story. I appreciate your review and how you handled it. I too looked for more direct references in other reviews. I was trying to be cautious not to spoil the story. Thanks for your great review.

    • Heather

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      I really liked the rest of the story.

  • Rape is rape no matter how we explain it away. I find your review interesting and refreshing and I had to laugh so loud about your ‘aversion’ to romance – y stuff. Sometimes that can be mushy! Even if I say so myself 🙂

    • Heather

      Hee. 🙂

  • Really? I remember Shandi being obsessed with making the rapist pay (via William), but I don’t remember any apologizing at all. The guy was basically a loser and a wimp and she ultimately humiliates him, no?

    Definitely have to go back and do a re-read now. I’m very sensitive about that kind of thing and can’t believe I wouldn’t have noticed it.

    • Heather

      No…she goes to his house and lets him tell his story, and he has this whole statement he reads. Then there’s a sentence or two in which Shandi thinks that she needs to consider what he’s said, but that she’s not making an immediate decision.

  • Great review, Heather. I’ve read so many reviews for this book and I don’t understand why yours is the first to mention rape. WTF? No, I’m not going to read this one now. Thanks for bringing the issue up.

  • sj

    Hmmm. I don’t know that this would be the book for me at all. Thanks for an awesome review, though. <3

  • I haven’t read Jackson’s book and hadn’t planned on doing so. So, I read your spoilery comments. Totally agree with your reaction. There is no way to define rape other than what it is, and the part I guess angers me the most is the inclusion of a character who actually owns up to what it is he has done — taking advantage of a younger woman/girl who is obviously drugged/drunk. Disgusting! And I’m not that much into chick lit either. Thanks for being the first to mention this — I hope other reviewers take up your standard and follow suit.

  • I agree with you completely about the first sentence. It hooked me right away 🙂 In reference to the spoilery bits, I really didn’t feel like Jackson was saying rape was forgivable. If we believe the guy, it sounds like he really thought it was consensual. It also sounds like Shandi thought he was Walcott and might in fact have wanted to have sex with him. And finally, it seems as though both of them woke up drunk and naked outside, so it’s possible he was at least as impaired as she was and if they both made the equally impaired decision to have sex, I think it would be very sexist to call him a rapist. I realize this is a tough topic and to be very clear, I’m certainly not saying rape should be forgiven. Just that after you get the guy’s side of the story, I’m not sure it’s fair to describe what happened as rape.

    • Heather

      Hmmm…I don’t agree at all. I don’t think anyone can make a sound, consensual decision under the serious influence of drugs/alcohol, and he admitted that he knew she was heavily drugged or drunk. And he took advantage of that, so he could fulfill his frat stuff. Even if Shandi thought it was Walcott (which she did), she still couldn’t have made that decision being drugged. Walcott wouldn’t have taken advantage of that, anyway. In his statement, he admitted he was wrong, but gave his excuses for making that mistake. He remembered exactly what happened–she didn’t. I think he was a good guy who made a horrible decision, but it was definitely rape. I don’t think that’s a sexist thing to say at all.

      Regardless, thank you for commenting and expressing your opinion. Jackson definitely did what she probably set out to do, which is to start a conversation about this subject. This is definitely a good book for that.

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  • It’s kind of strange because I didn’t even think about the rape thing. . . Like it didn’t seem to me like she was forgiving, more like she was just trying to sort things out. But maybe I didn’t read as much into it because it was a love story. . . blah. My con was SPOILER ALERT how the ending wrapped up so perfectly neat. It’s kind of a book that I pushed out of my mind right after reading it, so I can’t remember all of the rape details where she confronts him and all. . . hm. . .

    • Heather

      Yeah, it was a cute book aside from what irritated me, but not one that I’d write home about.

  • Thanks so much for the review. This is in my TBR list and I’m going to read this next year.

  • Danielle Zecher

    I thought the same thing when I read the book. I don’t usually review a lot of books, but I actually posted a review for this one because I thought the whole rape apology thing was so terrible. Yours makes only the third review (including mine) I’ve seen that addresses that issue.