ARC Review: The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia

10:30:00 AM

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
Published: October 4, 2016 by Imprint
Rating: ★★★ 3/5 Stars

I received this advance copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary (From Goodreads): I’ve become an expert at avoiding things that could hurt me—which means I will figure out how to stay away from Marco Leone.

Seventeen-year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: Nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad—an undercover cop. She transfers to a public high school in the Downs, where fistfights don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.

Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him—and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart?

If you’re a fan of the 1996 Romeo and Juliet where Leonardo DiCaprio plays a gang member and Claire Danes plays pretty girl from the rival gang, then this book will not disappoint. Think of it like that movie, with the Fast & Furious franchise tossed into the mix. Add some teenage melodrama and insta-love and you’ve got this book. The Lovely Reckless was rife with action, and in my eyes, just as many problems. Some of the many issues that I have stem from the inaccurate representation of multiple racial stereotypes exhibited. But I’ll get into that later, and as spoiler-free as I can; for now I’ll start with the positives.
The story was fast-paced and a total page turner. There was never a dull moment, and I was always eager to find out what happened next. That’s probably why I was able to plow through about ¾ of it in a single sitting last weekend. The writing, though developed and well-structured, was just average. Nothing about it particularly stood out to me, aside from the plainness of it. I’m a fan of Kami Garcia and have read most of her books. In comparison to her previous work, this book felt like it was a story that was just rushed to be slapped down onto the page, churned out in a short amount of time without much room for it to develop or grow past what it is. Plot wise, the story kept me going and hooked me from the start. Though not 100% accurate to life as a 17-year-old, it still managed to keep me intrigued and had me rooting for the characters I loved. Frankie was still trying to figure out who she was as a person, frequently comparing herself to “the old Frankie” and growing and developing as a character the further along I got into the story. Lex and Abel, her two best friends, sort of fell to the wayside for me. Their plotlines didn’t really mesh with the main story, although they were still integral to the plot. Cruz, Marco, and other kids from the Downs were blatantly stereotyped and incredibly one-sided. Which brings me to my issues with the story…
I’ll say it loud for the people in the back: diversifying your book for the sake of being diverse leads to inaccurate representation and inadvertent stereotyping. This weekend, many racial issues came to light on book twitter, and a lot of people got involved. Apparently I’m known for speaking out on such issues in (what I hope is) a positive way. So when a story by such an acclaimed author represents Hispanic and Latinx people as thugs from the wrong side of the tracks, low-income lowlifes from the Projects with no other way to survive aside from drag racing and larceny, it grinds my gears. When a Romeo and Juliet-esque story emerges where a rich and privileged white girl from the Heights falls for a bad boy from the Downs, the message it sends is that this bad boy relies on the good girl to make him a better person, that she is the only one who can see past his gritty exterior and groom him into a better man. Not to mention the fact that our main character, right off the bat, is grieving the incredibly tragic death of her boyfriend only months earlier and in the midst of her grief is immediately attracted to the bad boy persona and falls in love with him in a matter of days.
The kids in this story are represented as coming from abusive homes with absent parents and dark pasts. The street racing aspect of the story feeds into their poverty status, using illegal street races and car theft as a means of paying the rent and putting groceries on the table. My biggest problem with this book was the inaccurate representation of the only thing that made the story diverse. I’m not denying that these are real and true situations that people of color face in the real world and that they aren’t problems; I’m having issues with how an entire story was based around these blatant stereotypes. Written by a white woman, no less. As a Latina girl who grew up being singled out for these exact stereotypes, I take issue with this book for perpetuating these tropes. Aside from this, my only other issue was the “but Daddy, I love him!” insta-love that occurred in a matter of days. I sat there dumbfounded as I read when Frankie and Marco realized they were in love – girl do you even know his miDDLE NAME!? The whole “you can’t control me, I’ll be 18 in a few months!” notion also bugged me. No teenager I know actually thinks like this.

Overall, The Lovely Reckless seemed overhyped to me. While it told a good story with characters worth fighting for and a heart-pounding plot, I just took issue with too many things in order to fully enjoy it. If you’re looking for a quick read this fall full of romance and that isn’t very cerebral, this is the one to pick up.

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