The Way It Hurts by Patty Blount
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads):
There may be two sides to every story, but sometimes there's only one way to set things right...
Music is Elijah's life. His band plays loud and hard, and he'll do anything to get them a big break. He needs that success to help take care of his sister, who has special needs. So he'd rather be practicing when his friends drag him to a musical in the next town...until the lead starts to sing.
Kristen dreams of a career on stage like her grandmother's. She knows she needs an edge to get into a competitive theater program―and being the star in her high school musical isn't going to cut it. The applause and the attention only encourage her to work harder.
Elijah can't take his eyes off of Kristen's performance, and his swooning face is captured on camera and posted with an out-of-context comment. It goes viral. Suddenly, Elijah and Kristen are in a new spotlight as the online backlash spins out of control. And the consequences are bigger than they both could have ever imagined because these threats don't stay online...they follow them into real life.
What I Liked:
To say that I'm not a huge fan of YA contemporary would be a gross understatement, especially when it comes to what I call "tough-issue YA contemporary. When I decided to try one of Patty Blount's books a few years ago, I had no expectations. It was an early read, and I wasn't too sure I would enjoy the story, but I was curious about. That book was TMI, which I ended up really liking. I went on to read Some Boys, which I loved, and Nothing Left to Burn, which I reread recently and honestly I love that book now even more than I did two years ago. I may say that I don't typically like tough-issue YA contemporary, but I can always count on this author to write really good contemporary, with relevant issues that teen deal with in this time, and a sweet romance to make me smile.
In The Way It Hurts, there is Elijah, lead singer and bass guitarist of the band Ride Out, which he and two friends created when they were in eighth grade. It's a heavy metal type of band, whose music receives a lot of criticism - especially from Kristen Cartwright, a theater girl who can sing, dance, and act like she's on Broadway. But Kristen needs an edge to get into great programs. And Elijah and the band need exposure and popularity - fast. Elijah and Kristen may not agree on music preferences, but they both agree that it would be a smart move for Kristen to join the band. And she does. But at what cost? With the rising popularity of the band and the increasing number of creepy and threatening social media posts Kristen receives, maybe becoming famous isn't what Kristen wants. Especially when things catch up to her in real life.
I usually don't go after books with the "rock star" types because I don't always connect with that protagonist. But from the start, I fell for Elijah. He has a bad-boy reputation and a dangerous image, which he wants. It helps the band and he knows all about perception and illusion. Elijah isn't a punk who likes to scream into a microphone. He is creative, dedicated, and very intelligent, proving over and over that he knows his music inside and out. He is also extremely loyal and very sweet, especially with his younger sister Anna, who is autistic.
Kristen was an interesting character to watch grow with the story. At first I wasn't a big fan of hers because she seemed a tiny but judgmental and snobby (and she was!). But at the same time, I could see why she was that way. She is proud of her upbringing and her talent, and she has goals and dreams that she is determined to realize. Kristen is a headstrong and tough girl, and she handles all kinds of obstacles that are thrown her way. I really felt for her as the story went on - she didn't deserve all of the horrible things that were directed to her on social media.
That is one of the best and strongest aspects of this book - the effects of social media. Everything starts with a tweet with a specific hashtag which takes off. Suddenly it's Ride Out and a new girl named Kristen, Eli vs. Kristen. Girls hit on Eli and throw themselves at Eli, but Kristen gets disgusting tweets and nasty comments. Isn't this so true of society and fame today? Men are praised and let off the hook for many things, but when are subject to even more scrutiny and criticism, and they are expected to cater and stoop down and bend to the will of others. Blount does an amazing job of hitting on so many issues with society today, involving social media and in general.
The character development of both protagonists is well-written. Kristen is a little stuck-up in the beginning, but by the end, she is more open-minded and realizes how wrong she was about Eli, the band, and their music. Eli has a bit of a chip on his shoulder at first, and he judges Kristen too, but by the end, he lets go of some things, and he starts to see things how Kristen saw them. I liked seeing these characters mature into better (still flawed) people.
I also appreciated the inclusion of a character on the spectrum! Anna (Eli's sister) is a big part of this story, even if she isn't a protagonist. I loved how calm and patient Eli was with Anna - almost all of their interactions are so sweet. And when Kristen meets Anna for the first time - I adored that scene!
Another secondary character that I loved was Etta, Kristen's flamboyant grandmother. She's so interesting and a little eccentric and I thought she was great! Etta is a huge source of support for Kristen, and she is also a big fan of Kristen/Eli, which I thought was funny.
You probably already guessed it, but there is a romance, involving Eli and Kristen. They seem like an unlikely pair on paper, but they are great together! They bicker, they fuss, they get very angry with each other, they hurt each other, they understand each other. Don't misunderstand - this isn't a toxic relationship. It's a very real one though - it starts as a terse partnership for the band, and then it moves into friendship, and then a romantic relationship. I liked the progression of the romance. I would have loved to see more Eli/Kristen scenes, but that's okay. No love triangle, no cheating!
The conflict of the book lies with the band involving Kristen, Kristen and the social media issues, Eli and Kristen's relationship, and Anna too. There is so much going on in this story (though not in an overwhelming way), and it all comes together in the climax. You'll have to read the book to see what happens! I liked the ending very much and really appreciated the epilogue. A great way to end the book!
What I Did Not Like:
Ehh, super major. I did mention that I would have loved more Eli/Kristen scenes, in terms of the romance. You know what I mean. But that's okay! This is a slow-burn romance, and I do like those.
I also would have looooved to know how some of those recurring social media jerks were, and the writer of the article. It seemed kind of significant, who the author would turn out to be, or who that one person on Twitter was (Mikey). But maybe these things weren't actually important. I just like to know.
Would I Recommend It:
I think any teenager/young adult should read this book (or any of Patty Blount's books). The effects of social media are so important to understand, especially the consequences of posting this or that. You don't have to be a YA contemporary fan to enjoy this book. You don't have to be a teen either - we adults could learn a thing or two from this story!
4 stars. This book has a little bit of everything for everyone! Like music in books? Check. Like romance? Check. Like bad boys? Check. Like confident heroines? Check. Like issues in the story dealing with social media? Check. Like supportive families who love each other? Check. So many aspects of this book really worked, and the book overall was extremely solid and a very good read. I highly recommend it!
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