July 9th, 2014
Flirt: Portrait of Us by A. Destiny and Rhonda Helms
Let me first say despite my sister and I having similar taste in books, Im much more drawn to fantasy than her. It takes a big push to get me to read romance novels, and despite having a thing for interracial themes, I dont always find myself connecting well to the heroine as much as much as a sword swinging warrior from Zadaa.
This book does where a ton of books where interracial romance fails. Flirt: Portrait of Us is part of what I assume to be a series. But as far as I know it's the only one in the series that has interracial romance, and you dont have to have read the books that precede it to get the story, as they are all stand alone books on young first love.
This book in particular follows around Corrine, an African-American teenager, with a strong love for art, and pleasing her parents. When her talent gets chosen to enter a nationwide art contest, there's a catch. She has to partner up with Matthew, a jock who goes to her school, with a contrasting taste of art than herself. They must come up with an art piece that reflects her contemporary style with his abstract modernized style of art.
The story is short and sweet, so there were little issues I found fault with. It paced well, and lead me to assume all the events happened during an entire summer, and I was never lost in description. Its pacing allowed me to get to know both Corrine and her love interest Matthew quite well enough to like them, and even more so like them together. I believe these are meant to be the "happily ever after" stories, so I will admit that's a bit predictable, but their teenagers, who knows what will be in store in their future.
I really liked Corrine. She reminded me of myself in many ways I don't often get to see women of color portrayed in books. Intelligent yet creative, a scholar, yet an artist. She was deeply burdened with her need to please her parents, specifically her father with her achievements. Much of this is explained through her carefree, bakery owner, lover of cooking of a grandfather, which you have to read to learn more.
But both Corrine and Matthew had relatable character development. Matthew was a basketball player Corrine took as a "stereotype" and didnt believe he belonged in the art study program she'd gotten into. But once you dug deeper, there were many layers to him, that made him swoon worthy. And he wasn't a freaking jerk. I was reluctant to like him, because I myself judged him based on him being an athlete. Shame on me. He was the adorable, and Corrine and he had brilliant chemistry together.
Their conflict was all based on their contrasting appreciations for art. I really liked that, because too many interracial romance novels focus on race, because it's easy(Lazy) but this gem focused on the differences in interests rather than their races.
I'll say it was unique in a way where, of all the romance novels I've read depicting interracial romance, this was one of the rare ones, where race wasn't even a factor. The story let you rely on the chemistry of the characters and not their races. One of the reasons I haven't given up on interracial romance books, because this one in a few are what I like to look out for.
Im not a grammar nazi, but this book was well edited as far as POV,beats and dialogue, and writing style. It's a short paragraph on editing, but I found there were too little mistakes to focus on it or even notice.
As far as diversity, Im on the fence. There were only white and black characters. Hmmm...There was one character who didn't have a name, whom was Asian. Corrine, Matthew and their family were major characters, which I loved, because they didn't omit family just to show their building attraction.
And Teni, their art teacher was Nigerian-American. But I would've liked to see more than white and black characters, queer, or just something that wasn't what I saw.
The characters are amazingly written, and well fleshed out, and Im ashamed to say a first love about teenagers is much less stereotypical than some of the adult novels I've read with the same themes. Their attraction appeared so natural that many times I was highly envious that I wasn't going through what they were going through XD
Corrine was definitely a breath of fresh air when it comes to the black girls I've read in novels. She wasn't insecure, she wasn't a plain jane, she wasn't even looks obsessed. She was just her, and Im not sure why it's a crime to not see yourself as plain or unattractive. She didn't think Matthew was too good for her, she didn't think this, think that, just that they had many differences that had nothing to do with race. Tipping my hat now...
I think the title is appropriate. It's not eye catching, but it fits the story. The cover was what attracted me to it, because I actually saw it at Barnes and Noble. I was surprised they let it show with the cover facing out, something they don't normally do with books with people of color on them. I don't think the characters look like the people on the book, but it was enough to make me purchase it then and there.
The character names fit the characters and were unique enough for me not to complain. I've never met an unattractive Matthew, so his name suit him. Corrine, I felt suit her. My last complaint however was character descriptions. I may be stepping on toes here, but one can insinuate it's written by someone white. Many times, Corrine described herself and her little brother as changing color in their face, but mentioning she had dark skin. Her dark skin she brought up more than once. Dark skin doesn't exactly "flush." Or at least you can see it. She would say a few times, "I hope no one can notice" or something in the lines of that. But things like that aren't apparent on darker skin than fairer skin. Perhaps it just came from habit of writing mainly white character? Who knows? But Corrine never 100% described herself, so I wasnt sure how she wore her hair, what texture it was, what her body type was, only her skin color was obvious. But she tended to over describe Matthew, and she mentioned his blue eyes like, 100 times in the book, and it was a light read. Surely by the 2nd or 3rd time I already knew this. It was quite annoying, and it kind of ruined the appeal of them for me.
Overall, however, I loved the book. I'll be spoiled when it comes to interracial romance books after reading this! Would suggest it to lovers of men who actually give women respect.
My Dreamcast for the major characters:
Camille Winbush as Corrine
Grant Gustin as Matthew