July 20th, 2014
Jack & Diane by Lena Hampton
This book was a bit of a hard read for me. I don't usually read adult contemporary romance because I'm not the biggest fan of it. I'm a big Fantasy, Sci-Fi and YA nut, but I make the exception for Interracial themes, particularly featuring black women as the main protagonist.
The book follows an African American woman named Diane, who has dreams of being a successful, big shot lawyer and Jack, a simple country boy with a passion for music. The two are complete opposites and somehow by the grace of god, find each other and fall in love. But it looks as though there will be some problems in between.
The pacing moved pretty fast. Maybe a little too fast for my taste. Their relationship went from casual to serious in a matter of seconds. It appeared to be based more on sexual attraction to each other. This is one of the things that scares me about romance novels, especially Interracial ones. If the relationship starts based on physical and sexual attraction, it makes Interracial relationships appear inauthentic to me.
I would have liked for the two main characters to bond over similar interests like video games(Hey, it worked for me and my bf)or classic tv shows or even astronomy. Corny can be sometimes cool. I think my bf's his coolest when he's being corny. But everything Jack did, Diane found sexy as if he had no faults. He wasn't funny just really charming.How long can charm really last in a relationship before you get bored with it.
There were times where I would have liked more revealing information about the two characters.Even by the end of the book, i thought they really didn't know each other well. The details were pretty consistent, but I felt like there were moments I found insanely predictable.
Let's talk about Character/Story development and conflict.
While I didn't hate Diane, I felt like she was one of those characters who's actions didn't match her faith. For example, she was a virgin and had planned on staying that way until she was married HOWEVER there were so many times where she put herself in situations that weren't really christian like.The second time she saw him in person, she was wearing shorts short enough to be underwear with her cheeks peeking out and like, no bra. Walking around in her bra and panties in front of her love interest and letting him rub his thumb along her nipple. Climbing in bed with a man, putting yourself in a situation to possibly have sex with her love interest.
Now, I'm not Christian. I'm more of an aspiring Buddhist. I don't mind reading about how faith can strengthen someone's relationship with another person. But I consider myself pretty liberal and I would never walk around a guy I barely know in my underwear with no bra. Her behavior kind of contradicted her faith a bit. It was like she was only Christian out of convenience.
And even still, I thought their relationship didn't really remind me of an adult relationship. I have to confess. I'm not a fan of female virgins. Women are taught to value their virginity as if it validates them as women. If you're a virgin, your good enough to marry. If you actually like sex and have had more than one partner, you're the whore of Babylon. I'm not a fan of erotica, in fact I avoid it like the plague, but I do believe women should be allowed to be sexual without judgement. That being said, I've found YA novels more steamier and realistic than I found this read. Here are these grown people just playing cat and mouse games like teenagers. At times, it was just a tad cheesy.
When I first picked up this book, It seemed like it would be a book that was just about people falling in love with no big mention of race. But with further reading, I was actually disappointed that there was so much mention of it, and every other second, someone was challenging their relationship because of their races. Now, I don't live in some fantasy land. I know we don't live in this post racial society like everyone(aka white people) thinks we do. But I will say this. To make race a major conflict in a romance story is a bit lazy in this day and age. Couples can go through other problems. Race isn't always going to be the biggest issue you're going to have to deal with.
Most of my relationships have been with White Latino men, and I've never once been challenged or had blatant hate towards any of my relationships. We get the stares but in 2014, people aren't as brave to your face as they are on social media. No one wants to be called a racist or a bigot and they certainly don't want look fools in public. There could have been other things I would have liked to see them struggle with.
Let me say this, I hate the term Interracial Couple/Relationship. To me, It just a ploy to make these types of unions appear different than non Interracial relationships. Couples can have disagreements about money, trust, dishonesty, kids, housework, free time, sex, politics, religion, stress at the job, stress at home and jealousy. Just to name a few, so to use race as the main source of conflict got tired real fast for me.
I think proper editing could have made this book better. While it wasn't the worst I've ever seen, I hold Interracial themed books to a higher standard, so I expect nothing but the best. There were a lot of missing punctuation marks and it was nearly on every page. I know editing is a costly thing for a self published author, but editing would have made this book score higher for me.
Also the POV often left me confused. I thought there seemed to be a lot of telling and not enough showing. I don't think you need to show everything, but there wasn't a lot of internal thought behind the actions of the characters. I was often told how to feel instead making me feel it. Sometimes I didn't know who was talking if more than two people were in a scene. Sometimes there wasn't any indication when someone certain was talking, so I kinda had to read between the lines. I wish there would have been a better balance of descriptive beats and dialogue. Often, a full page would be dedicated to just dialogue. It made me think nothing else was happening in the background.
As far as diversity goes, I wouldn't say it was so diverse. It was pretty much just black and white people. While no one was particularly stereotypical, I thought that Diane's mother didn't talk like a realistic person. Her speech was really mechanical, I don't know anyone that talks like that. Not even upper class white people. I think there was too much thinking on that little detail.
I didn't dislike this book. There are some books I won't even finish and I liked this book enough to stick it out until the end. The redeeming qualities of this book was her love interest,Jack and his mom. His mom was a little too nice but I enjoyed her. I was also appreciative that the lead protagonist was a chocolate skinned protagonist. It appears as if the thing to do in the IR romance genre, is to make protagonists bi-racial with that 3A-C curly hair and lighter skinned or as many put it, "That perfect complexion".
Things like that make me want to hurl. There's so much internalized racism in our culture, us darker skinned sistas don't often see ourselves as beautiful. So whenever I read about a darker skinned woman, I do cartwheels and backflips. The cover was eye catching. I think if the editing was better and the racism was cut out, It could have been a story I really loved.
Because I didn't really connect with the story as much as other stories, I had such a hard time dream casting them. Sorry Y'all.