Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-541-0
Contemporary Romance, 2016
Aurelia is not enjoying herself in France. Well, it’s not the scenery or anything – it’s just that she’s a teacher, and her students are… a handful, to put it nicely. She also feels out of place among the locals, so what was her dream – to teach for a year in a country supposedly famous for romance and beautiful people – is turning out to be just like real life.
I hardly speak to my neighbors. I’m the strange American girl who’s only here until June, the one who speaks too bluntly at awkward moments and has a penchant for insulting people by accident.
While cyclist Terrence – American, of course – provides some ample distraction, the bulk of Racing to You sees Aurelia being this judgmental and stand-offish lady who acts like having fun is tantamount to dipping her head into a tub of hot tar. I don’t know if this is by design, but it is easy to see why Aurelia is lost. The poor darling is not just socially awkward, she is also a bit on the immature and childish side, wrinkling her nose and making faces at anything that does not match her idea of how things should be or should be done. Even her “romantic interactions” with Terrence has a “I’m a ten-year old girl in the playground squealing in indignance at those icky boys” vibe to it. Alongside with her preoccupation with her mixed heritage and her constant making an issue of how she is an American despite not looking like a stereotypical version of one, and Aurelia is basically a walking Tumblr meme.
The author also loves to write short sentences, which only has the effect of making Aurelia seem even more petulant and sulky.
The end result of all this is a story that reads like one long interminable whining session of a heroine, interspersed with bizarrely-timed often unrelated observations.
I ride my bike leisurely to my apartment. I have no desire to sit on my bed and read. I have even less desire to plan going home, checking flights and doing Fulbright paperwork.
Soon some other English teacher will be living in my apartment. It will be like I was never here.
I drop off my messenger bag, get back on my bike, and pedal.
Thinking about leaving helps nothing. Dwelling on the pain in my chest, missing Terrence already, helps nothing. I’m going home no matter what. There’s nothing I can do about it.
I pedal faster, farther, and find the climb Terrence took me up on our first ride. It’s hard work to get to the viewpoint again, but it’s not as difficult as last time. I’m more fit than I was a few weeks ago.
Imagine an entire story written in that style. If you can hack it out, then you’d have a better time reading Racing to You than me. Between its passive, whiny protagonist and a writing style, overloaded with active voice, that is devoid of any elegance or nuance, this one is an excruciating read from start to finish.