May 14, 2013

Review: True by Erin McCarthy

Source: A review copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley

New Adult has been a self-publishing phenomenon, so it’s interesting to see what the big publishers are going to do with it. In that regard, True is an interesting addition to the sub-genre (?), and it successfully portrays the themes and subjects of NA. Unfortunately, there were other aspects in which the story wasn't as successful.

Rory is a bit of a nerd, so of course she’s a virgin. Lucky for her—and inexplicably for us—her best friends (and I use the term loosely) and roommates are hot party girls who know exactly what Rory needs: to get laid. So they enlist the help of Tyler, a guy they know from, well, having sex with him.

While that happens, Tyler and Rory get to know each other and date a little. There is chemistry between them and they develop a friendship that’s framed by sexual attraction. They become a couple, get over a couple of obstacles, and overall make it work. And then life gets in the way. And by “life” I mean Tyler’s responsibilities and shitty mother.

As I said before, Ms. McCarthy captures well the essence of NA. It’s not just age and setting, but the situations, feelings and issues that come with becoming independent for the first time, having new responsibilities, figuring out what to do with the future, and how different limitations impact the way we begin to shape that future. And as such, I thought it was a fairly competent entry in the sub-genre.

The romance was also effective, although I admit to being a bit tired of stories about bad boys with hearts of gold corrupting good, virginal girls. I think it’s time to read about bad girls corrupting virginal boys, or any other variation if we’re unable to simply get rid of the “bad”. But regardless, I thought there was chemistry between the leads, and I liked them together.

The premise is silly and screams of predictable misunderstanding and angst, but it never goes there. Once Rory discovers that her friends hired Tyler to sleep with her, she is outraged and hurt, but also stops to think about it and realizes that their relationship is real.

So the beginning was intriguing and the first half was promising, but I had a couple of issues with the second half; issues that the more I think about, the angrier they make me.

The first thing that bothered me was the portrayal of poverty. Tyler’s mother is an addict who terribly neglects and mistreats her children. She’s unreliable, so Tyler is mostly in charge of the household (and he’s really bad at it). He sacrifices his dreams to get a quick EMT certification in order to support his family. And in the meantime, the house is dirty, disgusting and foul. Because poor people are all abusive addicts who don’t know how to keep a tidy home, right? Tyler’s situation is used to make the heroine aware of her own privileged life, which may not be that bad, except that in doing so, the stereotypical portrayal of poverty becomes a plot device to teach the heroine a lesson, turn the hero into a martyr, and create a final conflict that was actually quite depressing.

The second thing that bothered me was the way the main characters treated Tyler’s brother, Jayden. He has Down syndrome, so of course he’s used as another way to show how awful their mother is. But more than that, I was bothered by the patronizing way Tyler and Rory treated him. Jayden is in his late teens, yet they treat him like a small child, and in fact, some of his behavior was that of a small child. This is a young man we’re talking about and he should be treated accordingly.

The final score is True: 0 – Stereotypes: 2. Stereotypes win, and we all lose.

Review by Brie
Grade: 2
Sensuality: McSexy
Purchase: Amazon

When Rory Macintosh’s roommates find out that their studious and shy friend has never been with a guy, they decide that, as an act of kindness they’ll help her lose her virginity by hiring confident, tattooed bad boy Tyler Mann to do the job…unbeknownst to Rory.
Tyler knows he’s not good enough for Rory. She’s smart, doctor smart, while he’s barely scraping by at his EMT program, hoping to pull his younger brothers out of the hell their druggy mother has left them in. But he can’t resist taking up her roommates on an opportunity to get to know her better. There’s something about her honesty that keeps him coming back when he knows he shouldn’t…
Torn between common sense and desire, the two find themselves caught up in a passionate relationship. But when Tyler’s broken family threatens to destroy his future, and hers, Rory will need to decide whether to cut her ties to his risky world or follow her heart, no matter what the cost…
True by Erin McCarthy
Intermix. May 7, 2013


  1. I appreciate this thoughtful review. Given your earlier post/rant on the topic, I'm curious: how do you feel about how the book handles the sexual assault in the first chapter? Because when I read Ch 1, I thought it rang really true to life in many ways and was sensitively portrayed, but it bothered me how quickly everyone got distracted from it by Rory's virginity. So I was wondering which way the book went.

    1. It's not entirely used as a plot device to facilitate the hero saving her, but it's not something that's dealt with in depth throughout the rest of the book either. It haunts her a bit during the first half, but around the middle mark the guy makes a lame apology and that's pretty much it. She does an active effort to ignore and not think about it, which I thought was a realistic reaction.

      Having said that, if you take all the scenes relating to the assault, the overall story doesn't change(except for the first scene) so it was (mostly) unnecessary, but not offensive or manipulative. The portrayal of poverty and disability were way worse, which is why I focused my review on them.

      And since this is already a long comment, I want to add that the ending was abrupt to the point of incomplete, and it's more of an untidy HEA.

    2. *if you take out all the scenes

  2. Oh, man... I read two, maybe three, chapters of this one and just couldn't... It sounds like I would have been pretty rage-y, had I continued, as I have a read trigger for poverty being depicted as unclean. Not that that doesn't happen, but in my experience, that's the exception, not the norm. :-/

    1. Yes, that's my experience as well, which is why I would love to see a different, more positive depiction of poverty.

  3. I'm on chapter 3 and already I'd call this one of the worst books I've ever tried to read.

    1. And you're still reading the part I didn't hate! Your status updates are making me see some things I missed the first time around (and by "things" I mean the racist remarks) so shame on me for not noticing.

      If you do manage to finish it, I would like to hear your final thoughts.

  4. I had many similar thoughts Brie and I was all rage-face about the end. I was a bit kinder in my review I think but I don't disagree with what you said here. I thought the "pay Tyler to take Rory's virginity" was so lame and I wish it hadn't have been there at all. It was completely unnecessary. There was too much depressing poverty in the second half for me to enjoy it (especially the end) but I felt my privilege was showing way to much as it was so I tried to be careful in my review. Not sure if I succeeded or not! LOL.

    I didn't notice the Jayden thing though - perhaps I was busy looking (and despairing) over other things.

    @Liz FWIW, I think the sexual assault was handled pretty realistically. Brie is right that not much is made of it later in the book - but I actually felt this was realistic too.

    1. The ending was weird. I think she left it open-ish to explore it further on the next book, but it was weird and somewhat disheartening.

      I didn't mind the premise as much as the execution. There are plenty of silly, lame tropes in romance that are handled well. And I actually liked the way that confrontation played out. But there was no discussion of the implications of such an act, I mean, no one called him a prostitute (or even thought about it); and she didn't question her friendship with these girls who dare made such an insulting thing to her.

  5. I'm not sure how she can explore Rory and Tyler when the next book is being told from Jessica's POV. But I can live in hope :)

    1. Well, I'm sure they will have significant roles in the next book, so we'll know what happen to them.

  6. I've been seeing reviews for this book the whole week and the grades vary so much!

    I was kind of interested by the idea of New Adult, but seeing what's being written and published, it just doesn't call to me :(

    As for True, you know, Tyler's behavior about money bothers you and it doesn't make sense to me either, but I bet it's true. Lots of people out there are struggling, but they will buy alcohol and cigarettes with their hard-earned money. Crazy.

    This one doesn't sound like it's for me.

    1. Yes, this has been a polarizing book.

      It's not that I'm denying that poverty exists, but that there's another side to it that I would like to see more of.

      You should read Easy, nath. That's one of the best NAs and I think you would like it ;-)

  7. I DNF this book early on (I think at about 6% in) because already by then, I knew this was not the book from me. Reading your review confirms that I made the right choice.


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