Jen | Before Midnight

A (hopefully) safe space for yet another GR refugee.

The Only Exception - Magan Vernon I had serious problems with this book.

First, let me say that I was hopeful. Monica is labeled as a “fiercely liberal” college student with a hidden past. She’s got tattoos and piercings and the whole lot. I was hopeful that it would be a nice little story that wraps up neatly and didn’t leave me with a lot of questions. And, at least in that respect, it was solid. But that was the only thing I didn’t have problems with.

Trey is an egotistical asshole who doesn’t understand the word ‘no’.

So let’s start: Monica moves into her apartment building, and immediately has a run-in with not only Trey, but with his bodyguards, who are apparently screening everyone coming onto the floor. Monica’s first meeting with Trey seems promising, he offering to help her with a box of her belongings and introducing himself all polite-like, then he does this when Monica dares to criticize his father’s politics:

“‘If you want, I can always give you some literature to read up on regarding his policies and plans for the state.’” (p 3)

Great. Not even 3 pages into the book, and not only are we talking politics (which I expected), but the conservative agenda is being shoved down our main character’s throat. Joy. Monica, to her credit, quickly ends the conversation politely and disappears into her apartment.

Of course, Monica’s relief is short-lived as, when she steps back out to go get dinner, Trey is apparently waiting for her to make another appearance, probably by looking out the peephole in his door every 5 seconds:

“Hanging out at the place I left you and waiting for my return?” (p 5)

Monica gets off a few zingers in regards to conservatives and their views on women before turning Trey down when he asks her to dinner. Trey, being a gentleman, leaves it at that and Monica dines at the local pizza parlor in peace, right?

Oh, sorry. What bizarro world do I live in where that’s acceptable?

Trey follows her to the pizza parlor, sits with her uninvited, and suggests that he was trying to be “neighborly” when she blatantly tells him he isn’t welcome to sit with her.

He orders a diet soda for himself, and Monica isn’t even allowed to tell the waitress what she wants before she (the waitress) rushes off, saying she’ll bring back a diet and a water.

Did I miss where Monica ordered a water? There goes your tip.

Trey’s idea of good dinner talk is politics. Trey apparently has no other interests outside politics. We never see him reading, watching sports, or anything. It’s on level with Bella Swan, in terms of boring protagonist.

Trey feels it’s okay to snoop in someone’s personal belongings (including e-mails, text messages, and voicemails) despite this being an invasion of privacy.

“Trey must have gotten to my emails when I left my computer open, and probably the voicemail that I thought I deleted.” (p 146)

Monica is weirdly not angry over this invasion of privacy, but it had me screaming inside that Trey had no boundaries, and would do whatever necessary if it got him whatever he wanted, which sent up red flags so fast in my head it was like a colorguard performance at halftime.

Monica makes some assumptions and does a few things that are questionable.

While at dinner her first night there, Monica and Trey debate about emergency contraception, and she compares birth control to Viagra. Trey suggests that argument bites the conservatives in the butt, and suggests that infringing on birth control is infringing on men’s rights due to medical conditions. Monica replies with:

“A guy not getting up is not a medical condition.” (p 10)

Um, actually, it is (or, can be). The very fact that you don’t know that makes you incapable of committing to a full debate, and would, in fact, cause you to lose that debate horribly. Erectile disfunction is, in fact, a medical condition (once diagnosed by a professional).

Monica has a weird view of pot and potheads that I found a little more than ridiculous and beyond stereotypical.

So Monica escapes the hallway with her box of items on move-in day...

Only to be confronted with a pot smoking roommate and her friends. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people smoking pot... Outside, where I don’t have to smell it (the smell makes me ill). But Monica’s reaction to their choice recreation is over-the-top and more than a little ridiculous. The author’s description of potheads is also more than a little stereotypical, and again, ridiculous:

“I stepped out into the living room to see Sam sitting on the couch where I left her, but next to a guy with long, greasy hair.” (p 4)

When Monica returns from dinner, she’s greeted by a cloud of smoke, and promptly does something no half-way smart person does with pothead roommates: puts her leftovers in the fridge.

They won’t be there when you go for them tomorrow, genius.

Her entire attitude towards potheads is weird and angry, and for apparently no reason. She blatantly judges her roommate based on the clothes she wears, and is surprisingly close-minded about everything related to Sam. The whole thing just left me feeling like I was reading something out of Bizarro-land.

Apparently, being feminist means being anti-man.

“‘Women’s studies and Political Science? You really are a bleeding-heart liberal. I hope you aren’t going to tell me that you’re a part of the feminist group and don’t want to date me because you prefer the company of females.’” (p 31)

Okay, let’s talk about this because I saw red. I. Saw. Red.

Being feminist does not mean being anti-man (that would be mysandry, and is another ballgame all together). Nor does it mean being a lesbian, which Trey suggests a little later.

It means we recognize the inequalities between men and women in society, and we want to do something about it. Not drag men down, but raise women up so that we are on equal footing. It’s disgusting and insulting to see feminism being talked about in such a way, and also it suggests to me that the author did not do her homework.

“‘Isn’t that against some sort of rules of feminism? To cook your boyfriend dinner?’” (p 119)


And a few other random, weird things that just didn’t fit anywhere else.

-Trey drives a Mustang because they’re in a recession and he needs to drive something fuel efficient. Um, no. Bro, I’ve driven a Mustang (owned one for 7 years). They’re nowhere close to being fuel efficient. If Trey really wants to be fuel efficient, may I suggest a small car, like the Ford Focus, or Chevy Cavalier? Both small cars, decent gas mileage, and are American (and we know conservatives love to buy American, don’t we?).

-Trey brings Monica a pumpkin latte, and Monica says it isn’t coffee. Oh, no, honey. A latte is coffee with milk, and in your case, a flavor shot or two. If you’re going to drink it, you should know what’s in it.

The complications were wrapped up neatly with a bow, and the epilogue was... bizarre.

So two things: Monica’s past is revealed partly because she admits everything to Trey, but also because Trey does the snoopy thing (see above). Charges are pressed, everyone apologizes, everything is all happy hunky-dory. Except... It’s a neat little wrap-up to a problem that was never developed and just didn’t add anything to the story except angst that I felt was unnecessary.

Second, the ending. Monica is happily shown on-screen with Trey and the rest of his family when his father does some kind of debate or interview or press conference or something. Except, Monica is a liberal. What--? None of this made sense. The only thing Monica and Trey have in common is their love of debate, and they debate on two different sides.

That being said, they seem to both be politically minded on opposite sides, so why in hell would Monica stay with him? Especially if his political views are such a problem for her? Obviously she either A) doesn’t mean what she says when she says she wants to stop Mr. Chapman’s political agenda, or B) she has switched sides.

Both options don’t agree with me and left me with a bitter taste.

Overall, I didn’t like it. I went into it hopeful, but I was greatly disappointed. I’d have loved to see Monica’s background and issues expressed more, and had her healing more than what is shown. I’d have loved to see more character development. The book was too short with too many stereotypes and bad assumptions that just didn’t work for me at all.

Copy obtained from publisher via netgalley. All opinions herein are mine and were not influenced by the author or publisher in any way.

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