Jen | Before Midnight

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

Shark Bait (Grab Your Pole #1) - Jenn Cooksey

Can I just… Ugh. Okay, so this book was terrible. I rated this book before I even finished it. But don’t worry, I finished it, even though I knew the rating wouldn’t change. I don’t even know where to start, but I’ll try my damnedest to make sense.

Let me issue a huge warning here: I hated this book. Hated. It took more than two days to get through because I was so damn busy highlighting and making notes in my e-reader. Also, I kept having to take facebook and TV breaks. I started watching wrestling again to get away from this book, FFS. I ended up with 207 notes and highlights. To put this in perspective, on a regular read, I usually end up with 20 or less.

The writing is atrocious.

No, it really is. I often ran into sentences that were either much longer than they needed to be, sentences that were seemingly out of order on purpose to make the narrator seem smarter than she really is (all it really made her seem like was a pretentious snob, as if she doesn’t do a good enough job of that on her own within the first 15 pages), phrases that could have been simplified down to one word…

“I told he who’s now kissing my back thereby sending waves of heat through my body with much force as my blood started to rush to my head from hanging upside down.” (p. 216, e-book version)


“Him” would have been much simpler, but of course not.

Not only that, but the writing switches often between past and present tense, which to me just indicates horrible writing skills. The only time present tense should be used, if past tense is used as the general narrative, is in quotations, such as in dialogue.

“Obviously I did fine on my own. Yes, I’m flattered, but please, hold your applause.” (p. 189, e-book version)


Camie likes to jump in time. She’ll be talking about doing something, then pause in her narrative to tell the readers how she got to that point:

“We left the restaurant and all the way to my house and into my room, we talked about every instance we could think of and how this new theory about how he works could explain the things he’s done. We’d decided during breakfast (or brunch, whatever…) that we’d come back here to hang out and just recoup.” (p. 284-285, e-book version)


Not only do we have the jumping back and forth in time, but we have parenthetical asides, which I FUCKING HATE WITH A BOILING PASSION! I really, really do. Unless you’re doing math problems, I don’t want to see fucking parentheses at all. And they’re severely over-used in this book.

And, finally, we have the fact that Camie can’t be assed to put her text conversations in narrative, so she gives us script. As in, it reads like a play script. I got sudden flashbacks reading Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”, Shakespeare, and anything else I may or may not have conveniently forgotten since my own foray in high school. Needless to say, it’s fucking annoying and doesn’t belong in a novel.

Overall, the writing style and skill reads like badly written fanfic.

The narrator, Camie, is annoying, snobby, and less smart than she thinks she is.

I cannot stand know-it-alls. No, really. I can’t. Camie has a habit of “speaking” (rather, narrating) down to her readers. Of course, the best example was (bolding mine):

“He’s using his more than decent vocabulary and movie knowledge to be polite. Allow me to translate: Chaste = Virginal. Ingenue = Innocent or inexperienced girl. Promiscuous reprobate = Um, well…pretty much the opposite. Thunderdome = A Mel Gibson movie entitled Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in which two men enter a giant cage and fight until one of them is dead.” (p. 316, e-book version)


And another, for good measure:

“…let it go to voicemail at least thrice times (that means three)…” (p. 151, e-book version)


She also has a habit of talking herself up, both in the intelligence department as well as the beauty department. Camie goes well out of her way to assure the readers that she doesn’t think of herself as anything special, although she repeatedly insinuates that others are stupid or less beautiful. She also says that she doesn’t wear makeup because her parents insist that she doesn’t need it, and others have told her she’s beautiful so she just goes with it.

Please, gag me with a spoon.

Tristan is a liar, an asshole, and possibly abusive.

Yes. Really. I went there.

Case in point for lying: Tristan gets so stoned at a party that he doesn’t realize the girl who’s crawling all over him isn’t Camie and makes out with her. Camie witnesses this. Of course, Jeff calls Kate’s voicemail and doesn’t hang up, so Camie and Kate overhear, via voicemail recording, that Tristan has no intention of admitting his fuck-up to Camie, even though she already knows about it. Jeff warns him that it’s a bad idea, to Jeff’s credit.

Case in point for abusive: Tristan bodily carries Camie away from a party and up a flight of stairs (as a quick note, I was disgusted by the girls in the novel who thought this was romantic. This is not romantic; this is caveman bullshit, carried out by a boy who thinks it’s okay to demand who Camie is and isn’t friends with and who she talks to, despite the fact that he can’t admit they’re dating).

Tristan also seems to resort to violence every possible time he can. He hits Zack at the party, breaking his nose (in one hit, apparently, which is definitely not easy to do). There are several instances of Tristan being so angry that his eyes narrow and he blows a gasket (including, at the same party of the nose-breaking, Tristan can’t stand to see Camie having a little fun with her friends, and promptly causes a scene by shoving people out of his way and yelling at them).

And, to top it all off, Camie thinks Tristan is perfect. I’ve given enough evidence to the contrary, but to top it all off, he’s apparently the captain of the swim and polo teams, is more well-read than Camie is, knows about cars enough to not only take care of his own and Jeff’s Jeep, but also to have rebuilt the under-hood of his own. He’s good-looking (because, generally speaking, the main male character usually is), and he’s well-versed in pop culture, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Let me borrow a “word” from Bella (of Twilight fame): Ugh.

Camie’s sister, Jillian, shows sociopathic tendencies. Also, her so-called abilities are logistically improbable.

Jillian, at one point, takes 30 minutes to remove tires from a vehicle (where did she get the extra jacks?), put them inside the car with seatbelts strapped around them, and uses either window markers or shoe polish to paint a message on the windshield.

First, let’s discuss the fact that Jillian is 13, and probably can’t even lift those tires. There’s no mention of her having an accomplice, so how did she get the tires into a car that is, most likely, sitting on its brake discs (poor car), let alone get them seat-belted. Doing all this in a 30 minute time-frame, at a high school football game, is asking for trouble and I just can’t see it happening. At all.

Then there’s the fact that she sneaks out of the house to go to a party Camie has just left in order to exact revenge on her sister’s behalf. And she gets a sick kind of glee out of it:

“‘Do you want me to make an example out of him? I will if you want me to…just give me the word and I’ll teach him and everyone else what happens when they mess with my family.’” (p. 227, e-book version)


There also seems to be a lot of B&E going on: Jillian somehow manages to print out flyers of a girl, Teresa, who’d been tormenting Camie, vomiting at that party, and Jillian breaks into the high school and stuffs the fliers into lockers.

Either that or this school is seriously lax with the security.

This book ruined a lot of pop culture for me.

There are vast mentions of pop culture. And it’s not a vague reference here and there. Rather, Camie’s life seems to revolve around it, in particular Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Joss Whedon fan, but Tristan actually asks Camie out on their first date by quoting Oz from Buffy:

“‘I’m going to ask you to go out with me next weekend.’ Oh no he isn’t!!! ‘–And I’m kinda nervous about it actually. It’s interesting.’” (p. 149, e-book version)


Buffy isn’t the only book, movie, or TV show that’s mentioned, but it’s definitely the one mentioned most often. Of course, Camie also mentions music a lot, and she seems to notice that the “perfect” songs come on at the perfect times, providing the perfect soundtrack to her life. I don’t really care so much about that, because a lot of authors formulate soundtracks to their novels (they just don’t include them in the book, ffs), but I have one huge bone of contention:

You do not include Metallica and Miley Cyrus (whose name was spelled incorrectly as “Myley”) on the same mix. That’s blasphemy.

If it isn’t obvious that I hated this book, well then I’ve obviously failed as a reviewer. This book had no redeeming qualities what-so-ever. The writing was horrible, the characters were either full of themselves or vapid, and there was no chemistry between Camie and Tristan, no matter how much Camie insisted.

I was extremely unhappy to waste my time on this, and I won’t pick up the second one, even if it’s free.

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