The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares

Okay folks, get ready, because I am about to discuss a book I absolutely H-A-T-E-D. I was a bit reluctant to use this word (hate) at first, but then I thought – who fucking cares? I didn’t like this book and I am going to talk about it.

So, let us begin with a bit of the family’s history. Lila and Robert used to be married. Together they had three daughters, Emma, Quinn and Mattie. After their divorce they both re-married and they each had another child; Lila had Ray and Robert had Sasha. Confused? ME TOO! It took me about half the book to be able to tell the characters apart and remember who is who and, if I’m being completely honest, even by the end of the book I couldn’t tell the three older sisters apart. That’s exactly how indistinguishable their voices were. ( Keep in mind that I have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series numerous times and was never confused about who the narrator was.) So here’s my first problem with the book; its characters are so flat and common, so boring that I couldn’t even tell them apart; how was I supposed to care about them?

Moving on to the story after Lila and Robert’s divorce, the two are unable to decide who gets the beach house, which leads to them splitting their time there so they wouldn’t have to face one another. As a result, Sasha and Ray end up “sharing” a bed, toys, books, collections and family members without having met one another. And here comes the second problem: from the very first time we meet Ray, his thoughts while laying in the bed he “shares” with Sasha are way too sexual. He practically fantasizes about a girl who is almost his sister; it made me so uncomfortable I was ready to DNF it. I was curious, however, to see how the author handled this obsession Ray had with Sasha. Surely, she’d be creeped out by it, if she ever found out, right? WRONG! Because Sasha is also almost creepily obsessed with him. The two can’t stop thinking about each other, which leads to a very creepy, uncomfortable-to-read-about relationship between the two.

Moving on to the next issue: poor characterization. In the book synopsis there’s one word to describe each sister: Emma is the perfectionist, Mattie is the beauty, and Quinn is the favourite. And that’s all these three girls are. I’m being literate here. They possess no other personality trait, other than the one given to them by the book’s synopsis. Ray and Sasha, their parents, and step-parents are equally one-dimensional, pure caricatures and walking stereotypes. You think that’s all? I haven’t even touched this book’s racism and sexism and slut-shaming yet.

Robert is Bangladeshi. So, props to Brashares for including diverse characters in her book! Hm, maybe not so fast. Robert may be Bangladeshi, but he was adopted by a white couple and wants nothing to do with his culture and history. Now, I am not trying to say that this wouldn’t be an important story or a story worth-telling. But, coming from a white author, it feels a bit like the easy way out. You get the praise for including a character of color (and his biracial kids), without having to do any in-depth research on the region and the culture. Mattie ( I think) even refers to her father’s descent as a “check in the diversity box” which exactly how his descent is treated by the author. It is even specifically mentioned that Lila married him to piss off her parents. Not to mention, an extremely disrespectful and inconsiderate mention of the burqa. I really am wondering, how on Earth did this book even get published?

As for the aforementioned sexism and slut-shaming: Emma constantly judges her sisters’ clothes, either deeming them too revealing or too slutty (the burqa comment fits somewhere in here, since it was made during a shopping spree). Ray even considers himself to be deep and special because he noticed Sasha’s beauty instead of her friend’s. Congratulations boy! Do you want a cookie? Brashares is proudly promoting stereotypes like “she is not like other girls” and the idea that “modest” girls are far more beautiful than girls in revealing clothes. Can we ever take a breath? Mattie is extremely jealous and antagonistic towards Sasha – her own fucking sister– because she thinks she may be more beautiful? What kind of nonsense is this??

Anyway, you get my point. I absolutely loathe this book and I’m mourning the time I wasted reading this.

 

** An ARCopy was provided via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review**

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