I had a little bit of an personal identity crisis while reading a novel...I had to set the book aside at one point to ask myself: Am I a horrible person? Am I completely lacking in emotions, in empathy? Do I even have a heart? How else do I explain my complete lack of interest, and in fact, my dislike for the main character, someone who has been kidnapped and molested?
Maybe I didn't need to question my basest nature. Maybe it was just the book and its completely forgettable characters and plot.
The story is a sad one, a perfect example of how a child can be so easily programmed, a great example of Stockholm Syndrome. Callie has been on the run with her mess of a bipolar mother since she was 5. She has never been in regular school, she barely remembers her old life; they move around haphazardly, on her mother's whim. She has endured countless seedy motels, she has lived as a squatter, she has endured too many of her mother's questionable and abusive boyfriends. All she knows is that they are on the run because her mother has to keep her father from getting Callie back, because her father only wants Callie to spite her mother. They live out of suitcases.
At the beginning of the novel, they are again, on the run. Callie's mother gets caught due to a traffic violation which results in her discovery, and Callie is returned to her father, Greg, and his large, boisterous Greek family in Tarpon Springs. There, Callie tries to get readjusted to a semblance of a normal life, and we're supposed to be there with her as she overcomes her trauma, matures, and bonds with her family.
Well, no. It doesn't exactly happen in that exact manner. What actually happens is that Callie runs away from her very loving new family at every chance she gets to sleep with the local "man-whore." In the process, she worries her newfound family to no ends, and breaks a poor nice guy's heart, and does whatever the fuck she feels like, with no consideration to anyone but her bitch of an incarcerated mother. Oh, right. Stockholm Syndrome. Place your mother above all others, even if she's ruined your life. Gotcha!
I can't claim to know what it's like to be kidnapped, I can't claim to understand the complex psychology behind such a traumatic event, but as far as building a credible, somewhat likeable, complex character...this book completely failed for me.
Callie is simply not a likeable character. I feel bad for her, I truly do. What she has endured is beyond imagining, it is traumatic, it is horrifying, and I fruitlessly wish that nobody ever has to go through such an event. But this book is what it is, and beyond my sympathy of her past, the present Callie is not a person I like. She completely flaunts the rules. Yes, she has been on the run for so long, under her mother's supervision (which is really, no supervision at all), and she's used to being on her own...but this is another life, and Callie doesn't seem to understand that.
Callie has a new family, a really, really nice one. Her stepmother Phoebe, who is initially wary, but ultimately good at heart and trying her best to deal with a new member of the family, two new baby half-brothers who are annoying, but still cute as far as toddlers go, a really, really well-meaning father, Greg, who is in way over his head. Teenage daughters are problematic. Having one land in your lap after years of missing her...that's considerably harder to deal with. On top of that, this huge, huge extended Greek family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. It's overwhelming, but they love her, they missed her, they have always wanted her back...and Callie literally runs away to be with a boy.
There are rules in her new life, but Callie doesn't seem to understand that, even if it's made abundantly clear to her. School? Just a little bit to reimmerse her, please, darling girl? No. Callie's not ready for that! Nope, she doesn't want to go to school. What she IS ready for is partying and chilling with her friends and getting a job, so she can take long extended breaks and come back to work late because she's busy fucking Alex on his sponge-harvesting boat.
Curfew? Lol bitch please, what curfew? Rules are for people with normal childhoods, it seems. Callie stays out to sleep with hot Greek God Alex whenever she goddamn wants. She goes to parties and drinks and lies about it. And her poor, poor father, who has spent 12 years missing her and worrying about her and stressed out as all hell wondering where his daughter went missing without a word for hours? Think about HIS feelings? Nah. Alex!!!! WHOOOO! Hot Greek God Alex all the way.
Alex: Peter Pan Syndrome. Our man whore, our Greek God Alex just doesn't want to grow the fuck up. Oh, he's got *womp womp womp* proooooooooooblems man, but after hearing his explanation...nuh uh, I don't buy it. His excuses for not coming to visit his degenerative-disease-suffering, dying mom. His excuses for not being able to go to college? Weak. Wouldn't hold a drop of water. Weaker than the sponges that Alex dives for. Did I say sponges? Yeah. Alex has a wonderful career of diving for sponges to sell to tourists.
Kat: Callie's self-proclaimed BFF. This is my mental image of Kat.
Yep. Overly attached girlfriend. She is the equivalent of an overly eager puppy. She has no sense of subtlety. She attaches herself onto Callie with all the suction cups of an octopus and does not let go. Kat's held onto an image of Callie & her playing when they were 4 years old and she has dreamed of Callie coming back and being her best friend ever since.
“This is you and me when we were four. When we were best friends...But I’ve spent all these years imagining what our friendship would have been like if your mom hadn’t taken you. In my head we had sleepovers and took gymnastics lessons and had first dates with twin brothers, which is hilarious because I don’t even know any twins. And when you came home, I hoped---”
Callie is a local celebrity. Everyone knows she has been kidnapped, her return is known by everyone. Give the girl some room? Apparently, nobody told Kat. She clings onto Callie, takes her clothes-shopping, tries to set her up with a potential boyfriend, takes her on double dates...etc. Girl doesn't know the meaning of personal space.
The book wasn't altogether terrible, but I felt the romance aspect of it was completely overplayed, given how traumatized Callie had been when she was on the run. Callie's insta-attraction and subsequent behavior with Alex didn't feel real, and I felt like their interactions were merely sexual and no more than that. The thing is, the book tries to make it seem like there was more to Alex and Callie and that---I just didn't buy the romance.
I absolutely hated how she treated Connor, how she broke his heart. I remember standing next to my friend in 11th grade as she told a mutual friend that he was her "back up prom date." I remember the look on his face. It was a shitty, shitty thing to do, it is a shitty, shitty thing to say, and it is just another example of how utterly selfish and inconsiderate Callie is towards anyone who is inconvenient to her and what she wants.
I feel bad for Callie, but her previous abuses doesn't give Callie an excuse to be a life-long bitch, and the entire book, for me, was an account of how Callie was an asshole to everyone and got away with it.