When a good girl falls for a bad boy
She thought she loved him. She thought she could change him. She thought if she just believed in him enough, his cheating and his drugs and his lying would stop, and she’d be his and he’d be hers and they’d love each other forever.
But for Samantha Henderson, X-the boy she will not name-is trouble. He’s older, edgier, bohemian . . . and when he starts paying attention to Sam, she can’t resist him. Samantha’s family and friends try to warn her, but still she stays with him, risking her future and everything that really matters.
As moody and vivid as it is captivating, Dating Down is told in scenes and bursts of poetry that create a story filled with hurt, healing, and hope.
Thank you to Flux Books and NetGalley for the review copy! Having received one did not affect my views of the novel.
It’s not surprising for a poetry lover like me to seek out and love verse novels as well. Heck, I even seek out poetry-like elements in the prose novels I read because I’m all for lyrical and poetic prose. I didn’t know that Dating Down was a verse novel. In fact, I skipped on it when I saw it on Netgalley but when I saw Krystianna of Downright Dystopian give it four stars, I decided to give it a whirl and requested it. I then started reading it one night that I couldn’t sleep because it was short. So when I discovered that it’s actually a verse novel, I knew I was in for a treat. Treat me and spoil me was exactly what Dating Down did.
Dating Down is told from the perspective of Sam Henderson, a shy high school senior who paints. And the daughter of a state senatorial candidate. The book starts with Sam telling us that this is about a boy, who won’t be named, and who we’ll call only with X. Dating Down chronicles her crush on X, the hipster-boho college-aged barista on the coffee shop she frequents, and their imminent relationship. It all started out cute and sweet and sure, I was actually swooning because X is definitely smooth. But he was too smooth and too good to be true. We later learn that X is actually a drug dealer. Sam is affronted by this but she eventually comes around to it and even starts using herself.
Sam has been dealing with her mom’s death, her father’s eventual second marriage, the changes in her father and his lack of time for her, expectations, and quite possibly the one that nags her the most — not living. She feels like she’s not living life to the fullest and she sees X as her getaway to do exactly this. X changed it all.
While Sam gets lost in X’s world, she’s been ditching her friends April and Gavin, her sister duties to Melanie, her painting for her application for art school, and her father’s campaign. She becomes so engrossed in X’s world that she blows off her responsibilities and every other person in her life.
It was evident that everything will come crashing down soon enough and while everything was expected, I give props to Stefanie Lyons to keeping up the ante and making us feel for Sam. All I want too is for her to live her life but I don’t want her to do it with X. But then, I can’t even fault her for finding X the edgy and shiny thing that he is because he definitely is. For someone who’s been bottling it up, falling in love with X is the most freeing thing she has ever done. And if she’s trying so hard not to lose him, I can definitely understand.
Shit, I’m not doing this book any justice. Even though the plot’s been done before, this book triumphs in its words. This is a verse novel done right. Full of imagery and certain passages can knock you out of your breath. I can’t remember how many times I just marveled at the words and how many times I just wanted to stop reading and let the beauty wash me.
Lastly, the cover. SO ON POINT. Sam’s a painter, a Vespa is pertinent to the story, the title DATING DOWN plays a role in the novel.
I’ll live you with my favorite passage/chapter of this book, and quite possibly, the most powerful.
I am greater than a shoe size. I am more interesting than a label.
I am deeper than an opinion. I am more than a politician’s daughter.
I am smarter than a test score. I am more valuable than diamond
earrings. I am larger than a fashion trend. I am stronger than a drug.
I am a cut above
my own masterpiece
finer than bone china
leading lady material
I am all that and a sister-daughter-friend bag of chips… … and
I am ready to love.