My British Bear by Dawn Dagger
Expected Publication: September 1st, 2017
I received a free copy of My British Bear from the author in exchange for an honest review. This review is part of a blog tour for My British Bear.
After two months of hell living with her uncle, Maria is ready to give up. She’s already lost everything, and has no one to hold on to. Stuck in a small town where she knows not a single person, and physically abused by her uncle, she sees no hope. The only respite she gets from the hits on all sides is the small coffee shop down the road.
After an unlikely accident resulting in meeting a backwards British kid who is too polite and awkward for his own good, Maria starts to see a light in the darkness, but she’s also afraid of it.
She has her heart broken before, a hundred times in a hundred ways, and she doesn’t know if she’s ready to love, ready to let go, or even ready to face the reality of things. She doesn’t know if she’s ready to open up again and be happy.
She doesn’t know if she’s ready to live.
I gave My British Bear 2/5 stars on Goodreads.
This review, like all of my reviews, is spoiler-free.
My British Bear tells the story of a young girl named Maria, who has a chance encounter with British-born Brooks and is enchanted by his dashing looks and charming sense of humor. In addition to struggling to comprehend her emotions, Maria lives in an abusive household and is caught between what her heart and her head are telling her to do.
This book had a lot of promise for me: a struggling character facing insurmountable challenges, a cute romance, a quirky cast of characters. I wanted to love this book, but it didn’t live up to my initial perceptions. Let’s talk about why.
I didn’t connect to Maria, the protagonist, probably because I didn’t enjoy her narrative voice. For someone assumedly in high school, she had an immature tone that lead me to believe she was younger than intended. I especially had a problem with a girl who spoke like a middle schooler contemplating love like she’d known her quasi-boyfriend for half her life. Immature narrators and themes involving serious love are fine on their own, but I found they didn’t mix well.
Beside Maria and Brooks, the rest of the characters seemed flat. Brooks and Maria’s gaggle of school chums were a fabulous device for comparing Maria to the picture-perfect image of a normal high schooler and were an even better device for representing her reintegration into normal high school activities, but they weren’t good for much else. All of their friends seemed like cookie-cutter versions of the same character, but with different names and descriptions. After a while, they all blended together and became indiscernible.
One of the major plot threads in this book is the abusive relationship between Maria and her uncle. This subplot was supposed to tug at my heartstrings and make me feel for Maria, but I harbored a startling lack of sympathy for her. Abuse is a heavy topic with multiple facets to explore and consider, but I felt that this book didn’t hit it out of the park. I understand that every case of abuse is different, but this book seemed to show a sensationalized version, something that highlighted the causes but didn’t show the effects. I wanted Maria to be vulnerable and open and honest and she was anything but.
The relationship between Maria and Brooks was frustrating on multiple levels. First, I found that immense emphasis was placed on the fact that Brooks was British. All we needed was one paragraph at the beginning or a few lines of colloquial dialogue to understand his heritage, not the constant barrage of reminders that he hailed from Great Britain. In addition, a majority of their interactions felt forced. Often, I felt that they were reading monotonously from a script rather than exchanging witty banter.
Like Maria’s narrative voice was uncharacteristically immature, Brooks had a similar childlike nature. I found it hard to believe that he, who was supposed to be a hunk, slept with a bunch of stuffed animals on his bed. There’s nothing wrong with stuffed animals–I still have the stuffed animal I slept with as a child–but it clashed with his existing character development so much that I found it unbelievable. The teddy bears were an allusion to Brooks himself, which makes sense in theory, but didn’t exactly translate in the narrative.
Overall, this book was not for me. I didn’t relate to the characters, found the narrative voice immature, and expected much more from this book than I got.
Have you read My British Bear? What did you think of the book?