The Promise of Amazing: review

December 2, 2013 2.5 star books, contemporary, Kate, robin constantine 49 ★★½

The Promise of Amazing: reviewThe Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine
Published by Balzer & Bray on December 31, 2013
Genres: contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who's always done what she's supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.

One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.

Look at that cover!

Oh, how I want to join those two fresh-faced teenagers in their tiny little love bubble.  I want to giggle and be generally adorable with them.  I want him to call her “short stuff” and her to tease him about his awkward lankiness and the fact that he’s ugly in the same way as Paul Dano, and then I want to squee as they touch their frosty noses together.

And the premise–girl working in her family’s Medieval Times-style banquet hall falls in love with a boy after saving his life in a ridiculous way–is a lot of fun.  I wanted so badly to love this book.  It really does (I’m so sorry please forgive me) promise to be amazing.

That’s the problem with titles, isn’t it?  A few years ago, my husband wrote for a show called The Forgotten, and the day he got the job he began to calmly prepare himself for the punny reviews that would inevitably come.  And they did come, of course, because when a joke is right there, you absolutely have to take it.  Why would an author do this to herself?  Why would a publisher let her?  I’m going to hunt down all the interviews I can find to get to the bottom of why Constantine left her flank so woefully undefended against…well…me.

Because I didn’t like this book.  I didn’t like the main character, who self-identifies as a shy, average student, but who is actually just kind of stupid and dull (“Yeah, I’ll give that some thought…not” is one of the zingers she delivers to her terrible, terrible friends).  I didn’t like the entitled dummy of a frat boy she instantly falls in love with when he chokes on a cocktail weenie after mocking her with his friends, calling her “Weenie Girl” while she’s serving at a wedding.  I didn’t like the way professional, successful, intelligent adults suddenly behave illogically (I’m sorry, but everyone knows not to speak to the police before consulting an attorney.  The police are legally required to give you that information when they arrest you.) when it’s necessary for the author’s plot twists to work.

I didn’t like the Bling Ring elements, or the way Grayson lies to get girls to sleep with him until he meets Wren, “the only girl who mattered.”  I hated Wren’s unbelievably sheltered confusion about interactions between children and their stepparents, and the way the dudes in her life use her as a pawn to get reactions out of each other.  The switch between Grayson’s and Wren’s first-person narration doesn’t work at all.  And in case you were wondering, yes, the title is absolutely referenced by one of the characters in the book.

I suppose that for a younger teenager who has experience with neither the instant spark that leads to a passionate, short-lived fling, nor the slow burn of real love, this story might fulfill a very specific fantasy, but I have a hard time imagining a world in which this book would be enjoyable for an older reader.  The characters are just too illogical and boring.  And un-sexy.  And absolutely not in love.

The cover’s really sweet, though.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.


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49 Responses to “The Promise of Amazing: review”

  1. starryeyedjen

    I don’t think I’ve seen one review that couldn’t help joking about that title, myself included. I agree…not sexy, barely cute, and so illogical in so many ways. I feel so betrayed by that cover! Oh, well…at least it was a quick read and I won’t be duped by pretty covers again…for awhile, anyway. ;) Fantastic review!
    starryeyedjen recently posted…The Best of 2013

  2. Johannah

    I love cute romances – and this cover screams cute! But according to your review, I’ll save my money for something that Kasie West or Rainbow Rowell has. thanks for the heads up!
    Johannah recently posted…Renovating for 2014

  3. Jasprit

    Kate I have to totally agree with everything that you said, I really wanted to love this book too, the cover is so cute, but the characters blandness and insta-love was just to much for me. And then how certain characters (Luke) backed down so quickly, seriously what was the point? Thank you for sharing your honest review!
    Jasprit recently posted…Bookish Survey: Cast a Harry Potter Spell: Part one.

    • Kate Bond

      I don’t actually even hate insta-love, especially when teenagers are involved–I just didn’t find either of these kids to be loveable at all, insta- or not.

      And the stuff with Luke gave me RAGE.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Fortune’s Pawn: review

  4. Lena @ Addicted 2 Novels

    Hey, I just finished this on Sunday! I love the cover and the title but feel like that’s all there is to the book. There were moments where I smiled and giggled but sweet mother, Grayson got on my nerves. The whole Bling Ring thing was too much for me. Poor Allegra. She just wanted to hang out with Grayson in her Hollister gear.

    I originally thought I liked it but after reading your review, especially when it comes to both MCs and thinking it over, I feel like my opinion has changed. WHAT DID YOU DO TO ME?! Just kidding. :-P
    Lena @ Addicted 2 Novels recently posted…The Lost Letters of Brother Gabriel (And A Dark Divine Trio Giveaway)

  5. tonya

    ugh, i’m such a sucker for a pretty cover and get irrationally annoyed when it oversells the story. i agree with you; this cover definitely says quirky, sweet giddy-swoon story. sorry it didn’t live up to its “promise”–haha.

  6. Mary

    Man, that’s disappointing. I actually really did like this book. It didn’t garner 5 stars, and it won’t be on any of my top lists, but I enjoyed it. The climax, though, did really bother me. I refuse to believe either of them really would have been okay with Wren making out with Luke. That was silly. Overall, though, I thought it was sweet and fun.
    Mary recently posted…Blogoversary!

  7. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    I rarely DNF books but I read about 15% of this one and predicted about what you reviewed here, so I stopped reading it. Of course then I fretted that maybe I did miss something AMAZING, but seeing yours and other reviews makes me realize that I actually made a good call. I agree, this book is a major bummer because it could have been so so cute. But I was bored with Wren’s fretting about how she wasn’t going to Harvard, when she was just an average student, and Grayson’s obsession with her made zero sense to me in the weenie aftermath. Anyway, I enjoyed reading your witty review at least.
    Lauren @ Love is not a triangle recently posted…Cress by Marissa Meyer

    • Kate Bond

      Oh, man, I forgot to mention the Harvard thing. I mean, she’s in the MIDDLE of her class. And the school is private, but not academically exclusive, so she can’t be that bright.

      And I’m sorry, but if there’s anyone that teachers freaking love, it’s shy, quiet students.

      You chose well. I chose poorly. Le sigh.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Ink is Thicker Than Water: review

  8. Heather@The Flyleaf Review

    Oh dear. And I have this one to review (damn it) but you are SO right–it does look like it would be an amazing read. It’s contemp (my fave) it’s got that adorbs cover– why can’t these books just live up to their covers?? Because honestly–there are so many god-awful covers out there…

    Boring AND un-sexy–that’s the kiss of death, my friend.

    But I did so enjoy your review! Probably more then I will enjoy this book. Bummer.
    Heather@The Flyleaf Review recently posted…Need You Tonight: The Top Ten 2014 Releases I’m Dying to Read

    • Kate Bond

      My problem is that I really love romance–contemporary, period, paranormal, whatever–so I read A TON of it. And it’s not so much that I’m picky as that I have specific expectations. I expect people to behave in a way that is basically logical. I expect dudes to have a real reason to stop treading chicks like shit, and having met a chick who they think is better than all the others is not a real reason that lasts longer than the six months to a year that our body chemistry forces us to bond with another person, regardless of actual compatibility.

      And even in high school I had several very close female friends–cheerleaders, band kids, average borings–who were not catty and awful. I HATE the portrayal of girls as being incapable of bonding with each other.

      I hope you enjoy it more than I did.

  9. Jon Magidsohn

    I don’t read YA. I generally don’t read romances or anything billed as such. I try to avoid books with titles that use the word ‘promise’ or ‘amazing’. But I very much enjoyed reading your review. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as writing a review about a book you really wanted to like but didn’t. So well done there. And the only reason I’m even on this site is because of Twitter. It’s funny how that quirky, cocky, social-networky thingy brings people together. Perhaps there’s a YA romance in there somewhere. Cheers.

    • Kate Bond

      Ha. Thank you.

      Romance can be a tough genre because it hasn’t traditionally been appreciated as legitimate. Kind of like comic books used to be, except that romance has the added stigma of being more woman-focused. And just as comic books struggle with dumb, offensive portrayals of women based on an adolescent male ideal, a lot of romance novels have, traditionally, portrayed men in a way that is escapist for women–you know, strong, gorgeous, alpha-males who just need the love of a sweet, boring, curvy woman (not thin! real men are not into thin women!) to become whole. The genre has taken huge leaps forward on that front (much more so than comics, frankly), and on diversity in general, with more minorities and gays playing major roles, but it’s tough to get past first impressions. And if you’re not into romance in general and you want to try it out, you’ll probably go to the more popular stuff, like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, which are not terribly good examples of romance novels as a whole, and which could be a real deterrent to trying out better-written, more thoughtful romance novels.

      And I have made several very good friends on Twitter. I freaking love the internet. Wendy, my co-blogger here, lives in the same town as me and is my friend in real life, but we met and became friends online. My good friend Stephanie (@emokidsloveme on Twitter) lives in Georgia, and I’ve never met her in real life, but I interact with her more (through email and stuff, obviously) than I do most of my friends who live near me.

      Thank you for stopping by!

  10. Kim

    “…the way Grayson lies to get girls to sleep with him…”

    Ew, gross. Beyond gross. Thank you for the warning and taking one for the team, Kate! I would’ve been glaring at this book once I discovered that.

    • Kate Bond

      Yeah, such disappointing characters. I participated in both athletics and nerd activities (newspaper, drama, student government) in high school, so I’ve always associated with a really diverse group of people, and the only types I don’t like are the ones written about in this book.

      Such a disappointment.
      Kate Bond recently posted…The Promise of Amazing: review

  11. Leandra Wallace

    I loved your ‘expectations’ piece from what you saw on the cover. I would read a book about that, for sure! =) Short Stuff is adorable(though I don’t like it when my husband calls me short- I’m 5’4- that’s normal! And he’s 5′ 9 & 1/2, so please!).
    Leandra Wallace recently posted…Christmas Contest!!!

    • Kate Bond

      Hmmmm. 5’4″ isn’t very short at all. I am 5’6″ and no one ever calls me short–including my six-foot-tall husband. Interesting.

      The story I told myself, based on the cover, really screwed me.

  12. Wendy Darling

    That cover was just too cute to be true. As one of our Facebook peeps was saying, apparently the book does not deliver on the promise of amazing, eh? You rarely write reviews that sound so disappointed, so I know it’s safe to take this off my list. That’s too bad.

    • Kate Bond

      I should have abandoned it, too. I was in a pretty good mood when I read it, so I gave it the benefit of the doubt. I chose poorly.

    • Kate Bond

      I was really sad. The characters aren’t so much cardboard cutouts as…I don’t know. They feel like real people, but not people I would ever want to spend time with. If that makes sense. They’re not terribly witty.

    • Kate Bond

      Everything about the book jacket is lovely and sweet; nearly everything beyond that point is tedious and upsetting. I just checked, and most of my friends have given this 2-3 stars, which I think is fair considering how terrible all the characters are–you are right in thinking that you do not want to meet them.

      Ah, well. They can’t all be winners.