Title: Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here (2016)
Author: Anna Breslaw
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 288 pages
Release Date: April 19, 2016
Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her weed-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.
When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. And if they ever find out what Scarlett truly thinks about them, she’ll be thrust into a situation far more dramatic than anything she’s ever seen on TV…
Sooo I haven’t been exactly quiet about how much I was anticipating Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here. Theoretically speaking, this book has everything I love in a contemporary and more—except that the execution was sadly, unfortunately, disappointing.
Breslaw’s writing was super easy to get into. The first lines were fun and the story, as a whole, was light-hearted and occasionally funny. It’s told in first person and is very conversational, which made for fast-paced, brainless reading. Unfortunately, the characters were in my eyes really unlikeable, which took away the majority of my enjoyment.
Scarlett Epstein is a fan. She’s a big-name fanfiction writer in the Lycanthrope High fandom and proud of it. I always love me some fandom-obsessed characters but instead of funny and relatable, I found Scarlett to be irritating, judgmental and entitled. A lot of her actions and decisions was very cringe-worthy, which could be attributed to her age (fifteen years old) but could also just be a clear lack of thought.
The ‘Scarlett writes a fanfic based on real people’ plot point was a big part of the book, and personally it didn’t work at all. For one, this fanfic reeked of girl-hate. Scarlett’s crush Gideon is dating a popular girl called Ashley, so of course Scarlett writes Ashley as a villainous character, Gideon as a hot love interest, and herself as the girl who deserves Gideon.
“Why do you like her? You’re supposed to be with me,” I blurt out.
Secondly, Scarlett didn’t even bother to change their names, so Gideon is still Gideon and Scarlett is Scarlett and Ashley, well—Ashley is Ashbot, but that’s not too much of a leap. It’s just so… I want to say clumsy or thoughtless, that I find it really hard to enjoy. The book is also full of snippets of this fanfic Scarlett has supposedly written, and I skipped these parts completely since I already didn’t like the fanfic or the characters.
The other characters are not much better. Avery, Scarlett’s best friend, seems to pop in and out whenever convenient to the story, and I’ve already mentioned Ashley, who so happens to be Scarlett’s best friend’s twin sister. The Mean Girl™ is strong with this one, so suffice to say I didn’t like her as well. We also get introduced to Scarlett’s mum Dawn, and it’s never explained why Scarlett addresses her with her name instead of ‘Mum’, so the background story is lacking there as well.
I’ve read reviews and many people seemed to like seventy-three-year-old woman Ruth, but I have to say that she struck me more as irresponsible than fun and sassy. Maybe I’m uptight but I don’t condone [spoiler] underage drinking or drug use [/end spoiler], which Ruth encouraged multiple times throughout the book. She also encouraged Scarlett to be a jerk, which I don’t think is right no matter what age you are:
“I’m not an asshole.”
“You’re sixteen. By the time you’re twenty-one, they’ll expect you to be a real person. This is your asshole window. It’s wide open.”
The love interest, Gideon, is another story altogether. I’ve only read a book with such an unappealing hero one other time (Estelle Laure’s This Raging Light), and Gideon is not any better. He’s very uninteresting and weak-willed—prone to following other people’s convictions and doing things he didn’t actually want to just because others are doing it, even when it makes him a bully and a douche.
Romance-wise, Gideon and Scarlett’s relationship felt incredibly forced to me. They were ex-best friends, didn’t speak for a number of years, and it wasn’t until Gideon started [spoiler] dating someone else [/end spoiler] that Scarlett suddenly felt entitled to his attention. For his part, Gideon seemed to ignore Scarlett whenever convenient for him, so I just wasn’t convinced that this ‘ship’ was a good idea.
I’m not sure what else is there to say about the story that I haven’t yet. Overall, very little in this book was enjoyable to me. The plot is a bit all over the place with important things few and far in between, and the characters were so unappealing, it was almost irredeemable. The silver lining is that Breslaw’s writing is quite funny, and the story was incredibly short and fast to get through. I wanted so bad to like this book, but ultimately, Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here disappointed me.