I recently discovered the Goodreads First Reads giveaway page, where publishers and authors offer advance copies of their books to give away to Goodreads members. I always get excited at the prospect of a competition and when I first found this page I went a bit mad, 'in it to win it', and entered myself for everything in sight. It was only after I had won three books in the first couple of weeks that I realised the First Reads giveaways aren't entirely at random and that they are weighted in favour of active users of the site.
When my winnings landed on the doorstep, I have to admit that I asked myself what exactly I had been thinking when I entered some of these giveaways. Do I really want to read my first Adele Parks novel? Isn't she a bit...chick litty and fluffy? It's all too easy as a book blogger to see 'free' books on offer on sites such as Goodreads and Netgalley and come over all glassy-eyed and grabby. I do try my best not to fall prey to these temptations and only to request novels that I am desperate to read, but on this occasion my resolve failed. I wasn't feeling particularly enthusiastic to get stuck in.
Confession time over - what did I think of the book? Well actually, I was pleasantly surprised and found The State We're In to be far more substantial than I was expecting.
Jo is an incurable romantic who whole-heartedly believes in the idea of The One. Problem is, her biological clock is ticking faster every day and The One remains just an idea, a figment of her imagination. In a fit of passion (or madness) she books a ticket to fly to Chicago to sabotage her ex-fiancé's wedding. When she finds herself sitting next to a handsome stranger on the plane, she can't help confiding in him. But Dean has issues of his own to brood over. Could the pair end up helping each other out?
The book flits between the viewpoints of both Jo and Dean, as well as skipping between timelines across decades to look at their parents' stories and the way their very different upbringings have shaped their personalities. I found this to be really effective at adding substance to what could easily have been two generic and stereotypical characters. The flighty, dreamy woman with her head in the clouds, the brooding, handsome stranger. Luckily, Adele Parks avoids this pitfall and creates two engaging and likeable protagonists. I couldn't avoid becoming invested in their story.
The State We're In is a really easy read that had me hooked in from the first chapter - the pages basically turned themselves. It is very light compared to my usual reading choices, and there were places where I guessed the 'twists' that were coming a mile off, or where I felt events could be fleshed out a little more. But overall, it was enjoyable, and a perfect choice for times when I feel like reading something a little less serious. I would definitely look into Adele Parks' other work next time I'm in that mood.
One thing I will say is that I found this book to be very, very reminiscent of another romance novel that has been a massive bestseller in recent years, in its characters, style, and even aspects of the plot. I don't want to give much more away than that because the folks at Headline have urged us all to #keepthesecret with their online marketing campaign, but I'd be very interested in hearing from anybody else who has read The State We're In and knows what I mean!
All things considered, I'm not sure what this experience has taught me. Part of me feels like I should continue to try to be very particular about which books I read and especially about the titles I request for review. I am so grateful to publishers like Headline for taking part in the First Reads scheme, and it's not fair to them if greedy bloggers request lots of books that they have no interest in reading. On the other hand, I enjoyed The State We're In much more than I was expecting to, so maybe I should try to take more risks and read outside my own comfort zone more, to discover some more unexpected gems? What do you think?