Review originally posted here: http://thebookpushers.com/2012/09/10/review-second-hand-by-heidi-cullinan-and-marie-sexton/
I’ve read both Cullinan and Sexton before, and I’ve really enjoyed each of them as individual authors, so when I found this book on NetGalley, with them writing together, I was pretty excited. Plus the fact that it is a gay-for-you story… I was sold. However, the way that Cullinan and Sexton chose to go about writing this book did not work for me. At. All.
Paul has moved to a new town for his girlfriend, and when she dumps and leaves him in a house he hates, he feels stucks. He meets El at a Pawn Shop and the two embark on a friendship of sorts, with Paul completely oblivious to everyone around him. As Paul tries to get his ex back, he also starts to develop feelings for El, confusing and odd feelings, but feelings none the less. As they continue to become closer friends, Paul begins to realize that his ex might not be what can make him most happy in life.
El has no problem coasting through life, until the redheaded Paul walks into his Pawn Shop. El never thought he would fall for a straight boy, but he falls hard and fast. Although he knows that Paul is hung up on his ex-girlfriend, El will do everything he can to show Paul that the two of them could be great together. But will El be able to win Paul over and convince him of just how great they could be as a couple?
I wanted to like this book, I really did. But there were so many things that just didn’t work for me that I had a hard time not only reading the story from start to finish, but also enjoying and engaging with the characters. Let me start by saying that the style Cullinan and Sexton chose to write this book in was very confusing and constantly pulled me out of the story. When the story was told from Paul’s point of view, it was told in the first person narrative. ie: “I pulled into my driveway and got out of the car.” Yet when the story changed and went to El’s perspective, it was done in the third person narrative. ie: “El pulled into the driveway and got out of the car.” The 1st and 3rd person narrative would switch within the chapters, and I had a really hard time following from within one character’s head and then from a third person perspective. It was distraction, caused me massive amounts of confusing, and almost had me DNF the book at page 12. 12!!
On top of that, I had a really hard time engaging with and liking Paul’s character. He was absolutely clueless to everything and everyone around him. It was like he had zero common sense, and would constantly need to have the people in his life spell out every little thing to him. El had to spell out his feelings, even something as forward as a kiss wasn’t enough to clue Paul in on El’s growing feelings. After covering for the vet tech in his job multiple times, and his boss hinting that he wanted to send Paul back to school so he could step, Paul still didn’t get the clues. His boss had to lay it all out, piece by piece, and Paul was totally oblivious to how much his boss appreciated him. Toward the end of the book, I started thinking of Paul as more like a child than an adult, and I had a harder time finding anything likeable about his character.
The only redeeming quality of the book was El. I adored him. He had crap to deal with in his family, and he didn’t have an easy time with it. Despite his reservations, when he fell for Paul it was something he did wholeheartedly. He was a strong hero, a loveable character, and someone that I found myself wishing we had spent more time with throughout the book. I hate to say that he was the one thing I enjoyed about this book, but he kinda was.
All in all I was really disappointed with this read. Not only was I constantly pulled out of the story due to the narrative, but I also had a hard time connecting with Paul. That lack of connection really made it hard for me to understand the romance, to get behind them as a couple, and cheer for El and Paul to make it. Had it not been for El, I don’t know that I would have actually finished reading this book.
I give Second Hand a D-