Meg Cabot’s Little Bridge Island series adds on another chapter with No Offense, a bland, sitcommy, corny, mindboggling and somewhat grating story about a librarian, a foundling and a single dad-slash-sheriff who manage to make a family.
Molly Montgomery has moved all the way from Colorado to the Florida Keys to accept a job as the head of the Little Bridge Island Public Library’s childrens’ services. The job is hectic and messy, but it helps distract her from her broken engagement. Also distracting: the fact that someone’s abandoned a baby in the library’s ladies room.
Enter John Hartwell, Little Bridge Island’s sheriff, who takes up the investigation. Molly is immediately offended by John’s attempt at corralling the situation and tries to take charge, causing them to clash. John is conveniently recently divorced and now taking care of his daughter, Katie, a young environmentalist who hates being stuck on Little Bridge Island. The mystery of the baby percolates and begins to crash into a series of thefts which have taken place at the library and local high school. It seems that John and Molly end up making a good team. But can a grumpus ever love a ditz?
The answer, to my regret, is yes. This book opens with the sight of a Latine teenager miming a sex act with two obscenely decorated gingerbread people in front of a group of children to get a rise out of Molly, which is completely successful and yet results in her forgiving him and letting him stay there among the toddlers and young children he was performing in front of. The patronizing relationship between this teenager and Molly is so retrograde it’s marginally offensive and feels like it was lifted from a PG-rated version of Dangerous Minds. It does not get better from there. And I am tempted to leave the review at that but oh, there are so many different ways and reasons why this is Cabot’s worst effort, yes, even worse than that time when she broke Mia and Michael up for books at a time.
Molly is… just an awful human being. She’s pushy, she’s self-righteous, she blasts information about an ongoing child abandonment case on the Library’s Facebook group using her private account and blurts it out to people who arrive at the library with gossip. She is a mediocre librarian, to boot – bad at covering her own blind spots. This is supposed to be because she’s ‘warm’ and ‘cares about people’ and not because she’s TSTL. How stupid is Molly? So stupid that she thinks the sound of a baby’s fussing in the ladies’ room is the result of someone leaving her “A box of adorable kittens” in there. She’s also an instant study in all things detective and repeatedly tries to tell John how to investigate the case.
John is supposed to be grumpy and overly authoritarian, but he mostly comes off as an adult trying to do his job in a professional manner. He’s clueless about his daughter and clueless about the world of women, but that’s fine. He’s the least objectionable part of the book, and his biggest flaw is blurting out private information about the mother of the abandoned baby.
His romance with Molly hits all of the stock, clichéd beats. His heart cracks open because of her vulnerability; they attend a fancy dress ball and see each other done up and gain a case of the heaving moists. It’s generally dull, and generally rote.
The mystery is not even a mystery, because Cabot cannot resist telegraphing every single move she makes and solves things by the midpoint of the story. And then she introduces a desperately outdated cult parody which belongs on an old episode of Dragnet and which also features a group that “rejects social norms” while supporting the abandonment of its members to “the po-po” (a word which was literally used in this book. Liberally. And repeatedly. Mostly by its only central latine character) and the right of its leader to abandon his child and its mother. It’s decades too late to make fun of hippies, and yet Cabot soldiers on. By the time she begins using Molly as a mouthpiece to speechify about property rights, one groans.
That, perhaps, is fitting, however, as Cabot also can’t stop herself from writing the novel-based equivalent of an old sitcom. The book creaks and groans with old TGIF-style clichés, and one can hear the pauses for laughter or ‘aww’ moments a studio audience would provide. Cornball mother-and-child reunions. A whole plot revolving around a parent-daughter dance. You get it.
No Offence is ironically named. Weirdly bland, striving for topicality while surrendering to tradition, it somehow manages to be offensive because of its blandness.
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Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier
|Review Date:||October 4, 2020|
|Book Type:||Contemporary Romance|
Holy. Cow. I’m pretty much speechless after reading this review and the comments.
I really cannot wrap my brain around this book and the fact that these things got published. I’m trying to figure out what the author thought the point was?
I was never a big fan of Meg Cabot’s,being too old for the Princess Diaries phenomenon but I did read a couple of her books and thought they were fine at the time. I also remember her as being pretty progressive and on top of current things.
I’m not sure what happened but I don’t understand what is going on with some authors lately, it’s like some of them have been living in a cave unconnected to the outside world they are so out of touch.
I absolutely have no idea what she was intending but by the time her heroine compared the SPOILER: Someone kidnapping the cult leader’s girlfriend’s child to someone breaking into her friend’s house and stealing her ipad, she lost me.
I don’t remember ANY of her earlier books hitting these heights of racism/retrograde politics. It was downright weird to read it.
I am just kind of speechless right now. This book was on my “Might be interesting, check the reviews when it comes out” -list, but this doesn’t sound like a book I’d like to read at all. Quite frankly it sounds awful, and certainly not something I’d ever pay 12.09 dollars for. How disappointing. Thank you so much for the excellent review!
It is BAD. VERY bad. I was tempted to give it an F but I liked John and Katie enough to avoid completely deep-sixing it. It didn’t hit Wagon Train Sisters levels of what-the-fuck-am-I-reading, but it was close.
As other commenters said they’d done, I also went and read the sample at Amazon. It was…I honestly don’t even know what to say. Why would she/the publisher/anyone who read the book before it came out think any of that was even remotely acceptable or funny or anything anyone would ever want to read?
Is there some other book of hers that you’d recommend for someone who has never read this author? Like, is this some sort of weird isolated book-length incident of putting one’s foot in one’s mouth or does this represent her values and/or sense of humor in general?
I just read your review of Wagon Trail Sisters and I think I understand what you mean.
I read the excerpt on Amazon, and the part about the teenager miming a sex act and mentioning porn in front of toddlers was not just completely gross, but written as if it was supposed to be funny (including the teenager’s constant references to “the po-po”). Humor is subjective, but I didn’t find this enjoyable to read at all.
I’m glad you mentioned the excerpt. I checked it out. What in the world?!
Also, as obnoxious as the act was, I thought the teenager’s dialogue seemed off. Way off. Am I the only one?
One moment, he’s miming a sexual act with cookies in front of very young children and their parents. (Yes, we call that harassment. And people do that together a rise out of someone.) In the next, he’s going into a long BS spiel about who can tell when childhood ends. I thought I’d wandered into a prison interview from Mindhunter, not a romcom.
Honestly, this is the type of disgusting stuff that should be decried on social media rather than the often petty objections that get people riled up about instead. Fringe people, queers, people in the arts, etc. have a bad enough reputation in certain circles and suffer a lot of accusations about being “predators recruiting kids into their perverted lifestyle.” Gross examples of sexual harassment toward children- even in fiction- reflect poorly on adult entertainers and alternative lifestyle practitioners who understand the importance of keeping their mitts off of kids.
Take it from a smut peddler (i.e. self-published erotica writer), this scene should never have made it past an editor. Frankly, I’m surprised there aren’t investigations involved…
Yeah, the book made it feel like Cabot’s only experience with Latine teenagers comes from Hollywood movies. I kept waiting for the lead teen character to call her “holmes.” It was that retrograde.
I’m amazed that that part is actually included on Amazon for everyone to read. And yep, Cabot tries to play it like slapstick comedy and it’s disgusting and cringeworthy instead.
“I’m amazed that that part is actually included on Amazon for everyone to read.”
Amazon tends to include the first ten percent of a book regardless of what is in it, certainly on the Kindle “Look Inside” previews. There is an ongoing speculative debate about whether or not authors need to be careful about the contents of the first 10% of their books when it comes to anything explicit. While no one seems to have the answer regarding whether or not explicit content in the “Look Inside” feature can get you adult flagged or blocked, one thing is certain: if you are traditionally published, you can get away with a heck of a lot more than if you are self-published. Publishing something like this could potentially get someone’s KDP account terminated.
And that’s not even getting into the teenaged male PoC who is “delighted” that he’s done something that warrants calling the police.
Ugh, just ugh! Can we also consider the double standard here for a minute? If a man wrote and published this, he would probably be under some kind of investigation for predatory behavior. Frankly, an adult writing this kind of scene in a “romcom” should be setting off all kinds of alarm bells. But because a woman wrote it, there isn’t comparable outrage? I can’t even…
Oh, if it had been written by a man, no doubt it would be classified as lit fic and labelled a critique of … you know what, I can’t even, either.
Lord, this, that’s disgusting.
That’s the part where I put the book down cause I decided it wasn’t for me
Strong agree! I hated this book and getting through it was a slog. It really put me off Meg Cabot, even though I have loved a lot of her past books.
It actually made me question my belief in her talents, it was that bad.