When I see Erin McCarthy’s name on a book, I am almost always tempted to give it a try. So, I couldn’t resist reading her foray into the New Adult genre, True. This book left me feeling conflicted. There were parts that brought me tears, and parts that nearly bored me to them as well. While this book has a promising start, the ending felt rushed and, ultimately, left me unsatisfied. McCarthy’s first attempt at writing about college-age leads falters with a questionable hero, static secondary characters, and a lack of chemistry.
Rory Macintosh and Tyler Mann are opposites; she’s the awkward premed student who wants to be a coroner and he’s the tattooed bad boy that has to work his way through college. When they meet through Rory’s roommate, opposites attract.
Tyler takes an interest in Rory after he rescues her from the groping hands of their druggie friend at a party. While Tyler and Rory’s friend are off hooking up in the other room, Rory has too much to drink and ends up accosted. Luckily, Tyler is there to save her and then, even though Tyler was just sleeping with Rory’s friend, he offers to drive her home. At the party, it is revealed that Rory is a virgin. From there, Tyler seems to deem himself her protector, even showing up at her place the next day to help nurse her through her hangover. A convenient run-in between the two at the college bookstore where Rory works leads the pair to discover that they can use their opposite nature to help each other out. Although he comes off as a bad boy, Tyler loves literature and even calls library cards “sexy”. Rory, on the other hand, is much more of a math and science person and can’t make heads or tails of her English classes. Their romance starts when they decide to help tutor each other and, eventually, their relationship starts to blossom.
This story started strong. I liked tough-guy Tyler coming to Rory’s rescue and her learning that he has a heart of gold. Tyler comes from a terrible home life that is the total opposite of Rory’s. His mother is a drug addict who is cruel to her children and Rory steps in to help with Tyler’s younger brothers, whereas Rory comes from a normal, middle class family in the suburbs. Seeing Tyler practically raising his siblings, one of which has Down’s Syndrome, was probably the best part of the book. You felt Tyler’s obvious affection for his siblings and the sense of camaraderie between the brothers, as well as Tyler’s reluctant desire to care for his mother.
Sadly, that is where things fell off. I found the secondary characters, Rory’s roommates Kylie and Jessica, annoying. I think they were drunk or high in every single scene. Rory only meets Tyler because he is sleeping with Jessica in some sort of ill-defined “friends with benefits” situation. Both girls came off as ditzy and promiscuous and I couldn’t understand why Rory hung around with them when she had been described so differently. What I believe was an attempt to give a real, honest portrayal of college students came off as trashy and over-dramatic. For example, not only does Rory nearly get raped at the first party, where she meets Tyler, he later must come to her rescue again when a guy at a night club tries to take advantage of her.
Additionally, the girls mention at one point that they paid Tyler to take Rory’s virginity. This plot point was a non-starter. Rory is briefly sad and avoids Tyler for a few days, then she goes on like normal and all is completely forgiven after Tyler quickly says sorry. Personally, I wouldn’t be friends with anyone who attempted to hire their hookup buddy to take my virginity, nor would I be willing to continue seeing a guy who went along with their plan. Although this part of the story was brief, it sullied my opinion of Tyler and Rory’s friends.
The book is written in very short scenes and frequently changes location and time. It was surprisingly bothersome because you never got much substance in a given scene before the book moved on. The middle of the book drags on with repetitive scenes of Tyler and Rory hanging out, people partying, and most males in the book acting brutish. I’m not sure how many times the couple met in a coffee shop or Rory went to parties with friends, but that seemed to make up the bulk of the book.
The conflict of the book revolved around Rory’s father disapproving of the relationship, and legal trouble with Tyler’s mom. Neither point was very fleshed out and both were resolved very quickly. After the major event of the book happens, in a rather anticlimactic way, Rory is upset but then time passes quickly and, just like that, everything is back to normal. I didn’t feel that any of the characters had experienced any real growth over the course of the book. The ending was very abrupt and seemed to attempt to quickly tie off the loose ends. It ended up feeling very unsatisfactory and did not address some major issues as to how the events of the book had permanently affected Tyler’s future.
Possibly the most refreshing thing about this story was the age of the characters. Rory and Tyler are college students and are 20 and 22, respectively. After the first chapter, I almost expected the story to jump ahead ten years because that’s what we all expect from the contemporary romances we’ve read. It would seem that this book was part of the up and coming New Adult genre, rather than a straight contemporary romance. However, in spite of being close in age to the hero and heroine, I didn’t feel connected to the characters or that the story reflected what my own college experience was like.
I think that True had a lot of potential, but fell short. There wasn’t enough believable conflict to carry the middle of the story and the references to Tyler’s prior promiscuity, with Rory’s best friend even, made him a lot less likable. All in all, his was a disappointing read from Erin McCarthy who, otherwise, is a fantastic addition to the romance genre. I would suggest picking up one of McCarthy’s older, more quirky tiles like Houston, We Have a Problem or The Pregnancy Test.