Falling off the face of the Earth – JF Smith

Okay, uh. 

I struggled a lot with this one, mainly because I didn’t want to be the Miss Ego to JF Smith’s Gusteau, but– you know.

Thing is, there are Issues with Falling Off and it would be a disservice to both the author and his potential readers to just go la-dee-da over them.

So, here goes: nope. Nope. Nah to the ah to the no no nope.

Explaining the Nope in handy bullet points

Style

  • Adverbs. No, no, I’m aware it’s a personal vendetta bias and all that, but if I have to go -ly every couple of words, then the flow is killed and I’m yeeted out of the mood. Y e e t e d. No bueno.

  • Same with exclamation marks. This story can’t handle that much excitement since it’s about bullying, a dead ex-boyfriend (ex on the account of being dead), emotional trauma by the dozen, and more homophobia you can shake a stick at.

  • POV switch. Hard pass. Listen, I love my third limited POV, and you’ll pry that from my cold, dead hands; being dropkicked into the mind of other characters mid-sentence is a no for me.

Characterization

  • Let me preface this by saying that I’m a huge plot fan. Huge.

    I’m forever in search of a Plot featuring Well-Rounded LGBT Characters, Multidimensional & With A Purpose In Life (all capitalized because this is my quest, my Holy Grail) (spoiler alert: still searching). I also prefer to read adult characters rather than teens or YA, because I love to embark in impossible tasks.

    When James from New York came along, I was all yay! An outta the closet MC, adult to boot and carrying a tragic secret all the way to his hometown? Bring it. The prologue promised me so many things, I was jazzhanding at Val all over Whatsapp.

    Those hopes and promises got crushed hard, tho. James is lovable, kind, and sympathetic – he forgave his high-school bully, Brick, and proceeded to fall headfirst for him – but he’s only defined by his sexual orientation. He’s gay. His hopes? He’s gay. His former job? Yep, but listen here, pal: he’s gay. His relationship with his mother, his little sister, his friends? Okay, okay, I can’t hear you over the gay.

    There’s almost nothing else to talk about throughout the whole story. He’s monodimensional and everything that happens to him has either a sexual undertone or has to do with sex(ual orientation). I mean, bruh? Why? He scores a job as car dealer and said job is mentioned in passing until one of his colleagues wants to set him up with her daughter, then it becomes relevant as he’s fired for being gay. Why not investing some time in building up the tension instead? Why, I don’t know, introduce the owner and show us how much of a jerk he can be before he tosses James to the curb?

  • James tells everyone and their mother he’s gay, up to the point of almost yelling it in public, then he does a 180 and says it’s a personal matter. Um.

  • The son of one of James’ best friends is in the closet, bullies his classmates, and at some point he even accuses James of molestation. I didn’t have the time to ask myself how James would get out of it tho – it’s a false claim, after all – because 0.1 paragraphs later the issue was solved already. Voila, just like that. And he doesn’t even harbor a tiny bit of resentment afterwards. False claim, he could have ended in prison with a pretty horrific charge, but nah man, it’s cool?

  • His neighbor Stefanie is a stripper. With fake boobs, tacky clothes, a cheerful personality and a heart of gold. She’s a walking stereotype, and oh, no.

  • Coming to think of it, a big fat chunk of characters is a walking stereotype. Flamboyant haidresser? Check. Jerk and closeted police officer? Check. Single mother who works hard, takes no shit and devotes her spare time to kids in need? Check, check, and check.

  • James’ mom adopts a little girl, and her presence causes James to fret a lot. He doesn’t know how to interact with kids and he wants to make a good impression on her, which is both wholesome and really sweet. I’d be more worried about her being, uh, her, tho, because Lindsey 1. survives a car crash that kills both his parents and makes a number on her legs, 2. is shipped to foster care for a while, 3. gets adopted, 4. loses her adoptive mother too, and remains unshaken and unstirred. Unperturbed.

    How’s that possible? I don’t get it. She’s five. If she’s shocked to the core, then it’s not portrayed in the story. If she’s really okay with all that, then I foresee a potential for a horror sequel here.
  • Last but not least, here comes Brick. s I already mentioned, he’s James’ former bully and in the beginning, James hates his guts. Understandable enough, I’d say, since Brick made James’ life a living hell when they were in high school. Trouble is, he now works for Montgomery Landscaping and is also dear friend of James’ mom, Beatrice. Who owns the aforementioned landscaping company.

    “Nice!” you’d say, “a conflict! It’s gonna take ages to solve it!”

    “Yeah,” I’d answer, “just wait.”

    Because while it’s great that they manage to overcome the past and get together, Brick is n i c e. Too nice. He’s another monodimensional character, who atones for his sins with the fervor of a saint. Is it good to have a redemption arc? Hell yeah. Is it good to have a redemption arc paved with unicorns and roses? Not so much.

    James and Brick do argue, eh. What I’m disappointed about is the lack of nuance.

Here, I said it. This book lacks nuance. There’s black, there’s white, and that’s it. No shades of grey, no complexity, just characters behaving in ways that sound… scripted. Like they’re acting a part, not living their life.

Miss Ego says it’s 3/10, chef.

2 thoughts on “Falling off the face of the Earth – JF Smith

  1. Hi Tissie!
    THANK YOU!
    I know it would be a lot to yell this entire review but LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK?!
    There comes a point in consuming media where you’ve seen every trope repeated 10+ times and it’s just… I’m at hardcore war with tropes (to a fault). My editor and I once spent all night on TVtropes.org just to make sure there weren’t any tropes out there we didn’t know about that my book fell into 😂
    HATE tropes (and controversially hate when books are too closed into the walls of a genre as well), hate predictability, and above all: HATE when people make sexuality into a personality type. One-dimensional LGBTQ+ characters are my kryptonite. It’s why we need more #ownvoices out there, because it seems like inexperienced creators all too often fail to understand that humans are human are humans−wild, unpredictable, multifaceted−regardless of their sexuality, and not everybody (or rather NOBODY) fits all nice and snug into these delusional cookie-cutter forms of humanity.
    Worse, some books proliferate such a harmful exclusivity of identity that it alienates those more vulnerable as they discover themselves. I feel like it’s important for creators to acknowledge the weighty responsibility they take on in breaching difficult topics and portraying populations that may need more research.
    tldr: I’m so sick of reading the same empty characters over and over again and I sympathize with your quest for the holy grail of real LGBT characters (saw it on your recipe for a good book too) and I wish you luck. Will be watching your entries to see if you ever find anybody out there 💔🙏🏻🙏🏻

    Like

    1. OMG, YES! Someone who gets it! I’m not ashamed to say that my roots are (and will always be, because yeah) in fandom, I’ve been there since the Ice Age, and at this point I guess I’ve read every variation of every trope and their mother at least a gazillion times. Is it fun in a 1k story written on the side (and for free)? Absolutely. Bring the ‘and they were roommates!’ plot device out once again, it’s cool. On a published story? Well. No. I want more substance., come on: you can’t reduce a person to their sexuality, it’s gross. I’m sure the author had no ill/mean intentions, eh. I’m just criticizing the execution.

      (and it amazes me to end that the aforementioned believable stories are present and accounted for in fandom, while there’s zilch out there. Why?) (I think I found a promising series tho! Fingers crossed!)

      Like

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