My rating: 2/5 Stars
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (2014)
Length: 304 pgs
Format: Hardcover, checked out from my local library
Goodreads Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Holly wants to remember her Grandpa forever, but she’d rather forget what he left her in his will: his wedding chapel on the Las Vegas strip. Whatever happened to gold watches, savings bonds, or some normal inheritance?
And then there’s Grandpa’s letter. Not only is Holly running the business with her recently divorced parents, but she needs to make some serious money—fast. Grandpa also insists Holly reach out to Dax, the grandson of her family’s mortal enemy and owner of the cheesy chapel next door. No matter how cute Dax is, Holly needs to stay focused: on her group of guy friends, her disjointed family, work, school and… Dax. No wait, not Dax.
Holly’s chapel represents everything she’s ever loved in her past. Dax might be everything she could ever love in the future. But as for right now, there’s a wedding chapel to save.
I really wanted to like this book. I’ve had my eye on it for a few months prior to publication and it sounded so cute, and I was really interested to see how the Vegas setting would function from the perspectives of locals rather than tourists, especially locals that are behind the business of notorious Vegas wedding chapels. I thought it would be the perfect summer read. Unfortunately, this book really disappointed me despite the fact that its setting seemed unique for the YA contemporary genre.
My primary issue with this book is that the characters were all very stereotypical. Holly, the protagonist, finds it hard to relate to girls and is a bit of an alternative girl or tomboy (super short hair, only wears dark colors, eyebrow ring, etc) and her group of guy friends come off as really macho and annoying. For instance, she explicitly states how she likes hanging out with them because they never talk about feelings and learned sports statistics so she could better “fit in with the guys.” On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are few female characters aside form Holly and they are also rather negatively stereotypically portrayed, as they are all someone’s (ex)wife/lover/girlfriend, and Camille, the only other teenage female character aside from Holly, is a stereotypical girly-girl who jumps at the chance for “girl talk” and gives Holly advice about fashion and boys. None of these characteristics are inherently wrong, it’s just disappointing to see each character so constrained by their gender stereotypes.
My secondary issue with the book was (in my opinion) a bad case of “insta-love.” (Mild spoilers ahead). So going into this book, readers know that this is a romance between two teenagers from rival chapels. It’s also a relatively short book. So obviously their courtship is not going to be the longest or the most drawn out. But by the second time Holly meets Dax, she is already mooning over him and internally dialoguing about how hot he is (which is really out of character for her in the first place since so much time is spent establishing how non-girly she is and how she’s never been in serious “like” or love), how she likes his facial hair stubble, etc. She shows almost no reluctance and is making out with him by their first “date” (which was mainly accidental) and says things like Dax’s kisses make her forget that she even cares about saving her deceased grandfather’s chapel in the first place. It really annoys me when protagonists say or think such thoughts (in which nothing else matters besides the male) even if they’re describing a fleeting moment, especially when they’ve only known said guy a few days or weeks tops. It almost turned the book into a DNF for me.
I gave this book two stars because I liked Holly’s role as an entrepreneur and I liked reading about the history of the chapels and the back stories of the couples who chose to be married in them (it was nice to see some people have non-tacky drive through weddings in Vegas, and actually have cute, quaint, meaningful ceremonies). It’s also interesting to see Holly struggle with the integrity of her grandfather’s traditional chapel over the Vegas gimmicks, and the fate of the chapel takes a truly surprising turn at the end. I’ve seen a lot of readers compare Leavitt’s writing to Sarah Dessen, but to me the comparison is not an accurate one. However, I’ve heard good things about Leavitt’s Going Vintage which I picked up at the Scholastic Warehouse Sale, and am willing to give her another chance.
What I Liked:
- Learning about historical Vegas landmarks and about the Vegas wedding industry
What I Didn’t Care For:
- The stereotypical and polarized portrayal of gender roles
Would I Recommend This Book: No
Overall: This book has an interesting setting and what could be a unique plot, but falls short of the mark by succumbing to insta-love, stereotypical characters, and underwhelming writing.