When I read the blurb for this book I was drawn by the idea of someone fulfilling one of my dreams: living in a library. Imagine all of the uninterrupted reading time at night when everyone else goes home and you’re surrounded by shelves and shelves of books and the smell of books and the ambience of a library. Ah, heaven!
Now imagine the creepy factor of a dead body found in the library and subsequent mysterious footprints, noises in the middle of the night and messages written on the walls. Sounds like the making of a fun horror book, huh?!
Had the blurb I read even whispered the word ‘romantic’ I would have run a mile and so I was suitably horrified when I discovered an extended blurb on Goodreads cheerfully telling me I was reading a ‘romantic thriller’. Had this been a library book I would have stopped reading immediately but as I’d promised to review this book I grimaced and turned the page.
Given my romantiphobe tendencies I probably should have hated this book but I didn’t. It was never going to be something I would love and gush over, and I wish I’d known that before I started reading, but in between the budding romance and the frustration with some of the characters there were some sections that I enjoyed and found relatable.
Mallory’s home situation made me want to reach through the pages and strangle someone. Her once vibrant mother is now essentially a puppet on a string for controlling, emotionally abusive [insert swear word of your choice here] Charlie. I found the conversations between Mallory and her mother infuriatingly accurate given the circumstances and their personalities. I had hoped for a fairytale ending to that situation but unfortunately real life doesn’t guarantee those so it was probably too much to hope for.
The idea that someone who’s recently homeless and simultaneously trying to find food, shelter and any semblance of safety has time to agonise over a crush on a boy or to go indoor rock climbing with said boy just didn’t seem feasible to me. I’m fairly certain Maslow would agree.
He reaches for me slowly, and I’m powerless. Hypnotized by the graze of his fingers against the side of my thumb.
Spencer, while suitably adorable, spent his time wanting more from his life than living in a mansion with the loving family who adopted him and feeling guilty for wanting more, especially considering Mallory has “real” problems. I have trouble mustering up sympathy for a rich kid with supportive parents who’s scared of telling them that what is expected of him isn’t what he wants and any sympathy I had for him faded when he took out his frustration by starting a fight with some jerk at ice hockey practice.
I would have loved for his adoption to play more of a role in the book but it wasn’t the focus. Similarly the discussion surrounding addiction, while obviously sad, was pretty much glossed over.
Mallory and Spencer aren’t the meddling kids I’d hope they’d be; when I wanted them to investigate strange footsteps in the otherwise empty library they hid out in the bathroom. They finally do investigate but much later than I would have. The dead body in the library and the mystery of the ‘ghost’ were fairly tame and repetitive from my perspective. It was basically footprint, footprint, message on the wall, message on the wall, cool creative message, another footprint, and a few other signs finally leading to a resolution that seemed obvious from early on.
If you like sweet romances between people from disparate walks of life this could be the book for you. If you’re looking for creepy with potential for horror and ghosts then this is probably not the book you’re looking for.
Content warnings include addiction, adoption, family violence and homelessness.
Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
Spencer volunteers at the library. Sure, it’s community service, but he likes his work. Especially if it means getting to see Mallory.
Mallory spends a lot of time keeping her head down. When you’re sixteen and homeless, nothing matters more than being anonymous. But Spencer’s charm makes her want to be noticed.
Then sinister things start happening at the library. Mysterious symbols and terrifying warnings begin to appear, and management grows suspicious. Spencer and Mallory know a homeless teenager makes an easy target, and if they can’t find the real culprit soon, they could lose more than just their safe haven …