Let me preface this by saying that, as a writer myself, I’m a little bit harder on books than the average person. That’s why, to start this review, I have to mention a few writing things and personal preferences that stuck out to me. I will start with my criticisms, so I can end on what I loved about this novel.
First of all, I should note that I prefer third person to first person books, and that might have influenced my own feelings on this. Upon reading Embracing Jackson, my first impression of it was that it was a little bit flat in tempo- in the sounds of the sentences as I read. I felt like a lot of the sentences start with “I”- which is fine for being a first person novel, but it just didn’t add any variation. Not all the time, but enough to be noticed. I noticed a few examples of unnecessary sentences, like one time when a sentence read simply, “I locked the door.” I am not personally a fan of these types of short, statement sentences. I wouldn’t have noticed it as much if it had continued, “I locked the door and” or “I locked the door as I”, that sort of thing. It ws just a bit jarring to me, a bit too brusque, and I feel like in writing style, first person or not, there’s room for improvement.
My other conflict with this novel also came down to another personal preference. It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine when a novel lacks description. Now, that said, I don’t read novellas often either- I am a big novel sort of gal- and I understand that most novellas are quick in their writing. But it caught my attention, regardless. What kind of man is Jackson? Other than heterochromia, I couldn’t picture him at all. Does he have a long face? A chubby face? A wicked grin, a sardonic smirk? Is he tall and lean and gangly, or wide at the hips and broad at the shoulders? His sister, his friends, I couldn’t picture them. I know Indie is described as blonde, and Diego is clearly of some kind of Hispanic origin, but besides that: nothing. Locations as well- One of my favorite parts of this book was the description of Indie’s apartment, with her wall of mugs and her collection of books. But so few times were locations described at all. I know that adding descriptions to every location and every character can add thousands of words, but for me, it’s a crucial thing, and I desperately wanted more out of this novel, even for a novella.
However, that said- this was a well put together novel. I loved that instead of having a title page in the front of the book, there was a theme song to listen to while reading- a clever idea that I haven’t seen done before. I loved the boldness of the subject matter, and the realism of it. Again, I wish there had been more detail, but that is on me- a hunger for more because there is so little representation of kleptomania in fiction, and when there is, it is often poorly written and full of blame for what is truly an irresistible mental illness. I loved the little quirks and details chosen for the characters- my favorite of whom was Indie. The romance was very sweet, enjoyable to witness unfolding. Indie was undeniably playing the long game with stubborn Jackson, and who doesn’t love a stubborn male character? It’s almost always my favorite trope: The man who doesn’t want love because he thinks he affects everyone negatively. It’s something I write in my own writing, and always fall in love with when I read it.
NOW for some real spoilers- skip the next paragraph if you want to avoid them.
I wanted more. I wanted more backstory, I wanted more moments, more depth. I wanted tones and highs and lows. I personally didn’t care for the ending plot- a person from Jackson’s past- and the way it unfolded. It was a little generic for me, a little too easy of a situation, and I think it again came down to detail being left out in favor of a quicker read. It bored me a little- I was so much more interested in Jackson’s therapy sessions and his moments with Indie and with his sister and friends. THAT is the type of stuff that makes a good book, and the other stuff just felt like an annoying distraction from it that I wanted to get past. Only, once I got past it, the end was nigh. It might have been better if it hadn’t been something so inconsequential; this guy that Jackson stayed with, that he stole for. It felt random because there was so very little depth to it, and I would have rather seen it either gone into more- or more time spent encountering the man, perhaps being stalked by him (in a more clear, fearful way, not like the way of the aunt’s shop),- or if it had been another plot all together. Since it was framed near Christmas, I was hoping the ending plot might involve Jackson’s family showing up, or something of the sort. I just felt like this part of the plot was lackluster: I preferred the first part of the novel with Diego and the tattoo.
All this being said, I enjoyed this read. I give it a good average, a three out of five. It didn’t blow me away, it has flaws and could have been improved upon. I think it just comes down to potential, really. I saw a lot of potential in it, but I always see potential in things, and I wanted more out of it than what I got. It’s a lovely read though. I did love the characters, I loved it as a short holiday-ish read, something to take with me on errands and read in moments of waiting. I think people would enjoy it, regardless. And I can easily see how someone less critical than I would give it a 5/5 stars.