Book Reviews: Ask Him Why, by Catherine Ryan Hyde; Drive Me Crazy, by Portia MacIntosh

Originally reviewed for Chick Lit Central

A war had just been declared in Iraq. It was a tumultuous time for so many of us in 2003. For Ruth and her little brother, Aubrey, the war hit very close to home. Their older brother Joseph was active duty, and had already deployed out. When he returns home early from his deployment, none of them could fathom the utter turmoil that would come from it.

In Ask Him Why, nothing is as it seems. We’re led to believe that the reason for Joseph’s early return, the reason he’s been dishonorably discharged from the military, is fueled by cowardice. He was given a direct order and had backed out, not only disobeying, but encouraging other military personnel to follow his lead. It’s an all out mutiny, and in the eyes of the military, the public and even his own family, Joseph must pay the price. But is he really a coward?

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Told from Ruth’s and Aubrey’s perspectives, this story begins where Joseph’s story is left unfinished. What happens to a family under severe public scrutiny? Is there a way to escape the paparazzi, news cameras, the judgement from everyone around you, even when you’re not the one at fault? When Joseph disappears for nearly a decade, it’s hard on Ruth and Aubrey. In so many ways, they’ve been left to deal with the fall out, the pain of losing their much adored brother and never really measuring up in the eyes of society.

Both children are haunted by the past, even ten years later when Joseph suddenly reappears. So much has changed, yet nothing has changed. Will they ever be able to forgive? Will Joseph ever be able to forgive himself?

I enjoyed Ask Him Why immensely. I could appreciate the realism behind each character’s struggle, trying to come to grips with their flawed lives as best they can. We live in a world where our ideas and opinions are viewed as black and white, and this story lends to the fact that in reality, it’s shades of gray that holds us together. If only other people could recognize that.

 

Before Candice started secretly dating her boss, she was a free spirit. She partied with friends, she cussed like a sailor, she wore outfits that would have definitely been deemed unfit by her staunch, older lover. She’s had to completely renovate herself, in order to feel she fits in. It’s what you do when you’re in love, right?

When she discovers all is not fair where her love life is concerned, she ventures out on a trip of a lifetime with Danny, someone she barely knows but has thrust himself into her life. He’s so different, representing the kind of morals and life she feels she used to live. It feels very much like The Odd Couple, with these two. Danny just wants to live life by the seat of his pants, while Candice is content in wearing pleated pants. It’s a match made in dysfunctional heaven!

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Or is it? Candice admits, she might be developing a tiny little crush on Danny. He’s cute. Well, better than cute, he could be categorized as hot, in a geeky chic way. The problem is, she can’t forget about her boss, a man who has proclaimed his love for her and has sworn he’ll leave his wife, as soon as he’s able to. They’ve talked about a future together. Danny can’t think beyond the day he’s living in. Does she leave the security of what’s she’s known, for the unknown?

I really enjoyed Drive Me Crazy! Having read Bad Bridesmaid and How Not to be Starstruck, it’s no surprise to me that Portia Macintosh has once again written characters who are very real, and very candid. It’s the kind of book you have a hard time putting down, once you get going. I really believed in Candice’s struggle in finding out who she really is, the person she was before Danny, or the person she’s turning out to be because of him, and whether she should even let a man (or anyone) change her.

 

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