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Review of Use Somebody by Riley Jean

by Katie Rose Guest Pryal

The Rundown

USE SOMEBODY is 435 pages long. Had this book been 275 pages long, it probably would have been an enjoyable book to read. At 435, the book is hard to get through, despite the moments that shine. 

The book opens at a college party on New Year’s, where our heroine Scarlett Rossi is very unhappy. Her “best friend” and roommate Lexi has ditched her (this is typical Lexi). Then, some mean girls dump beer on Scarlett’s shirt, leaving her nearly naked. Suddenly, an unbearably handsome guy with bright blue eyes and a British accent swoops in, tells off the mean girls, and strips off his shirt so Scarlett can cover herself. Then, like the young superhero he appears to be, he disappears. 

Without explanation, the book jumps forward in time to the summer after that New Year’s Party. (Time-jumping happens a lot in this narrative.) A mysterious tragedy has befallen Scarlett, causing her to drop out of college. She has moved back in with her parents and started a job at an ice cream parlor. There, she meets Vance, the hero of the story. 

This book is about whether Scarlett, or “Rosie” as Vance calls her, can get over the past heartbreaks she’s suffered and love again. That’s a fine story to tell. But, structurally, the book does not hold up. First, the backstory that supports the current story is disorderly—I had to go back and write the timeline in the margins because of all the hopping around in time. Second, there are too many characters. There are two cliques of friends to keep up with, plus Scarlett’s family members, plus her other friend (Ricky) and his set of friends that become a third new clique. That’s just too many side-characters—too many people for a reader to learn to care about. This book gives Game of Thrones a run for its money in the size-of-cast department, and that’s not a good thing.  

Finally, Scarlett is very young and inexperienced. She spends most of the book between the ages of 18 and 19 years old. I know that many people have suffered a lot by age 19, but white, upper-middle-class Scarlett does not appear to be one of them. She spends 350 pages of the book letting everyone, including the reader, believe that the boyfriend she had when she was sixteen hurt her as badly as the one who made her drop out of college. Even a teenager reading this book would know that doesn’t make any sense. Teenaged hearts mend fast. It’s one of the best things about being a teenager.

But. There is something really interesting behind Scarlett’s exterior. This book has a twist that gives Gone Girl a run for its money. The characters around Scarlett grow impatient with her secrets. And they’re not wrong—the secrets should have come out much sooner. Perhaps, then, we all could have seen Scarlett really shine alongside some of the other great characters in the book (especially if the cast were compressed).

The Recommendation

An overly long ramble through a teenager’s love life, with an unexpected and exciting twist. Can a book be both boring and exciting at the same time? This one manages it. If you like The O.C. television show, you’ll probably like this book. 

The Rating Reviewer Rating: 2 Stars

2 Stars (out of 5): Needs work/not ready for publication. This book might have promise, but it is in need of a rewrite and/or extensive editing.

The Pros & Cons

Pros: Characterization, Surprise Ending
Cons: Plot Sometimes Jumpy, Plotline, Slow, Slow in Places, Starts slow, Very Long

The Links

More about Use Somebody on UBR

The Reviewer

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Use Somebody

Scarlett Rossi hasn’t trusted anybody since that one traumatic night in college. That is, until lovable Vance Holloway set his sights on breaking down her walls. One friendship will be tested. One kiss will change everything. And one secret will tear them apart.

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