3 stars for Sheehan's maniacal written style and the character of Dirty
First off, let me start by saying this review is about what was attainable and
what was unattainable
for me in this story. The unattainable:
1. The development of the relationship between Cage and Tegen was only tethered by an extreme one-sided childhood adoration-turned love and an envy of wanting a relationship because of being surrounded by three large, but highly suspect models of one. Tegen holds on to an obsessive love for Cage that doesn't show signs of maturation until maybe the hopeful glimpses at the end. Cage, what little we get from him point of view is full of rage at his father as well as envy of what he sees as undeserved gifts of old lady and family that his father receives despite what a douchebag Cage knows him to be. This envy starts Cage to the idea of wanting something for himself. He goes for it with Tegen, but this is only represented but a couple of "don't cha feel it baby's" and "she's mine's". Nothing really made me believe in this couple, and it is not helped by sharing the spotlight with the other main couple, Dirty and Ellie.
2. Conflict: Though I read this rather quickly, I couldn't shake the feeling of "okay, so why am I reading this? What's going to be the big thing to overcome?" Having read Undeniable and Unbeautifully, I get that Sheehan loves to pile on the drama, yet there were substantive antagonists in those two stories: Frankie (most definitely) & forbidden love (or at least love that resulted in real broken hearts (ZZ) and conflicts of interest. However, in Unattainable, all I got was Tegen's tedious back & forth with Cage and Tegen's contradictory bash/adoration with the MC life, two nuances of which I really could have spent less time reading about. There are also a couple of half-baked conflicts that I felt could have been more developed. For instance, reading more detail about ZZ (because he provides a "real" conflict) and getting more of a turnaround for Cage's view of his own future as heir to the Horsemen Legacy would have been more satisfying.The attainable:
1. One thing I have to give kudos for is the darkness and bit of backstory lent to the character of Dirty. I admit, just like with Frankie, I became unwantedly engrossed in Dirty
as a greatly twisted representation of psychotic disturbance that exists in violence and love. Dirty's character was layered with masochistic as well as sadistic tendency and deed. Contrary to that whopper, this character is screaming with an innocence that makes him inherently good.
This duality leads to a very poignant, but complex relationship with a mixed race woman named Ellie, a HS friend of Deuce's daughter, Danny, who comes back to town only to be visited by hopelessness and violence. And even if Ellie isn't as awesome a character as Dirty, what she represents to him is enough. There is one line where she say's something like, "Let me save you" and it really moved me to the point that I would have preferred to read more
about their story rather than going back and forth from Cage & Tegen to them.
2. I can't stress enough how much characterization is a key component in writing. I'm invested in Madeline Sheehan's characters. Yes, some are woefully neglected, but initially the premise of almost all characters packs a bit of a punch. Tegen got on my nerves, but I was interested in her liberalism and desire to write[sadly not developed]. Cage was a wuss who didn't know the meaning of responsibility, but he was introduced the first time (in Undeniable) with heart & potential[and that's all he still has at the end of this story, unfortunately].
The characters color this MC world with a uniqueness which is catching in a dark, sometimes humorous and sometimes callously degrading way, a way that is at least given a plot design. Readers who can appreciate the frankness and unapologetic feel of it stand to get a more decent take on a type
romantic world which is now exploited in so many recent and outcoming books: think SOA:D