ARC Review: Strange Deaths of the Last Romantic

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Published: Moses Yuriyvich Mikheyev (November 17, 2020)
Print length: 259 pages
Major spoilers: No

Goodreads

Adam is cursed. He cannot die.

But one man’s burden is another man’s blessing, and there are people who are out to harness Adam’s special talents.

However, Adam soon discovers that immortality comes at a cost; every time he dies, he loses a little bit of himself. So when Adam meets Lilyanne—his reason for living—he’s forced to choose between life and love.

ARC provided by publisher

There is so much bullshit contained in this tiny book that I needed to maintain an ongoing list as I was reading, just so I didn’t miss anything major in my review. Every chapter, I told myself, “There’s no conceivable way this can get any worse.” I have never had my predictive abilities so relentlessly tested. I finished this book not because I have ironclad will. No. My only motivation was this review.

Among the most flagrantly awful in strange deaths of the last romantic:

  • Enough plot holes to sink a luxury steamship and each and every one is plugged up with what I can only call neon play-doh. This is performance art. Satire. Caricature. Except it is completely serious. With every consecutive page, I struggled to put into words my dawning amazement. Could a thing really be so terrible, without ever realizing how completely terrible it is? The answer is yes. Yes it can.
  • Wattpad-reminiscent prose that uses language like “feminine psychology,” “inconceivable goddess,” and “porn-star-looking woman.”
  • A male main character named Adam who, for the brief period where he’s ten years old, talks like a five-year-old, despite the narrative treating him like a flawless, science-inclined genius.
  • Unwarranted—and totally unpredictable—shifts between third person and first person to make executing the already haphazard plot more convenient for the author. For most of the novel, Adam’s chapters are told in first person, but in the third act they suddenly switch to third for no discernible reason.
  • adam claims he’s liked women all his life, with the exception of ten-year-old anna, who he and his fifth grade buddies hate with a violence so uncalled for, it will make your skin crawl: “As a joke, I told the boys to pretend it was anna we were swinging the bat at when beating the shit out of that piñata.” they hate her enough to cover a dead bird in paint and plant it in her lunchbox. When she essentially passes out on the floor after almost eating it, foaming at the mouth, he suddenly decides she’s the most beautiful girl ever and vows he’ll never hate another one again. At a school meeting, she and her parents immediately forgive adam. Anna’s father even pulls aside the boy who almost killed his daughter to let him know she’s been mean to him all along not because he runs in a circle of bullies, but because she hates that he doesn’t love her back. No other disciplinary action besides a one-week suspension is doled out. Adam’s mother walks him from that meeting with, no, not a single chastising word, but offers to buy him toys. Thus, the “Romantic” is born.
  • Phonetic spelling to convey terrible, stereotypical portrayals of accents.
  • Flippant child abuse subplots.
  • A good amount of fatphobia.
  • Plot convenience above all. There is not one single clever writing choice enclosed in this novel. If Adam needs something, the novel rearranges itself to provide that something: “On a bench, I spotted an unattended Macbook.” I imagine you could fit the brainpower required to write a book like this in a single walnut shell.
  • Random, slipshod references to the great classic literature Adam reads—”I was reading love poems by Pablo Neruda when I saw the headlights of a car approaching”—so that we never forget for a moment that he is smart enough to pull off anything and win all the girls
  • Far more in the way of sexism and misogyny. I am not exaggerating when I say every female character in this book exists to either be desired by or to submit to the men of this world. I have never seen such a blatant case of main character syndrome in a main character. Adam’s world was constructed to bend to his whim. It’s almost like I’m playing a video game while surrounded by NPCs. At times this feels so meta that the novel almost reads more like satire than serious published fiction. The women of this world take care of drunkard fathers and their daughters, quit their jobs to assume domestic roles in order to make their husbands more comfortable and happy, endure violence and creepy advances they’re trained to treat as romantic, or else needlessly die in what I can only call gory, gratuitous torture porn. It’s shameless.
  • In order to really demonstrate how appalling the writing in this is, I’ve collected several standout quotes to showcase (I really struggled to narrow this list down, there were so many phenomenal contenders):
    • “It was then that the romantic in me was fully formed. His birth was fueled by her rejection, by her hatred of me.”
    • “A hand would brush against a girl’s thigh, shaking whatever puritanical sentiment she once embraced.”
    • “Would she be it, or would she just be another wow in my life, a girl who exists not for me but in spite of me?”
    • “…Her mouth smiled whenever she laughed.”
    • “The alcohol is doing its damn job: making romances happen, one drink at a time.”
    • “‘no, I’m not a student here, Lilyanne.’ I said with an added element of the romantic. ‘but after seeing such beauties on campus, I may just reconsider.’ Alice laughed whimsically…”
    • “She bent over, removed her thong, and began pressing her bare ass and pussy against my mouth,” and, one page later: “She took my head in her arms and put it between her two breasts.”
    • “Her auburn hair bounced with angst along her slender shoulder line, settling near the thin straps of her blue dress that were pleading to be removed.”
    • “She reached into her tote bag and brought out a lighter. ‘a girl with a lighter?’ I asked.”
    • “Prostitutes lined the streets like unforgettable eyesores. Their lipstick and vivid makeup covered up whatever insecurities they had the night before.”
  • Egregiously racist writing. One black character’s only lines consist of awful attempts at Jamaican patois as he serves a white family. Another is a homeless man who gives another character up in exchange for drugs and is then ruthlessly killed for it.
  • Within seconds of seeing a girl: “In the twinkling of an eye, we were already something. I had already written her a poem, an epic of sorts. We were engaged to be married, and I had already marveled at her beauty a thousand times. Lilyanne. She was two women in one. For me, she was Lily and she was Anne.” Like bro, just say you want to take thirteen wives in a small butter-churning community comprised of goats! Say it with your chest, you spineless little nerd!
  • A disgusting sex worker subplot that includes a Hawaiian woman who seemingly drops all sanitary/safety work measures to fuck a random guy, because everyone but a ten-year-old that one time wants Adam immediately and effusively. She’s not only subjected to his weird fetishism, she also has to endure the tired, “You don’t belong in a place like this,” spiel, because sex work is beneath beautiful women, right? Only the most debased partake in it, like a single touch to the pole renders them suddenly corrupt? But not the voyeuristic men—never them, they’re exempt from any and all critiques.
  • Dialogue I cannot be sure wasn’t drafted using apple’s predictive text feature:
    • “‘[…] I asked him about it and he just told me it didn’t concern me.’
    • ‘You ever ask him about it?’
    • ‘I did once. […]'”
  • Block quotes from major works of literature/academia to convey ideas that the author apparently couldn’t and, I would assume, to provide page filler.

There is nothing redeemable to be found in this book. I almost wish I could give it no stars and I now see why it was a struggle to publish. All I can say is…should have kept this one in the drafts.

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