I’ve been on a kick of revisiting young adult contemporary’s that came out around the time I was in high school and middle school. I’ve reread some Sarah Dessen books, a few Rainbow Rowell books, and a few newer YA contemporaries that came out after I was in high school. With this nostalgia kick I have going I decided to pick up a book that I have had on my shelf since middle school. Two Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt had a certain sense of appeal to me it seemed to promise decent levels of angst as well as a fun road trip. What I wasn’t expecting were vile, sexist characters and an overdrawn plot.
This is Jordan and Courtney, totally in love. Sure, they were an unlikely high school couple. But they clicked; it worked. They’re even going to the same college, and driving cross-country together for orientation.
Then Jordan dumps Courtney—for a girl he met on the Internet. It’s too late to change plans, so the road trip is on. Courtney’s heartbroken, but figures she can tough it out for a few days.
La la la—this is Courtney pretending not to care. But in a strange twist, Jordan cares. A lot.
Turns out, he’s got a secret or two that he’s not telling Courtney. And his secrets have everything to do with why they broke up, why they can’t get back together, and how, in spite of it all, this couple is destined for each other.
The truly startling thing about this book is just how wrong it gets high school. It felt like the author did no research into what high school is actually like and instead just watched episodes of teen dramas on The CW. The writing quality was also subpar – the vocabulary was basic, and entire paragraphs just felt clunky and unnecessary. The style was even worse – it was far too heavily propped up on the user of MySpace. From a plot point of view, this book was propped up on a series of easily resolved situations which made it feel very contrived. The entire book centers on a road trip planned before a breakup, and the reason it still happened after the breakup was because one of the teenagers strong armed a parent. It was this kind of contrived and unrealistic situation that really ruined the plot.
What I can’t stand in any book is when female characters tear each other down. Unfortunately, most of this book was spent on doing just that. The lead character, Courtney, was near obsessed with tearing down and judging her ex’s new girlfriend – someone who she had never even met. Courtney was also constantly making comments about every other woman in the book – ranging from her best friend, so brief acquaintances. The words slut and bitch were tossed around like candy when talking about the women in this book – which was really disappointing. There was also a lot of sexualization of the women in this book – all the male characters were obsessed with their sexual conquests and prowess and seemed to view the women around them as objects (or means to an end).
The relationship at the center of all this was seriously toxic. They had no chemistry, both characters were insecure and idiotic, and nowhere near mature enough to be trusted to drive down the street let alone across state lines. Even in the flashback scenes to when they were first becoming a couple, there were no sparks or chemistry. That’s made even worse by the fact that neither of the characters are even remotely likable. This lack of likability really ruined any potential for me to feel empathy for what they were going through. For starters – Jordan spent the entire book lying to Courtney, and also manipulating her into situations where she couldn’t avoid him. Courtney, as mentioned above – mostly complained and mocked Jordan’s new girlfriend and toyed around with another guy. Even the side characters weren’t very likable. One was a total creep who humped women’s legs, one was a boy-crazy teen trope who stalked her new boyfriend around town. And the parents were just there to be annoying parents who couldn’t possibly understand what their kids were going through.
I would not recommend this book to anyone. There was nothing redeeming or enjoyable about this book. The fact that a book with such disgusting characters and an absurdly out of touch portrayal of high schoolers made it to print is a tragedy. Lauren Barnholdt has definitely become a blacklisted author for me. If you’re looking for an actually good high school-based YA contemporary, check out Tweet Cute by Emma Lord or Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. 1/5