2 out of 4 stars
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I love when a book can tell a story and make a point about real life at the same time. It's what first drew my attention to Too Young to Love by Andrew Paul (note: the author and title are written as "too young to love by andrew Paul" on both the cover of the book and on Amazon). Too Young to Love aims to address the difficulties children face when one or both of their parents aren't around to raise them or just aren't mature enough to do it. It does so by centering on a character who is supposed to be cold, villainous-yet-relatable and raised by a woman who gave birth to him when she was only sixteen. His father ran off when he heard she was pregnant, so he ended up raised by a woman he said was more like an older sister than a mother. To make things even more interesting, this fictional novel's story is told via Jack (the villain) relating the story to Andrew, an FBI agent who has been tasked with taking him down.
The promise of this fictional story had me immediately jumping on it. Unfortunately the book itself is almost nothing like the Amazon description whatsoever. The story moves very quickly, and despite covering just over 100 years of story it's under 120 pages. The story quickly covers Jack's conception, his years at the orphanage, how he got his first job and eventually jumped into a life of crime. From there, crimes (even murders!) are discussed as casually as the weather. Sadly, this brisk, surface-level story never captured my attention or my emotions - I was never once worried about Jack or Andrew, despite the fact that he clearly is putting his life at great risk getting this information out of him after at least a year of being his friend.
The first half of the book is Jack's story, and the second half is Andrew's story. Andrew's work with the FBI is difficult for him. He's actually become good friends with Jack even though he's done terrible things in the past and doesn't seem hesitant to do them now due to Jack's charisma. This part of the story is more interesting as it's a little more tense; since this half isn't related casually to a friend it means Andrew isn't obviously safe at the end of the book. Sadly, this half is just as quickly paced, so even when things feel a little more scary or tense it's only minorly scarier and barely more tense. The author also does an excellent job making these two halves feel different; it really did feel like being told a story casually by a friend in the first half and then like living it in the second.
The book's foremost goal seemed to be to show what happens when teenagers, or people too young to love as the author so eloquently puts it, have kids. This includes whether the parents just aren't mature enough to raise kids or, as is the case with the majority of the characters in this book, the father asks the mother to get rid of the kid and then leaves her so he doesn't have to be responsible. The book brings this fact up repeatedly, and even mentions a statistic at one point, but it does it so frequently and so blatantly that it gets old. In fact, it becomes ridiculously predictable partway through the book that not only will a main character who does bad things come from a single-family home (or a foster home), their mother, father, son and/or daughter is almost definitely one of the other main characters in the book as well. Once or twice makes for a fun surprise, but it was almost humorous how often it happened in this book. On the upside, the concept of "ending the curse" of a line of single-parent children is actually so great that it would've made a fitting tagline!
It's also worth mentioning that I reviewed a PDF version of this book. Typically PDF book reviews are tough because the font is tiny and formatting is worse than the official Kindle version, but in this case it was the opposite! When I checked out the Amazon sample the beginning of each chapter had font that got smaller and smaller until it was almost nonexistent in the first line, but in the PDF version the pages were clean, crisp, formatted perfectly and incredibly professional! I did manage to find about 15 grammatical errors in the book, but the formatting itself was great.
I really wanted this book to live up to its potential. In fact, if it came even close this easily would've been a 4 star book. Sadly, with flat, interchangeable characters that had little-to-no personality, events that were forgettable a few pages later and an overabundance of coincidences I can't recommend this book. It isn't terrible, don't get me wrong, it's just not good either. The book was very smooth overall, so reading the book took only a few hours, and it had a few good moments. My rating is 2 out of 4 stars. If you want a light, breezy book without much substance, you may still end up enjoying yourself. As the author says himself, the book could potentially make a difference for those who were raised by a single parent or who is raising a kid alone; maybe it'll help show them the importance of both remaining a close family and staying away from bad influences.
Too young to love
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