Did I Mention I Love You?
I found this to be a quite enjoyable read, but we do have to be honest about it: it is not well written. The book was first put up online, where it gathered a huge following of YA readers, falling in love with the girl in love with her bad-boy step brother. Such a story screams to be put down in print and appear in bookstores around the world. So that is exactly what happened, and the DIMILY books have found a thankful audience everywhere. I was naturally very curious, and because I have a soft spot for impossible matches and high teen-drama, I just had to read it too.
It didn’t so much disappoint as that I was expecting it. It’s certain that Estelle Maskame can turn out a book better than most 18 yo’s would. But she was 13 when she started working on the DIMILY books and it shows in her writing. So why did I still find it an enjoyable read? Because it is exactly the string of fantasy scenario’s every girl has ever dreamed up about the guy she is crushing on. And that is what this book basically is: a series of events (scenes, if you will) in which the two protagonists are thrown together as much as possible, to wring out as much drama and angst as possible.
It is very much a bumpy ride. Maskame tried her hand at character development with Tyler, turning him from an impossible, drug-using bad boy to a tortured boy with a golden heart. But she just doesn’t have the skills yet to make such a big transition happen naturally. What I find reassuring is that where you see Maskame fail, you can also see that she realises books need these plot and character developments, and her trying bodes well for future endeavours. The plot of DIMILY, I am sure I don’t even have to say it, fails quite spectacularly too. It is nothing but a collection of scenes that would on their own be believable, but not as a consecutive string of events. Eden will constantly join Tyler in increasingly dangerous or ridiculous situations, for the sheer purpose of having the two of them be together as much as possible. To do that, rules of logic are bent quite extensively. Also, why any self-loving young woman should take this crap from a boy who treats her like dirt is beyond me, but that may simply be my mature person smh-ing to my inner, ashamed 16 yo self.
The other characters seem to be used primarily to heighten the drama between Eden and Tyler, even though Estelle Maskame tries to make them more interesting on their own. She doesn’t (yet) take the opportunity to work them into full-blown characters, though. Eden’s dad is a very standardised absent dad who handles his misbehaving kid by ignoring her behaviour. He hates Tyler for no reason other than that it makes Tyler more likeable. Ella is there purely to heighten the ambivalence of Tyler being either a terrible person or a misguided soul. The other half-brothers are conveniently absent for 90% of the time.
The friends appear and disappear at will: they are fillers to round out a group and provide some differing backgrounds. Tiffani proves to be more interesting, but unfortunately, her promise of evil manipulation doesn’t go any further than the very cliché trope of pretending to be pregnant. There is not even a very good reason why she wants to stay with Tyler. For “her reputation”? Really? What exactly is the guy doing for that reputation? And then we must talk about that ending. I enjoyed the entire book despite all my misgivings, because I fangirled about my own crazy 16 yo self, and the delightfully far-fetched fantasies I penned down myself. But the ending really did ruin it. Why would an author, who spent the entire book proving these two can never keep apart, have them promise to stay apart and then ACTUALLY STICKING TO IT FOR TEN MONTHS of living in the same house? I can’t even about the ridiculousness of that.
It does bring to mind a funny anecdote. When I was 16, I was really into Dawson’s Creek. My mother hated it soapy storylines and reaching dialogue, but she didn’t say anything about it and let me watch. Up until one fateful episode. In the previous season’s finale, Joey and Pacey sailed away on a boat for three months. In the new season’s opener, it was revealed that for all of those months on a tiny boat, Joey had remained a virgin and they had only cuddled. From the kitchen, where she was listening in to the tv, my mother actually snorted in disdain. I didn’t get it then, I really didn’t. But I sure do now. It’s just such a disappointment that this shattering of disbelief happens in the epilogue of a story, leaving a sour taste behind as you close the book.
So, as I said: big problems with the actual writing . That does not matter to the thousands of fans Estelle Maskame has for her DIMILY trilogy. I felt, in reading it, transported back to my 16 yo self and found myself dreaming of old crushes. That is why I still give this book multiple stars: because it still is very enjoyable to read once you get into that mindset and don’t look too closely at it. I found myself quickly moving through. There is nothing wrong with a guilty pleasure.
The only problem might be that YA readers are becoming increasingly knowledgable about good books. There is so much more out there for them to read, so many different authors and stories that teach them to differentiate between good and less-good writing. They become more picky now that they have a whole genre devoted to them. But, when you still gather a huge following, you are doing something right. It might very well be that Estelle Maskame grows in her writing and we see vast improvements in plot and character over the next two books. I’ve not read them, and I doubt I will, but I did enjoy the first and that is what counts. I will be the first to tell you that enjoyable doesn’t need to mean good. And good doesn’t need to mean enjoyable.