Updated: May 22
I would like to thank HarperCollins Publishers for providing me with an advanced review copy of this thought provoking read! When I saw the beautiful cover of this book I was immediately drawn in, I then read the description and thought, yep, right up my alley. Furthermore, this book has received nothing but high praise on all social media sites so I had to give it a go!
"Mercy is hard in a place like this" - Elizabeth Wetmore
Valentine is set in Odessa, Texas in 1976 where it is set to be the location for the next great oil boom. The men of course, all love this about Odessa, as it obviously brings more work and buzz to the town, but for the women of Odessa, this brings nothing but dread and fear due to the wild antics the men will get into. We follow two main characters, Gloria Ramirez and Mary-Rose Whitehead. Early morning in the wee hours after Valentine's day, Gloria turns up at Mary-Rose’s ranch barely alive and extremely wounded. Gloria, who is 14 years old, had been brutally attacked in a nearby oil field and almost left for dead. In a town where the men practically run the town, justice is rarely seen for the women of Odessa, Texas. Especially when they are of Mexican descent. Valentine is a story about race, intersection of violence, class, women’s strengths and vulnerabilities, hope and the stories that keep us alive when all else fails to get us through. It is told from the perspective of a few characters including Mary-Rose and Gloria.
I knew right off the bat from reading this book that I did not 100% love it. It’s strange because this book received rave reviews on various websites and social media outlets. I think I had very high expectations for it but when it came right down to it, I just didn’t love the book as much as I wanted to. Let’s start with the story. I actually liked what the story was about, it brought some real and very hard issues that the women faced during this period of time in West Texas. The setting of the book was absolutely engrossing. I loved the way the backdrop was described and it really felt like you were right there yourself (check out the book cover), it was a visually stimulating setting for the story which made me like the book a bit more. Although, I am always a sucker for southern settings in books, there’s such warmth, character and charm when it comes to stories based in the southern states of America, and this one was no different. I actually drove through similar areas in Western Texas during my road trip last year and it was nice to be reminded of these memorable settings. The story itself was a gripping read, but somewhere along the line, I began to lose interest, and I think it’s because I felt a little detached from the characters and the story itself. It was a strange feeling. I didn’t finish the book feeling like I read a riveting story even though everything about the book is completely what I would normally love. I also felt that the book had too many characters, if it was only focused on Mary-Rose and Gloria, I think I would have connected with the story line a little more. I don’t think the rest of the characters added much more to the story and I felt quite bored reading their perspectives. You sort of lost the plot of the book through them.
This being said, I did love the actual premise of the book and the fact that Elizabeth Wetmore brought up these issues of race, women’s inequality, violence, sexism, and women’s vulnerability. She hit the nail on the head there with those issues, and the setting of the book was stellar. But beyond that, I was quite bored. I wished it had less characters and that the characters didn’t overshadow Gloria’s story. It was quite a heavy book to read as well, I definitely need a perkier book for my next read. It’s a good story but for me, it just didn’t crack through the surface and into my heart strings. It’s one of those stories that I would forget about in a year. Shame, because I loved the idea of the plot and the writing style from the author. I would describe this book as Raw, Authentic, Beautiful and Poignant.
Lastly, this is purely based on my opinion of the book and what I got out of reading it. That being said, a lot of people loved this book immensely, I think it's one of those books where you either love it, or dislike it and it did receive rave reviews on various websites. Valentine would be a great selection for any Book Club, there are a lot of characters, issues and subject matters that can be discussed in detail within the book.
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Coming of Age
Originally Published: March 31st, 2020
The perfect theme song to compliment this book for me, would be: You Don't Own Me by Lesley Gore
Reviewed By Chrissy's Books