Jamie Brenner's latest, Ruin Me, and not Wendy's personal soap box. Brenner also writes under the name Logan Belle, and stylistically, this story reminded me somewhat of her Blue Angel trilogy. Direction-less 20-something girl, New York City backdrop, and a soap opera plot that would make Aaron Spelling swoon.
Lulu Sterling is an art student at NYU and her mother owns one of the most iconic art galleries in the city. She's also dating a major hottie, Brandt Penn, who is an up-and-coming artist that her mother is poised to launch with his own one-man show. It should all be perfect, but Lulu is lost. There is drama behind the scenes at the gallery, thanks to Mom's sophisticated and conniving gallery manager and her "perfect" artist boyfriend is turning out to be anything but. In the midst of these distractions is GoST, a mysterious street artist that Lulu is becoming more obsessed with. She loves his art, she loves what his art says, now to just track down the mystery man and do what? Exactly? She's not sure. She just knows that she wants to be close to him and his work. But spending time with a street artist is complicated. He's secretive, she has a boyfriend, and Mom would not approve.
Here's my thing about the art world. I like art. I think paintings are "pretty." I'm not the sort of person who can look at a painting of geometric solid colors and say, "The artist is making a statement on our insatiable consumerism and our uncontrollable lust for fame at any cost."
Blah, blah, blah, whatever.
So yeah, I know nothing about art other than what I like. The author immersed me in this world, the gallery and the players. I got completely sucked into it, and with the added punch of New York City as a backdrop? By far my favorite elements of the story. Readers talk a lot about world-building in historicals and paranormals, but I would argue it's just as vital in contemporary stories. What Brenner has done here is create a whole world for her characters to run around in; a convincing world.
As much as I loved the world-building and the soap opera plot (seriously, I'm so predictable), the romance was an issue. Ruin Me has the same problem I tend to have with a lot of stories like this. In other words, I don't want Lulu to have a romance. Frankly Lulu doesn't need a romance. You know what Lulu needs? She needs to give everyone in her life the middle finger and just be. As in, be by herself. Figure out who she is without all these people yapping in her face. She's dating Brandt not because she loves him. She's with him because she's 1) in awe of how hot he is and 2) that a hot guy like him would be interested in a girl like her. This is not a girl who needs a romance. This is a girl who needs to learn that she's good enough. Period. And that she starts to realize that after spending time with GoST kind of annoys me.
Speaking of, GoST is an interesting character but towards the end of it all I wanted to smack him into next week. I just don't think he's "good" for Lulu - mostly because he's got baggage I don't think he's prepared to deal with. Plus, I'll be honest, he's kind of a pretentious prick when it comes to his art. But then, he's an artist - so there you go. Being a prick is probably a prerequisite.
In the end, this is a romance - so Lulu and GoST will somehow find their way together and while I don't think Lulu should have a romance (right now at least) and GoST did kind of tick me off at times? The ending shows some promise. Lulu is in a better place and GoST seems like he's not going to be a total jackass. Which makes this is a hard book to assign a grade to. In the end, the romance really should be everything, but the world and the soap opera? Those flipped major switches for me.
Final Grade = B-