After reading Sophie Jordan’s Foreplay, I was pretty sure I was done with the New Adult genre. Still, I decided to try a few others and realized they aren’t all bad. In fact, some are quite engaging. With that in mind, I agreed to review Real, a seriously popular New Adult title in both print and audio formats.
Brooke has just graduated from college. She’s living in what she calls the “real world”, looking for a job, and hanging out with her friends. One night, Brooke is urged by her best friend to attend an underground boxing match, an event that changes her life in ways she never imagined possible.
Remington Tate was a professional boxer until his temper got him banned from the sport. Now, he works the underground circuit, making a fortune, and earning himself quite the reputation as a “bad boy”, something Brooke thinks is fine for a one night stand, but a little less fine if she’s thinking about forever. Yet, no matter how hard she tries, she can’t deny her attraction to him.
Brooke had dreams of becoming an Olympic runner but an injury put an end to all that. She doesn’t wallow in what might have been, which is definitely a point in her favor. Instead, she moved on to get a degree in sports medicine which makes her quite useful to Remington. He hires her for a three-month period, an offer Brooke gladly accepts.
There’s a profusion of sexual tension between Brooke and Remington. While some is believable, I found Remington’s unwillingness to act on it really frustrating. He says things like “I want you to know me first” yet doesn’t help Brooke to do this. Instead, he acts insanely jealous, throws temper tantrums that end up costing him thousands of dollars in restitution, and gets drunk whenever he can. There is a reason for this behavior, although it isn’t revealed until about the midway point. Even then, I found it anticlimactic, and I wondered why he just didn’t come clean in the beginning, saving everyone a whole lot of angst.
Real was my introduction to narrator Charlotte Penfield. At first, I wondered if she could pull off something in the New Adult genre. She doesn’t sound as young as other narrators of the genre. However, the more I listened, the more certain I became that Penfield was a really good fit.
The story is told from Brooke’s point of view, and Penfield seems quite comfortable reading as Brooke. She gives her just the right amount of confidence and vulnerability. Her narration seems very true to the author’s intent. I can’t imagine Brooke sounding any different.
Penfield has an understated style of reading, something I appreciate in a narrator. While characters of the opposite sex are very well-differentiated, she has a bit of difficulty with same sex characters. It’s a good thing dialogue tags were used quite a bit, otherwise, I would have been quite confused when Remington talked to his coach, his assistant, or his rivals. The same would have been true for Brooke and her interactions with her female friends and her sister.
Real contains quite a bit of raw sexual language, but Penfield doesn’t seem to mind this. She performs confidently and doesn’t seem disturbed by a few things that caused me to roll my eyes. For example, there are numerous references to Brooke’s “sex muscles”, a term which drove me crazy, especially when I would hear words like cock and pussy mentioned later on. I got the impression that Penfield wasn’t batting an eye, no matter what she read.
When Brooke and Remington come together, the narration could not have been better. The listener is able to grasp how momentous this experience is for both of them. Personally, I heaved a sigh of relief when it finally happened, although I didn’t get the sense that Penfield felt that way at all. Instead, she stayed completely in character, and I applaud her for it.
I find myself disturbed by the message some New Adult books send to the young people who read them. Possessive, even abusive, behavior is allowed, and the heroines just give into it. Brooke doesn’t like the way Remington acts yet she never calls him on it. She just accepts the fact that this is who he is, and she has to deal with it if she wants to be with him, which she very obviously does. So, are we telling women that men can control us, even if we don’t like it? Is our freedom the price we pay for a man who claims to love us? If that is what authors are trying to say, I must admit to being deeply troubled by this message.
Book Content: B
Steam Factor: For your burning ears only
Genre: New Adult
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio