“Love happens at night,” Angelika says, whispering like it’s a secret some of us might not know. “So we’ll take away the night.”
This was such a quick read, almost impossible to put down. I wasn’t sure at first if I would read this, but then without noticing I was twenty pages in and feeling invested, so then I had to keep going. And now here we are.
The Careful Undressing of Love follows the Devonairre Street Girls and their eccentric little community in Brooklyn that has experienced an unusual number of tragedies, which everyone refers to as the Curse. And 75-year-old Angelika Koza is always there to remind them of it.
“If a Devonairre Street Girl falls in love with any boy, whether or not he loves her back, the boy will die. Devonairre Street Girls must not fall in love. That is the responsibility, that is the Curse, that is what is true.”
It kind of reminds me of Blue’s curse in The Raven Boys, where she has been told by her psychic family that she will kill her true love. But the Devonairre Street Girls don’t believe in their curse, or at least that’s what they tell themselves…
“Fine. It’s strange that we wear the keys, that we grow our hair, that we drink the tea and eat the cake and switch the outside lights on when the sun goes down and armor ourselves in wool.
But Santa Claus is strange, too. And lucky pennies. And horoscopes in newspapers. And unbreakable mirrors.”
I loved the magical realism in here. Their curse also brought up in my mind the question of “is it better to have loved and lost or never loved at all?” I still don’t know what my answer is or will be.
Honestly, this book had me so enthralled that upon looking out of my window, I felt surprised that Angelika Koza wasn’t lurking and judging me from across the street. She knows something extra about the world. And I can still hear her voice shoving in I’ll say it again if you weren’t listening.
Also, to keep track of the characters, here’s a list of the their quirks that I initially loved:
- Delilah James with her made-up sayings. I’ll try to remember each and every one.
- Lorna Ryder with her ability to hear her mother’s heart. Oh, and who loves thinking only about herself…more on that later.
- Isla Rodriguez is an unstoppable force. She’s also the youngest of them all but growing up the fastest.
- Charlotte, who’s together with Cruz Rodriguez, doesn’t seem to have any kind of life in her until something happens that I’ll talk about later on.
Oh, and this book address white-privilege, which yes, please:
“They’re always more concerned with Isla’s outfits than mine. The other night at Julia’s I was wearing less than Isla is now, but it didn’t incite the same kind of outrage when I walked down the street. I think Isla must notice it, too, the way her body is a particularly tense battleground compared to the rest of ours. I think of the way Ms. Abbound looked at Delilah, too. It’s uncomfortable to think of us as anything but a single organism, but of course it’s easier to be a white Devonairre Street Girl.”
I kept thinking of this:*From here on I want to discuss some spoilery stuff.*
The book also tackles Lorna’s grief after she lost her father in the Times Square Bombing almost seven years ago. The portrayal of her grief felt so real and personal and specific, and I’m still reeling.
“When Dad died, Mom said to be sure to let myself have good moments. Even when everything hurts, even when other cities are exploding and people we love are disappearing, there’s still space for sweet things. I let our elbows’ resting against each other feel good, while everything else feels bad.”
But then… then this book took a turn down the wrong lane for me. A truly wrong turn when Lorna decides to cheat multiple times on her boyfriend with Cruz, who’s still with Charlotte. However, the book comes up with a convenient way for our hetero heroine to get rid of all her hetero guilt.
“We’ve been together a long time,” Nisha says.
Charlotte looks down, but she doesn’t deny it.
“You can’t be together,” I say. “Charlotte and Cruz are together.”
I look back and forth between the two of them, the golden couple of Devonairre Street, one of the main reasons I know the Curse isn’t real, the people I’ve built a whole sense of the world on.”
I love how Lorna remembers this fact when it’s convenient for her, because the minute her lips are on Cruz’s she all, “Charlotte who?”
Also, I’m kind of livid at how this was all played out to make the herione feel OK for cheating. I was so excited about the possibility of a f/f relationship featuring in here, but making it seem like plot-twist is just not how you do it. I had to take a breather after that to calm down over how angry I was.
There are so few f/f romances out there in YA books, and I was so, so excited when I heard it was going to play a part in here. But it didn’t. It only appeared over 220 pages in (out of 288), and then it was only presented as a twist so that the main white, hetero character wouldn’t feel guilty for kissing her friend’s boyfriend. UGH. This is just such harmful representation when your whole novel is straight as fuck. Can’t we have even one good thing this year??? After that I quickly came to realize just how self-centred Lorna acts all the damn time. She lives in this bubble of “I’m so special and everyone loves or wants to be me.” And I’m like, “….people literally do not give two fucks about whether you speak or not.” Similar to what Nisha said, “But you Devonairre Street people—you’re all in your own world, aren’t you?”
I just hate, hate, hate that Lorna was the center of this novel, when there were so many more deserving souls… like Delilah. The Careful Undressing of Love should have been told through Delilah’s eyes, not Lorna’s pretentious ones. Especially once you consider the fact that Delilah lost Jack, whom she truly loved, and we barely get to see her after that. We mainly see how Lorna is hurting, and I’m like…. okay….This novel started out fantastic, but it petered out after Jack’s sudden death. And after that straight nonsense, I was out. I can’t even hide how disappointed I am. I was truly excited when I started and read the first 150 pages, but I can’t get over how the whole aforementioned situation was played. You don’t use f/f romances like that. You just don’t.
ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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