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If FreeForm ever decides to do mini-series, A Pain Less Ordinary by L.V. Pires should be one of their first adaptations in the format.
I was provided a free copy to review by the author.
15-year-old Rebecca (often referred to as just Becca) has a far from stellar life. Her dad? Who knows where he is? Her mom Marie? She is a piece of work, to say the least. She tries, but she is just meeting the bare minimum of what is required to be a mother. Mostly because, she isn’t that type of mom who believes in sacrificing the possibility of a personal life for the safety of her children. Instead, she seems on a constant search for a man, perhaps a husband, much to the ire of Rebecca.
However, with the latest man, Arthur, at least Rebecca got Chloe. A two-year-old who is the silver lining of this humongous dark cloud hanging over Rebecca. One which, despite the best efforts of her friend Michelle, her crush Nick, and this rock god known as Zephyr, may very well drown her. For it is just one thing after another when it comes to Rebecca’s life. So as you take on Rebecca’s journey in A Pain Less Ordinary, prepare for some frustration, joy, and maybe have a tissue handy. Especially as moments come where you wonder whether the sun is coming out or if it is simply a fire burning in the distance.
Rebecca Isn’t Your Usual Privileged Protagonist
In the majority of the books I’ve read recently, outside of All The Ugly and Wonderful Things, what we are introduced to is this middle class, maybe upper middle class, person who suddenly has bad things happen to them. Be it a death, sickness, or something within that sphere. With A Pain Less Ordinary, however, Rebecca never had that. From what we are told, her mom is working class and Rebecca isn’t someone who seems a makeover away from being the belle of the ball. I mean, she isn’t described as ugly or frumpy, but I imagine her as average. The type of girl you can see someone having a crush on but not necessarily garnering a double take.
To me, that was one of the driving forces which made me like the book. We finally got someone who isn’t necessarily longing for better days but are waiting for better days to finally show up.
I can’t say whether Zephyr was a potential love interest or just a guy who came into Rebecca’s life at the right time. However, either way, I loved his inclusion into the book. At first, he may come off weird and annoying, but then he becomes so essential. Especially because, he gets Rebecca. Compared to Michelle’s middle-class family with her two parent home, and two younger siblings, much less Nick who is an only child with rich parents, Zephyr helps normalize Rebecca’s situation. Also, he helps make it so we see the potential of her being a survivor vs. a victim.
Though my favorite thing about him might just be that, as much as I wouldn’t mind him and Rebecca getting romantic, it never got there. He, perhaps due to years of therapy, realized she didn’t need, wasn’t ready, or wasn’t able, to give and receive romantic or sexual intimacy. What she needed was someone who understood because they lived through something similar. Not because they listened, saw it on TV or a movie, much less read a book, but actually had life force them to experience the worse it had to offer. And while his realism doesn’t help how downright depressing and aggravating Rebecca can get, he eventually became the type of character which, if there was ever a sequel, or something similar to Where She Went did, I think fans of this book would be happy.
A Very Basic Villain
Alexa, a rich girl at Rebecca’s school, hates her because she is poor and has the attention of the guy she likes, Nick. It makes her mad because she is rich, popular, and should get what she wants. Okay… I get high school girls are petty, that seems to be a running theme in YA novels, but there could have at least been a Bad Moms kind of moment where the shallow characters kind of got fleshed out by the end. There could have been a chapter where Sylvie, the school gossip, slighted by Alexa, revealed why Alexa was so dead set on Nick. Be it he was a childhood friend who she grew up with, a sort of Sadie and Matty type of situation from Awkward (in which he was the only one she didn’t feel like being a raging butthole to) or just something to really push the idea she isn’t a villain because L.V. Pires felt we needed one.
But the main reasons I have a distaste for Alexa is because of something which happens at the end of the book. An event which seems so unnecessary, so over the top, it just seems written in to draw Marie, Rebecca’s mom out, after she abandons her, and to help quickly usher the end of the book.
On The Fence
The Overall Doom and Gloom Nature of the Book
In general, I don’t gravitate to books or media featuring happy go lucky people. I like media which features people who wear façades which hide all of these dark thoughts in their head. People who live within a duality that we can only know and understand by getting halfway through the book. With A Pain Less Ordinary though, we start off with things being kind of meh and then just end up with so much pessimism from Rebecca that you may get tired of her complaining. Especially as you sort of get this guilty feeling of believing it is partly her fault things are as we see.
The reason I say this is because the catalyst for her ending up in a homeless shelter is basically revealing to her mom that Arthur, her step-dad, is like all of her mom’s exes. Once that happens, so begins the downward spiral. One in which we learn how terrible of a person Marie is, from insulting Rebecca to outright abandoning her yet taking Chloe. Then that is followed up with how bad Rebecca is doing in school, her insecurities when it comes to her interactions with Nick, and then the issue of being forced into a shelter and being separated from most of what she has known.
And while there is this attempt to have Nick or Zephyr lighten the mood, maybe even Michelle at times, Rebecca kills whatever optimism you, or they, try to bring. Which, is sort of her appeal to me. As noted, Rebecca isn’t some orphan Annie type who, despite all that has happened to her, thinks the sun will come out tomorrow. She is a realist which struggles to understand the optimism of others, especially in terms of how they think her life can go. Something which I think brings a sort of relatable, or realistic at least, factor to the character. But with her life, outside of some moments for entertainment purposes, rooted in reality, it does take away from the possibility of getting a sense of escapism with this book. Even if your life doesn’t mirror Rebecca.
Overall: Mixed (Borrow)
A Pain Less Ordinary is good enough to read, would probably make an excellent mini-series, but I don’t foresee myself revisiting this book. For while I do enjoy the depiction of a pessimistic character as our lead, I do feel that while what happens in terms of Rebecca’s family being torn apart can be appreciated, every bit of Alexa’s part in this was overkill. On top of that, with Alexa’s background just being she is a mean girl mad she can’t have what she wants, the way she wants it, that made what she does towards the end of the book so ridiculous it casts a shadow on a lot of what happens before it.
Hence the mixed label. For while A Pain Less Ordinary is enjoyable, in the pursuit of making Rebecca someone with little to no hope, unfortunately, everything and the kitchen sink is thrown at her. All the while, we don’t really get to understand the people well who have a hand at making her life miserable. We just, sadly, know what Rebecca knows and it makes it so some characters remain two dimensional and seemingly written in for the sake of being a plot device.