Bright Side by Kim Holden

Author: Kim Holden

Series: Bright Side (#1)

Genre: contemporary

Rating: ★★☆

 In short: just didn’t work for me. Storylines that were all over the place, and a character I just couldn’t bring myself to care about.

Goodreads: Secrets.
Everyone has one.
Some are bigger than others.
And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.

Kate Sedgwick’s life has been anything but typical. She’s endured hardship and tragedy, but throughout it all she remains happy and optimistic (there’s a reason her best friend Gus calls her Bright Side). Kate is strong-willed, funny, smart, and musically gifted. She’s also never believed in love. So when Kate leaves San Diego to attend college in the small town of Grant, Minnesota, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with Keller Banks.

They both feel it.
But they each have a reason to fight it.
They each have a secret.

And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.

Seems simple, right? Noooo. Bright Side suffers from the Too Many Plotlines ailment. There’s way too much going on and so many parts of this book made me think, why does this even matter? And that’s not the kind of reaction you want. Contemporaries like this ride on the reader caring. If you can’t get me to care, then your book falls flat with me. And that’s what happened with this.

Starting with the good, I think the dialogue flowed nicely (aside from the number of times Kate says dude. Why, just why. I’m supposed to like her idiosyncrasies, not get irritated by them.) and the humour did make me laugh out loud. I especially liked the friendship between Gus and Kate—it really drove the book for me because I wanted to see what happened with them.

I can’t think of any more good and now I feel guilty.

Firstly, I couldn’t connect to Kate. She was funny, and I liked that. But she felt too good sometimes. No resentment, no regrets, happy-go-lucky! I couldn’t buy that someone who’s been through so much trauma could come out of it so perky. That’s not my kind of main character. What also irked me was how she makes several friends, and then sets about to ‘improve’ their lives. Come on. A whirlwind of a girl, special and beautiful, changes the lives of everyone around her and makes them so Happy™!!!!!!1!!!!! That’s the summary. That’s the book. The entire book has Kate making her new friends’ lives better. Yawn. Not only does it feel so cliché and Manic Pixie Dream Girl, it’s a bit patronising. Who’s to say these people want your help, Kate?! Not to mention her awful roommate Sugar. She felt like a prop to make Kate look better.

Secondly, the Kate and Keller relationship really got on my nerves. The blurb makes it sound like a romance, and generally there’s a formula for those. Generally there’s a formula for all plots. It involves conflict, mostly. And did this book have that?

No prizes for guessing.

Zero. Conflict. At all. It pretty much read like a memoir, you could say, except that in saying that you’re probably insulting all the great memoirs out there. No conflict in the romance especially. There’s no real obstacle in Keller and Kate’s luuurrrve™, except jealousy, that contrived, green-eyed monster that I really could’ve done without. (After that jealous fit? I wanted to sock Keller. And Kate. And everyone.) I mean, let’s take a look at Kate’s first weird reason for pushing Keller away.

I am not a selfish person. I never have been and I don’t want to start at this point in my life. Pursuing him would be totally self-serving.

Turn that over in your head. Does that sound legit at all? And putting that back in the context of Kate’s Good Deeds Helping Her Friends, doesn’t it seem a bit more patronising? Like she’s only friends with people for their own good, because she’s not selfish at all the saint. But the main reason I couldn’t get into Kate/Keller was the plain, simple fact that Gus/Kate felt so much more natural and believable. I can’t understand why Keller even came into the picture when this story has a blossoming, believable, sweet romance already.

By now you probably get that I didn’t like Keller as a romantic interest.

Gus’s feelings for Kate were so obvious I don’t even need to put this under a spoiler warning. And yet this too is drowned in the plot sea. Why is this not relevant until the very end? Clearly the end of this book is going to propel poor, miserable Gus into the next novel in this series. In which he will fall in love and his band will make it big and ta-da!

Fascinating.

Kate’s Great Tragedy™ felt way too much like a plot device too. It genuinely felt like a last-ditch ploy to get me to care. Yeah, not buying it. It’s not mentioned until the later half of the book aside from some hinting and the reveal? Totally unbelievable. Where did the foreshadowing go? Lost in the web of plots, I suppose. Not to mention her music! Her mother! They’re never adequately explained. So aggravating. How did this get through an editor?

The writing was nothing great either, aside from the humour. What really irritated me was how Keller’s POV appeared randomly once we were a good bit into the book. What. Not the time and place to introduce a new main character, especially one I will care for less than the first. Even Keller’s Tragic Backstory™ felt overdone to evoke emotional response.

Basically, would not recommend. I won’t be reading the next book in this series, that’s for sure.

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