I had been really excited for this book.
It sounded fantastic—a girl who loves filmmaking, cute romance, teenage dating! I was really excited.
And then I started reading, and there were some things that I was so-so about. So I put it down for about two months, and picked it back up again closer to the publishing date, and finished it.
There were things that I did like, but there were major elements that ultimately turned me away from this book and made it one of the rare books that I wouldn’t really recommend.
If you’re someone who needs content warnings, please check them out in the box below (highlight the text to read). I’ll be talking about the topics in my review, so please stay safe!
Content Warnings: acephobia (condoned), suicide, self-harm, people manipulating those with disabilities (not condoned)
But first, let’s start with the one positive:
Maeve was cool.
I know like 90% of reviews of this out there said they found Maeve annoying/some variation of “I didn’t like Maeve.”
To be honest, I thought she was fine. She was passionate, she had fun friends, she was full of life and definitely an engaging character.
And yes, Maeve is also super horny.
I do think this is a reason a lot of people didn’t like This Is Not a Love Scene—because Maeve does think about sex a lot. I didn’t mind much, except for when it started to become harmful. (More on this later.)
Let Maeve live. Let teen girls have feelings about sex. Stop making it so only boys can be like this and get rid of those standards.
I get it if you’re someone who doesn’t really want to read about teen girls thinking about sex, which in this case, you shouldn’t read this. That’s a reading preference. What isn’t a preference is looking down on girls who are exploring this. You’re able to not enjoy reading about girls thinking about sex without hating on girls who do.
I was cool with Maeve as a person & I didn’t really find her annoying.
However, sometimes Maeve’s line of thought became kind of problematic.
This is where I find an issue with Maeve. I think she’s a cool person, but she says these offhand comments from time to time that are kind of harmful, and sometimes her attitude is a little harmful.
Let me explain.
Maeve is curious about sex. I respect this. But sometimes, the way she acts towards Cole Stone comes off as a little bit of an…oversexualization of him? I’m not the best at describing it, but sometimes I felt like Maeve was kind of reducing Cole into a sex figure more so than like…a person. I’m not fully decided on this part.
(And also Cole Stone was kind of a humongous asshole and I very much did not like him. Maeve deserves better, too.)
The part that was very clearly harmful to me though, was the acephobia. Notably, this one quote:
“Tonight was different. Tonight, I felt normal. Healthy. Not asexual. Tonight, I felt like a person.”
It doesn’t explicitly hate on ace people. But the way the phrases are put together creates this implication that ace people are not people, healthy, or normal.
There was a general undertone that came up sometimes that not having sexual desires was wrong/unhealthy, etc. And I just wasn’t a fan of that. This is one of the main reasons why I wouldn’t recommend you read it or give it to someone to read, UNLESS they are fully aware of the faults of this mindset.
If you’re able to read it in a capacity where you can identify what’s wrong, go ahead. But if you’re, say, a young impressionable teen in a library who picks this up and then decides that being ace isn’t healthy, I feel like that’s not good.
I feel like it’s pretty harmful to give this message out when your audience is composed of teens. It’s like racism—you can have racism in a book, but you need to show that it’s wrong? You can’t write in a racist way, but you can show racism and not condone it. Same with this. I feel like This Is Not a Love Scene doesn’t not condone acephobia, and that’s the main reason why I wouldn’t recommend.
There were also a few other lines I found issue with that were a little bit brash and insensitive.
I also found issue with the way the book used a suicidal character.
There are content warnings at the beginning of this review, which you should definitely check out, and I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, but ultimately, it felt like This Is Not a Love Scene used a depressed and suicidal character in order to further Maeve’s character arc.
I don’t want to talk too much about this, but I definitely wasn’t expecting this storyline and felt uncomfortable with the way it was used. It felt like it was supposed to like…define Maeve’s character element and also further the plot, but I wanted more sensitivity regarding the actually character who was considering committing suicide.
It was surprising and just something that didn’t sit well with me.
Overall, This Is Not a Love Scene had a lot of potential.
This is #OwnVoices for muscular dystrophy, and although I personally can’t comment on the representation of this aspect, I think Maeve was a well-developed character and nothing stood out as hurtful with respect to muscular dystrophy or having a disability.
It’s just that some of the ways the story pushed to develop her were a bit…hurtful to other marginalized groups.
I can’t say that this book is Scum of the Earth—it drags Me Before You, it lets teen girls be sexual, and Maeve is A Character (in a good way, most of the time). But I think the problematic elements ultimately makes it un-fun and something I wouldn’t recommend be read unless you’re actively aware of the ways that this book is harmful.
Maeve might have great friends, a passion for filmmaking, and a sweet dog that gets her into trouble from time to time, but she hopes for romance.
That’s not easy though when Maeve’s got a rare form of muscular dystrophy, but when Cole Stone, the lead for her senior film project, shows up, Maeve suddenly gets a taste of typical teenage dating life. Cole challenges her, but figuring things out won’t be easy, and Maeve will have to choose between need and want.
Thank you so much to Wednesday Books and Netgalley for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!