Review: Reputation by Lex Croucher (2022)

Heat Factor: It gets pretty steamy, but not remotely with the romantic couple.

Character Chemistry: They end up kind of being a balm for the rest of the very difficult to like cast of characters

Plot: It’s an Emma/Mean Girls mashup, essentially. Georgiana is the impoverished new girl in town, who catches the interest of wild child Frances and her rich group of friends. On the periphery of the friend group, Georgiana meets Mr. Hawksley, who is actually a good person, etc.

Overall: I almost DNF’d it three times. I struggled with this one because it was good but it was really uncomfortable to read and if that makes me a goody-two-shoes nerd, then so be it.

So, I will say flat out that the book is well-written. Although there are a lot of characters swimming around in alcohol and drugs in this book, they are packed with so much personality and detail that it’s impossible not to be able to follow. The plot swells to the point of being almost unbearable in tension and bad decisions, then right when you think you can’t take it any longer Georgiana does something redeemable and you can hang on a little longer. But.

I’m not sure this book counts as a romance. To begin, Georgiana and Mr. Hawksley barely have any development between the two of them, and they certainly aren’t kindling things up for the majority of the book. In addition, most of the characters are not good people, and I wasn’t rooting for them. At all. Rooting for Georgiana was difficult, because she was a pretty horrendous person for almost the entire book. Also, this is touted as some kind of comedy—and I thought Mean Girls was funny, but I didn’t laugh once during this book at all. I was mainly a little ill and really, really stressed out. 

Essentially, Georgiana is dumped at her Aunt’s house and is bored out of her mind when she meets Frances, ultra-wealthy and intensely full of life. Georgiana gets sucked into Frances’ orbit, where she meets a crew that Frances barely seems to like, and who she treats horribly, but they somehow continue to stick around. Georgiana is introduced to getting absolutely hammered and high at parties, and I think a lot of those parts are supposed to be funny? But almost every one of the parties is messed up in some way. She’s either getting harassed or the incredibly precarious position she’s in is clearly pointed out and she ignores it; there’s the aftermath of a rape scene; and Georgiana herself is very nearly raped. So like, honestly? Before I read the publisher’s blurb I would have called the book “suspenseful” and “intense”. After I read it? I was honestly kind of grossed out. None of it is funny. 

I labeled this as “smut adjacent” simply because although Georgiana’s relationship with Mr. Hawksley is a driving motivator for change and self-awareness, the focus of the story and most of the plot revolves around her relationship with Frances. And when their relationship fractures and Georgiana’s life is in shambles, Frances doesn’t seem to ever actually feel any remorse or learn any lessons. It’s lightly suggested she’s made a few marginally okay decisions in the interim? And I sincerely think the general message in the end is, Georgiana isn’t a total innocent here, they’re all hurting and have pretty good reasons to be miserable, reckless, drunks—so she’s able to find her happiness with good people in the end. But when characters are this deeply flawed, I’m just so relieved they’ve reached some level of homeostasis and stopped hurling themselves head first into tragedy that I don’t care about the romance as much. And that’s why I don’t think this worked as a genre piece.

Now. If you’re interested in reading a book in one sitting and feeling really conflicted but utterly sucked into a book where the characters are all screaming with desperate personality and kind of dancing around drunkenly on a knife’s edge of fun/traumatic experiences, just rife with constant deception and hurtful comments, well. Here you are. I stayed up very, VERY late reading because I couldn’t put it down. And I don’t know what that really says about the book without the lens of a romance reviewer—because I can say with certainty that it will stick with me and that I keep thinking about it. And normally that’s what I’d consider a pretty interesting read. It was effective—but I can’t say that I enjoyed the experience very much.

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

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