My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Previously, I rarely read a book because I was swayed by a title rather than a hot cover (which is more often the case :p), until Neurotica by Eliza Gordon. I didn’t even read the blurb, just that the title sounded so interesting that I had to dig in. And the rest is, sort of, history. The first scene and the heroine Jayne’s sense of humor completely absorbed me. I pushed aside all the other stuff I was reading at that time, including an ARC I needed to finish ASAP.
I thought Neurotica was going to be one of my most favorite reads of this year and a straight 5 stars book... until the first 200 pages. With a disappointed state of mind, I’m going to try to write a review because it was still brilliant, from the witty writing style, to the storytelling to all the craziness of the characters, when they weren’t being annoying that is. But there was definitely a reason (or reasons) why I was hooked.
If you know Jayne Dandy, you’ll avoid mentioning the above word, and anything else that goes with it, including the f-word, the v-word, the ‘it’ word... let’s say, anything at all.
You see, Jayne has a problem and she’s been trying her best with her psychiatrist, Dr. McCoy, to fix it. It’s not that she doesn’t want to have sex, it’s quite the opposite. But long ago, some old, gossipy women brainwashed her about sex and all the nasty that comes with it. Oh boy, the Good Lord is watching us and you shouldn’t even think of kissing a boy with your tongue, let alone let him touch you in any other way. Masturbate? Don’t even think of that ‘evil’ for you’re being watched from above... What a scary thought! No wonder Poor Jayne was traumatized by the notion of being watched from above. This whole thing attached itself inside her head so deep that in high school she even gained a moniker- Jaynie Prudie.
This story was going to be Jaynie Prudie’s transformation into Jaynie Pervert. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. We see some transformation but most is left to ponder...
Apart from Jayne’s problem about getting laid, she has to deal with emotional trauma as well. That happens when you have a sucky, dysfunctional family. Jayne has a mean, b*tchty mother, who loves to b*tch and moan about everything, the perpetual ‘victim’ (too bad there’s not enough space in my review to b*tch about her). Jayne has an elder sister almost her mother’s copycat, an elder brother who is nice, in the sense that he’s just kinda dumb to be that mean... and a father who wants to stay away from his own family. They have money now, thanks to her father’s efforts and lives Posh but Jayne doesn’t feel that she belongs with her family. Not with her mother’s constant b*tching about Jayne being a ‘disgrace’ to the family for not studying for a big degree from a reputed university or having a job worthy of mention. Moreover, Jayne has all the reminder she can possibly have that she’s the child her mother never wanted. Can you believe a mother saying those things to her daughter? Her sister, Margaret is the same, looks down at Jayne all the time. ‘Maggot’ is what Margaret is to Jayne. Not really her fault though. Jayne’s younger self couldn’t pronounce the name correctly, which stuck, very ironically proving to be the perfect name. Did I mention Farting Franky? Oh right, that’s the brother. He had some bowel related problem when he was young and that name stuck too. He’s nice to Jayne, but he’s still... dumb.
After this scintillating intro into Jayne ‘loving’ family, let me talk about Jayne herself. She’s a splendid girl. Brilliant and unique in her way, even if she hasn’t been able to meet the ‘standard’ of her family. Yah, Jayne’s current job is kinda sucky too, an obituary writer in a local newspaper but that’s not the point. The point is, Jayne LOVES writing. And she’s good at too, if some of those praises she gets from the families of those dearly departed tell her anything. Jayne’s also a writer of science fiction and her stories are amazing. You have these short chapters consisting of one of Jayne’s WIPs in between the actual story. I actually enjoyed reading those, and this coming from someone who basically tends to avoid anything sci-fi.
Think now is the high time for a disclaimer: Neurotica has a lot of reference to Star Wars as Jayne and Luke (who will be introduced in a few) are HUGE fans. I mean, they’re just crazy. I will avoid any reference to that myself as I’m in darkness about Star Wars. I’m just not that into made up universes in faraway planets. Still, Luke and Jayne’s ardent enthusiasm anything regarding Star Wars was a great enjoyment to me. I’m sure anyone who loves Star Wars as much as those two would enjoy this story more, being able to see it from a different perspective.
So there it is, Jayne loves Star Wars, loves living alone, only with one roomie, good friend Gretchen. She doesn’t like her job but she gets to pay her bills and scrape by, so it’s enough. She knows no help would be forthcoming from her ‘sweet’ family. Needless to say, if there’s one thing Jayne absolutely abhors, is a family gathering. If you read some of those said gatherings that Jayne was, sort of, emotionally blackmailed into participating, you’ll understand what I’m saying. I wouldn’t even think of being in one, but poor Jayne had to muddle through those basically alone. :(
On a brighter note, if there’s one thing Jayne absolutely loves, apart from Star Wars of course, is Luke Piewalker’s. You don’t know what it is? It’s a famous food truck of the town, owned by Luke Walker, a cutesy blond who has had Jayne’s heart on a string for a while now. Oh, they are friends and that his pies are to die for. But no matter, Jayne can’t help noticing his smile, among other things and seeing him in action, not the type you’re thinking (no luck on that) but on his truck, dealing with his customers... well, let’s just say that Jayne is a pathetic case where he’s concerned. Sadly, though Jayne feels different, Luke probably doesn’t. He certainly never given her any hint to that direction.
This, of course, brings us back to Jayne’s initial problem. The S-E-X. To people that get scared of 24 years old virgins, good news! Jayne is not one. But the one ‘incident’ isn’t worth mentioning, unless you’re pouring your heart (and whatever else you got) out to your shrink. Technically, she got rid of her v-card but that was that. She buried that part of her life with it. Now Jayne wants to overcome her problem without being struck down with a lightening by said Divine Being for trying to have a little fun in her life. But how can she do any of those if she can’t let a man even near her, let alone kiss and pet?
Jayne, it seems, has a long way to go.
Luke’s life is almost opposite of Jayne’s. He has a pair of loving parents and a twin named Leia, who might be all Goth-y, a little immature with a don’t-give-a-sh*t attitude, they’re still a very tight-knit family. Luke is still the ‘elder brother’ and takes care of everything. And if you haven’t already guessed, the parents were Star Wars maniacs and passed the gene right onto their offspring. Luke is an overall nice guy. With his popular Luke Piewalker’s, he’s made news and top lists. It’s very apparent that he loves what he does.
Their mutual love of all things Star Wars and sci-fi brought Jayne and Luke close together. Jayne certainly doesn’t think she’s attractive enough to attract a guy like him, but Luke has been nice to her since day one. Jayne is still trying to find a way to overcome her problem, but with Luke, she feels that she has some hope, only she has no idea whether her feelings are being reciprocated or not.
Jayne’s roomie, and BFF, Gretchen, is nothing like her. She’s a tall, leggy blonde with a penchant for boy-toys, disdain for ‘nerds’ (Jayne, as a friend, is an exception), one night stands and a love of discussing her sex life with Jayne. Sometimes innuendoes, sometimes details that I had no interest in. She was born into a family of money but because her daddy dearest said she should ‘earn’ and make her way (you know, whims of the rich), she writes fashion column (duh!) in the same newspaper where Jayne works. Though sometimes I found Gretchen funny, most of the times, not. She’s very worried about Jayne, her non-existent sex life and her possibility of perishing in that state. What a disgrace that’d be! She keeps nagging Jayne about it throughout the book. Gretchen seemed like a friend, but to me, not so much. I felt that Jayne was way too lonely and rather innocent to know any better. Gretchen was spoiled no doubt and whimsical (I don’t mean that in a good way). And though she seemed to care for Jayne when she felt like it, it was not enough for me. I didn’t like her and didn’t care that Jayne was so blind to her faults.
It all began to break loose when Jayne started writing... er, erotica, VERY secretly, thanks to Dr. McCoy’s encouragement, as a baby-step to solving her issue. Jayne’s previous sci-fi works were doing alright, not enough to get rich but enough to have some handy money. It was because of Gretchen, kinda, that Jayne’s secret is out in the world (I’m not even going in the blackmail part). Gretchen convinces Jayne that she should publish these stories. She also decides, for Jayne, that she should be her assistant and doesn’t spare one moment about bargaining about a commission from her earnings (*coughsharkcough*). It grated on me to see how grateful Jayne was for Gretchen’s dubious expertise on all things marketing ebooks. *eyeroll*
Before this, Jayne lost her job in a very miserable, and unfair, situation. She wasn’t even given the chance to think about it, it was that sudden! But Luke comes to her rescue, offering her a job in his truck right away. Leia was away (generally she’s of no help anyway), and Luke could use a spare pair of hands around. Jayne is only so much happy to be closes to him all day, Poor Girl. She was practically starving for Luke’s attention, and affection. But he didn’t show any sign of anything but practicing that mantra of ‘good friends’.
After a while, Jayne’s erotica is published and her life changes for the better. Or worse, one can debate. The good news was, she begins to gain popularity, with her income suddenly sky-rocketing. Jayne had no idea her work would be that popular but there it was! Then she was required to be present in different tours and readings, which is where Gretchen came in. Since Jayne is not ready to attach her name and face to her work, she was made the face of ‘Jaina Jacen’. Gretchen is all too happy to be the center of the attention (as usual) and all the praise and applauds from her ‘fans’. It didn’t occur to her that it was wrong, but then, I couldn’t blame her either. And after a while, when praises begin pouring in, Jayne begins to regret her decision, even if a tinsy-winsy bit.
At the same time, one of Luke’s crazy ex returns to stake a claim on him again. Poor Jayne, still working with him, has to stomach some heavy making out (not sex) a few times, though Luke kept saying afterwards that he’s not interested in getting back with that... girl. I felt really bad for Jayne for she didn’t like it but she had no official claim on him either. One day, after Luke thought he got rid of the girl, that things start to click between him and Jayne. She comes clean about her particular problem and Luke is instantly all ears. I liked those parts immensely as I was waiting a long time to see these two together. There were some awkward, but fine kisses that follow too. Jayne is over the top, finding that Luke doesn’t make her want to run away. Instead, she wants to kiss him over and over again. She’s so happy, it made me happy cause, IMO, she deserved that happiness.
One thing, apart from all his apparent goodness, Jayne learned that Luke doesn’t care for liars. It was one of the reasons why he broke up with that girl. Now Jayne’s new big fear; what would Luke say if he ever finds out that Gretchen has never written a word beyond her fashion column? That it’s her, Jaynie Prudie, who was apparently on the way to becoming Jaynie Pervert, is the real force behind all these hot sex scenes?
Before she lost her job, Jayne met a new guy named Holden, who, oddly enough, becomes fixated on her. But Jayne was completely focused on Luke, so she kept pushing him away. Holden doesn’t always take the hint and kept bringing her rubber duckies, a certain weakness of Jayne’s (hence the cover matters) and asking her out over and over again. Even when once, she finally goes out with Holden, things go wrong. It felt as if bad luck was chasing that poor girl. I’m not even going to discuss the blue bomb incident and what happened to her after that. *sigh*
I mentioned Holden cause he became the third wheel in everything. Though Luke kept Jayne hanging on a thread with a ‘maybe’ attitude, and I wouldn’t believe he had no idea what she felt for him, he becomes jealous of Holden. Even though he officially had no reason to be. Not only that, when Jayne’s identity is finally revealed (thank God!) to the public, thanks to a spiteful competition, Luke is angry that she ‘lied to him about this erotica thing’. I mean, umm hello? She had a reason, a VERY good reason IMO. And you couldn’t give her this one little chance to explain, instead just stomped off? He begins avoiding her after that and Jayne begins feeling guilty for ‘hurting him’. What??! WHY? He’s the one who was being an a$$ to you Jayne, you did nothing wrong! Seriously, please, someone make that girl understand!! *SMH*
After a while, sadly for Jayne, there’s another bad timing. Luke was still ‘away’ and not really communicating. Then suddenly, one fine morning, he stops by early with something for Jayne. That was the night that she brought Holden home after his drunken night out with friends, solely because Jayne had no other option. And Luke had the temerity to get angry at her, leaving her behind, not listening to one single word of plea from her side. God, I was SO PISSED! I was already convinced that he had no genuine feelings for Jayne, just liked to keep her hanging for the fun of it. If he had, he had a lousy way of showing it. Jayne had to endure his making out session with that b*tch of an ex, who later even destroys his food truck. Jayne was so smitten, she’d do anything for him, yet Luke leaves her not only for a lonely Christmas to pass with her miserable family, but also, doesn’t communicate with her for many weeks after that. Jayne was the one who stood behind him when his food truck was destroyed and he kept dredging up excuses for not seeing her, for not sending one single text. Lame excuses I’d say.
What would you call it?
Don’t even ask me where her BFF was on that same Christmas. She was off vacay-ing with her latest f*ck toy because she was ‘working too hard’ for the popularity of Jayne’s books. Moreover, they had a fight over something and that was her way of resolving things. I felt really terrible for Jayne. She was just... so alone. Not even a family to turn to. And the people who weren’t with her when she needed them the most, I don’t even know how you can even call them ‘friends’.
So, it was, I thought Luke was an a$$hole. Not only he was a drama queen himself but also, rather presumptuous. He took Jayne for granted for the better part of the book, not giving her the kind of attention she deserved. Sometimes his actions, or that of Gretchen’s, made me wanna scream. When Luke left Jayne all alone to spend that miserable Christmas, it was the last straw for me. I kept saying ‘Jaynie, you should just show him your middle finger and move on’. Just my honest opinion. He and Gretchen basically ruined the last 80 or so pages of the book for me. I’d say even Holden was better than Luke in some cases, though, sadly, Jayne was blind to those because she was so set on Luke. I didn’t think Holden was perfect for Jayne, but he, at the least, was trying to make an effort.
Even then, I was hoping that there would be a mind-blowing reconciliation at the end, with a lot of hot sex. If nothing else, Jayne’s first time with Luke. But no such luck. He does make an effort, though too late for me to change my mind about him, to win her back. And just when they were about to step onto that new level of their relationship, the story ends. Just like that. No rhymes or rhythms. I turn the page and there is The End. El Fin.
Whaaaaat? That was the least possible moment that I was expecting to see those words and I wasn’t amused. Nope. I needed MORE. Needed to see Jayne and Luke (bah, if she chose him, I have to be glad with that, Go Jayniee!) together. Not THE Freakin’ END! After slogging through all the talks of Gretchen’s ‘love life’, I don’t get to read Luke and Jayne together. Oh boy. Talk about utter dissatisfaction. Complete heartbreak and a little bit frustration. *sigh*
I still give 4 stars because I loved it for the most part. Come to think of it, the only thing that’d probably make me happy is a spinoff. More Jayne and Luke. More Mooney and Illyria (you gotta read to find out who those two are ;) ). More of the funny dialogues. I’m all in for it!
Saying all these, I DON’T regret reading Neurotica and will recommend to you if you’re in the mood for something light and funny. Luke might not bug you as much and you may find Gretchen more interesting than I did. And I know you’d love Jayne! Don’t let me sway you into not reading this book. I’d say, go ahead and give it a try. Experience it for yourself.
As for me... Dear Author(s), a spinoff, pretty please? :(
PS: Are Farting Franky and Gretchen going to get their own book, I mean as a pair? She seems to think him gorgeous, despite his...... um, anyway, that’d be kinda fun.