Judging a Book by it’s Cover and Other Reading Sins

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

I have been fooled…twice. Recently I attempted to describe Poughkeepsie to my author friend and her response was “You have to stop judging the book by its cover.”  She is right of course and this is the second time in recent memory that my head has been turned by a pretty face, or cover if you will. In my defense The Edge of Never is on pretty much everyone’s TBR list these days and it does have an impressive rating on Goodreads of 4.46 out of 5 based on 44,392 responses as of the publication of this blog.

Granted I took a bit of a risk on Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia and I came up “snake eyes” on this one. It was that dang artistic black and white styled photo on the cover that got me …again.

Poughkeepsie Cover Art

Each day, Livia McHugh smiles politely and acknowledges her fellow commuters as she waits for the train to the city. She dismisses this kindness as nothing special, just like her. She’s the same as a million other girls—certainly no one to be cherished. But special or not, she smiles every day, never imagining that someone would rely on the simple gesture as if it were air to breathe.

Debra Anastasia has taken a risk in tackling such volatile subject matter, a homeless man is a unlikely choice for a romantic hero. For this I admire her even if I have serious doubts about the veracity of her storytelling.  Blake Hartt is homeless and “lives” at the subway station that Livia uses to attend graduate classes in Psychology each day. Livia is kindness personified and smiles at everyone, when a group of teenagers begin tormenting the homeless man she has nicknamed “Green Eyes” in her mind, she cannot resist coming to his defense, and so it begins.

There are many things that I found troubling about Poughkeepsie. I think what concerned me most about this story is the fact that Blake is delusional, he believes that he is made of glass and that if he comes out of the shadows and into the light his darkness will be apparent to all. These beliefs are symptomatic of a somatic delusional disorder, a serious and rare mental illness and personally I find the idea that  Livia’s love alone could heal him contentious.

Imagine someone attempting to talk themselves out of having heart disease or diabetes? Mental illnesses are often organic and result from chemical imbalances in the brain. Typical treatment for a disorder of this nature is cognitive behavioral therapy and prescription anti-psychotics! Rather than seeking professional help, which I would think would be the first step from any self respecting graduate student Livia on the ridiculous advice from one of her professors “waits for him to come to her”.

Assuming that her love has achieved the miraculous and healed Blake, he is not the only character with issues in this story. Blake is one of three foster brothers, even the author acknowledges that their description is farcical, one of whom is a unofficial priest in training and the other a criminal. Added into the mix are Livia’s sister’s abandonment issues, Eve’s, Beckett’s number one henchman, nefarious plans and a stalker ex-boyfriend. Each characters’ bucket load of emotional problems would keep a psychiatrist busy for quite some time.

I read Poughkeepsie in horrified fascination, I have chosen not to rate this story as I am at a loss as how to even begin to evaluate it. What I will say is that this story has a schmaltzy quality that captures the reader and despite my disquiet over the gross over simplification of the issue of mental illness and the ridiculous amount of melodrama I doubt I will be able to resist reading Return to Poughkeepsie when it comes out in December.

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One thought on “Judging a Book by it’s Cover and Other Reading Sins”

  1. lol… I know how it is with books like those… when they’re not as good as they should be but you have to know what happens next… in some books I’ve actually just gone ahead and read spoilers so I don’t have to actually sit through the story but I at least know how it went… but yeah covers are an important thing… I’ve changed mine 3 times now to make it more eye catching… because even if you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover… it is the first thing you see and may be the very thing that either causes you to pick it up or leave it to gather dust on a shelf…

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