If this book were a person, and had it introduced itself to me, I would have felt exceptionally positive towards it, like a Sim™ with a whole string of ++++ above my head. I love the cover, I love the copy, I love the premise. It makes an excellent first impression.
This is a friends-to-lovers story, the kind where one of the two buddies (in this case, Zach) has Had It Bad for his best friend and has never let on – despite everyone in his immediate circle of family and friends knowing about The Bad he Has. It's a semi-permanent state of Has It Bad, but his best friend Abigale has no clue.
Zach and Abigale are best friends who go way back: they are both former child stars from a popular tv program that went off the air long ago. Neither of them really kept their Hollywood careers, though Abigale's mother, who is horrible, tried to keep Abigale's career going as best she could.
Abigale has become very hesitant to make friends or accept people, and a lot of that hesitation is due to the fact that repeatedly, people in her life have wanted to be with her because it made them look good to be seen with Abigale, not because they liked Abigale for herself.
When the story opens, Abigale has just figured out that her fiance was one of those people, and has broken up with him. She's feeling really low and crushed – this is one of the wrecks that the title might refer to – and Zach, in his perennial best friend mode, comes over to take care of her.
They have an extraordinary relationship. He has a key and an alarm code, he lies down in bed with her – all his actions suggest a very deep level of comfort and trust. It startled me that Abigale never questioned that she didn't have that same kind of relationship with her fiance, or with anyone else in her life. Had she actually married assmunch the fiance, would she have expected Zach to be as much of a deeply integrated presence in her life? She doesn't seem to have thought much about it. Zach, on the other hand, has, and knew that he had to step aside and let Abigale marry the assmunch, even if it was going to wreck him inside (that'd be potential wreck #2). Lucky for Zach, the engagement is off, and this might be his chance to show Abigale how he feels.
Both Zach and Abigale suffer from unique forms of inertia. Abigale is really stubborn. She doesn't question herself much once a decision has been made. She is one of those determined people who makes a list, then makes a plan, then refuses to deviate from it because once she's made her decision, she sticks to it.
Zach, meanwhile, has adjusted his life based on Abigale's decisions. She moved away from Hollywood to Arizona to get away from her mother and start her own life apart from acting. Zach followed her shortly afterward, “finding” to his “surprise” a perfect location for his dreamed-of tattoo parlor in the same town. Abigale still has no idea she was the real reason for his moving.
I think Abigale was a bit dense at times. Like whoa dense. She never noticed her fiance didn't really know or show any interest in her beyond her role as “Kate” on a long-cancelled tv show. To quote Zach, who gives her the direct and ruthless analysis of her relationship with assmunch:
“…when you walked into a room, that fucking prick was too busy either messing with his damned gadgets or looking at everybody else to see what they thought about you….
He might have loved the idea of being with Kate … but he never loved you.”
So Abigale never noticed that? HOW did she miss that? She clearly has a very strong set of determination blinders: she's determined to get married and have a happy family like she planned, so she refuses to notice that her fiance is a complete dickbag. Oy.
On one hand, ok. Clearly he was an assmunch. But that doesn't speak highly of Abigale's ability to recognize people's motives or protect herself from predatory shitbags. It's a difficult balance, having a character not recognize that someone isn't what they seem, but with Abigale, she fell sometimes too much on the side of dense, ignorant, or determined to wear blinders to keep herself from seeing that things aren't what she wants them to be. After awhile, that wasn't admirable at all, and started to make me frustrated with her.
The status of their relationship begins to change when Zach brings her a gift – a “Wreck this Journal,” which to my surprise turned out to be a real thing. A journal that encourages you to make a mess of it is an odd gift for Abigale, because she likes to be in control of everything. Zach has his role in her life, she has a set number of responsibilities, and she knows what she'll do if she encounters any situation. Her mom calls because yet again she's discovered Abigale's number (which Abigale changes regularly)? She ignores the call. Cranky chef in her catering business? She knows how to handle it. She's recognized by a fan of the show? She knows exactly what she'll say and do. She likes the control and predictability of knowing her lines, so to speak.
Now she has to start over and is forced to notice things she may not have wanted to see – including parts of herself. Zach's gift helps with that part, because making a mess is part of using the journal. (Wreck #3!)
Zach has been following in Abigale's wake for so long that he spends a lot of the time in the story reacting to her, trying to figure out if now, maybe in a minute, ok wait, maybe NOW is the time to act on his feelings. Hence the journal – he wants her to try a different pattern. And when he accidentally reads the journal and discovers that Abigale wants to have a fling with someone, he sets himself up as the perfect fling, hoping that while flinging themselves into one another, he'll be able to tell her, or maybe she'll figure it out.
The title is mostly based on the idea that pursuing a relationship would wreck their friendship (wreck #4), and if the relationship didn't work out, they'd have nothing. Well, Zach would have some things, but he'd be miserable. Abigale would have no one left. She does not have a ton of close friends, she's by necessity estranged from her mother, and Zach's family has become her family of sorts over the years. So part of the tension between them originates from the very real fear that changing their friendship to More Than Friends would end up destroying everything they have. It's an understandable fear.
The other part of the tension is the number of characters who are in various stages of ticked off that Abigale has never noticed Zach's feelings for her. There's the tension based on her not knowing and how could she not, and the tension based on her possible reaction once she finds out that Zach has been hiding something from her for years (“how could he do that?!”), and the tension based on what will happen once everyone's feelings are known (wreck #5). It was confusing and sometimes frustrating for me, figuring out why some characters were annoyed with Zach, and others were annoyed with Abigale. There were a lot of people who were very involved in the status – or non-status – of their relationship.
If you were to ask me what I thought of this book, I'd start with a list of things I liked, especially the characters and their amazing attraction and chemistry, and then I'd say, “but….” Here are the three main “buts” that drove me bonkers:
1. There is a heavy-handed bit of symbolism involving one of Zach's tattoos which was telegraphed so far in advance that by the time it was figured out, I thought a bit less of everyone, including Zach and Abigale.
2. Speaking of Zach's tattoos, Abigale is fascinated with them, even as she tells herself she shouldn't be paying attention to Zach's body that way. The reader knows she wants to touch and explore his tattoos because she says it over and over and then chastises herself for wanting to do so.
But aside from that one important tattoo that I mentioned above, the reader never hears about any of the others, and Zach has many. If it was so important that Abigale went over her desire to see and touch his tattoos up close, I expected to hear more about the individual tattoos, what they were, where they were, how they connected to one another, and why those particular pieces of art were on his skin.
The metaphor of how well Abigale really knows Zach is sewn into the tattoos. He wears his desires and emotions in plain sight, but hidden, and given how much Abigale was focused on all the art on his body, only hearing about one was disappointing. She says at one point that she wants to look at them closely for hours. I was ok with this idea! Yes, please! That would be hot and so revealing of his character and hers, especially since he's chosen to wear his art permanently visible to just about everyone. That moment I was anticipating, the tattoo tour of Zach's body, never happened, and I was bummed about it. It was a delicious plot thread that never happened.
3. Holy damn. Damned damn damning all over the damn place. Per the search feature on my Kindle, the word “damn” is used over 260 times in this book. Every page has something that is X damn Y. It is So Damn Repetitive. Damn is a dead adjective to me now. So much damning it's damn distracting. Damn damn damn.
Despite the “buts,” Zach and Abigale had a wonderful friendship, a relationship that I loved learning about and so admired. They play varied roles in one another's lives, and despite Zach's suppressed feelings, they have wonderful chemistry. They really were friends, deep and meaningful friends, and they took care of one another. I liked Abigale and Zach so much, I wanted to see how their story would end, so I was determined to ignore all the irritating parts.
I understood so much of the reasoning that kept Abigale from even thinking about her desire for Zach; if she didn't have him as her friend any more, she'd be lost. Her friendship with him is the most important thing: he was her family, his family was her family, and she no longer had him, she'd be lost. So I understood her desire to have a fling and her unwillingness to risk their friendship. And I understood how and why Zach had kept his feelings to himself. I loved how Zach was described, how tattooing and designing tattoos was part of his character, both in the sense that he had a lot of tats, and that his creative strength was designing art to fit a moment in a person's life, or to capture a change as a visual symbol for someone. He is very talented, and Abigale loves the way his body looks with all the art inscribed upon it.
I was rooting for their relationship to change, and I was rooting for them both. Wrecked is a sweet and sexy story that, despite some repetitive flaws, was charming and fun to read.