If there’s one thing I’m ashamed of when it comes to my reading habits, it’s that I make judgements about books quickly, and it’s often hard to change my first impressions of them. If I don’t enjoy the first few chapters, there’s not a great chance that the rest of the book will turn it into a five-star read, no matter how phenomenal or compelling the last two thirds might be. Whether the book be boring or confusing or just lack that special something in the beginning, those impressions linger with me. It’s a little bit different if I absolutely hate the first few chapters, because then I’ll just put the book down. First impressions matter, and here’s why.
India Maxwell hasn’t just moved across the country—she’s plummeted to the bottom rung of the social ladder. It’s taken years to cover the mess of her home life with a veneer of popularity. Now she’s living in one of Boston’s wealthiest neighborhoods with her mom’s fiancé and his daughter, Eloise. Thanks to her soon-to-be stepsister’s clique of friends, including Eloise’s gorgeous, arrogant boyfriend Finn, India feels like the one thing she hoped never to be seen as again: trash.
But India’s not alone in struggling to control the secrets of her past. Eloise and Finn, the school’s golden couple, aren’t all they seem to be. In fact, everyone’s life is infinitely more complex than it first appears. And as India grows closer to Finn and befriends Eloise, threatening the facades that hold them together, what’s left are truths that are brutal, beautiful, and big enough to change them forever…
Unfortunately, one of the books I was most looking forward to reading this month left me with a bad first impression, and that book was The Impossible Vastness of Us. I wasn’t able to connect to the protagonist in the beginning, and because of that, I felt no sort of connection with her. I didn’t empathise with her, and that’s something that I find integral in a novel. My first impressions of her told me that she was an annoying, spoilt brat who was disappointed she was leaving her popularity behind to go and live in a mansion with her mother and her fiancé. I mean, I’d be annoyed at having to leave my friends too, but it just made the protagonist sound really superficial and stuck-up.
The second thing that really put me off this book in the beginning was that it reeked of white privilege. Yes, I’m white and I recognise my privilege, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognise it elsewhere too. I feel like I’ve read enough novels with a cast of minimal diversity set in affluent areas of America, and I’m more interested in reading about novels that will expand my worldview and allow me to empathise with people with identities, and living in situations, different to my own. I hated the superiority that the people born into rich families showed, and the way they presumed that they would get everything they wanted simply because their families were wealthy. Some aspect of this book were quite disgusting in that way, and it infuriated me that some people actually live like that, holding their noses higher than everyone else.
But it was only when I told myself to give this book a chance that I started to enjoy it a bit more. I found that my first impressions of these characters didn’t exactly amount to who they were beneath their facades, and I enjoyed getting to know them more throughout the narrative. That’s not to say they all transformed into adorable munchkins. They were all flawed and made some infuriating decisions, but it was nice to see them fleshed out as the novel progressed and to realise that they weren’t just the one-dimensional characters we were introduced to in the beginning. I didn’t love any of them, particularly because of the first impressions they left with me, but I didn’t hate them.
Possibly what I liked most about this book was how there was deeper topics that were weaved in throughout the narrative that I never expected to be there. This book isn’t just about gossip and scandal and drama, like I first perceived. There’s hints at something deeper going on throughout the narrative, and I really enjoyed seeing issues such as mental illness and abuse being spoken about later in the story. The fact that everyone had secrets that slowly began to emerge also made this novel not as superficial as it first appeared to be — there was a depth about it that I never expected, and I was pleased that my first impressions weren’t all-encompassing of the book.
Ultimately, The Impossible Vastness of Us is a book that might appeal to you if you’re interested in reading about rich people with secrets or want something with a bit of Pretty Little Liar vibes, but without the murder. I’m pleased that this book wasn’t what I first expected it to be like, and that proves that my first impressions can often be false. Secrets, scandal and drama are just a few of the things that await you in this new novel.
Have you read The Impossible Vastness of Us yet? Are you quick to make judgements about books? Do you find that your first impressions stick with you? What’s one book you recently put down you didn’t enjoy the first few chapters? I’d love to know!
Thanks to Harlequin Australia for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Cactus images in header sourced from plaidgecko on Creative Market.
Open book used in header sourced from Download Clipart.