Doing it at: 44%
Catnip: Hot Neighbor; Friends With Benefits; Unlikable Hero; Accidental Pregnancy; Dual Narrative; But it was 99 cents…
Shame Scale: Medium
Fantasy Cast: Nick Bateman & America Ferrara
Zoe is used to taking care of herself and has long ago accepted that if anything bad was going to happen, it was going to happen to her. So when she loses her job over something most bosses would probably be happy with and her life starts going down hill from there she doesn’t expect it to get any better. She certainly didn’t expect any help from the loud jerk next door, but then again she has nothing to lose so puts her trust in him and hopes for the best. What she didn’t expect was the once in a lifetime opportunity that he offers her through an arrangement where they both benefit and no one is supposed to get hurt, but she should have known better because her luck has never been that good.
Like most Bradfords, Trevor has a soft spot for food, but that’s about all. He leads a pretty straightforward life and likes to keep things simple and that includes his relationships. He wants the perfect woman and knows exactly what she’ll be like. So when he discovers much to his horror that he’s thinking about his frumpy little neighbor he decides the best way to get his head straight is by working her out of his system. He’ll keep her around, but only until he finds perfection.
This is the second book in R.L. Mathewson’s ‘Neighbor From Hell’ series. I read the first one, and it was delightfully average. Fun plot, plenty of doing it. A palate cleanser book, basically. I picked up Perfection soon after, and have had it in my ‘to do’ pile for awhile, waiting for day when I needed a quick, reliably fun book with no emotional hangover. Also, it was on a Goodreads list of books with accidental pregnancies and that’s just my kind of catnip. But this book unexpectedly filled me with such all consuming rage…
The story picks up with Zoe getting doused with a giant cup of iced coffee, right before she gets fired from a terrible job. She proceeds to have one of those only-in-books bad days: Dragged out of work by security, car trouble, broken purse strap, broken heel, pouring rain, neighbor in her parking spot… She gets home and is all, fuck it, I’m going to be living out of my car anyways, lets order a giant pizza and chicken fingers. And I’m really empathizing with Zoe as that’s exactly what I’d do. Also – she’s descried as “short, chubby, pale, and plain,” so my brain is all, “this book is about MEEEE!”
This is probably where my troubles with this book all started, because I was starting to take everything that happened to Zoe way too personally.
While Zoe is waiting for the delivery man, she decides to wash her suit, since she’s going to need it for job interviews and it’s covered in iced coffee. Except when she gets to the laundry room, she realizes she left the suit in her apartment and runs back to get it – leaving all her stuff on the washer in the universal “I’m using this” sign.
At this point, Trevor, the titular ‘Neighbor From Hell,’ decides to do some laundry as well. So he removes her basket from the washer, puts his clothes in, and uses the last of her detergent for good measure. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) On his way back to his apartment, the delivery man comes. Trevor proceeds to act like the worst kind of asshole bro, and claims the food for himself (the fact that his whole family has been banned from all delivery restaurants is a running gag throughout the book). Zoe straight up asks him if that’s her food, but Trevor has already decided in his mind that it’s his food since he paid for it, so he #nopes her and heads back to his place to eat it, not giving any fucks. Seriously, his internal dialog is borderline offensive with the level of fucks he’s not giving.
I get that this is just a fun trash book, and obviously we’re expecting Trevor to act like turd, because he’s the Neighbor from Hell and they named the book after him. But at this point, he’s still redeemable. I can still get past most of this with enough character arc. I LOVE the enemies-to-lovers trope.
So finally, Zoe grows a spine and barges into Trevor’s apartment to reclaim her food. She snatches the pizza out of Trevor’s hands and loses her shit, listing off all of the shitty-neighbor things that Trevor does. They get into a tug of war over the pizza box. And then this:
(Trevor) “No. You give me back my chicken tenders.”
Something in him snapped. He wasn’t sure if it was from hunger, the embarrassment from knowing that she could hear him at night, or just the bullshit in general, but he said something that he regretted before the last syllable left his mouth.
“It’s not like you need it.”
I can’t fucking even. I’m pretty sure I shouted, and then called Cleone at work, made her listen to me read the page, and then shouted at her. He’s the absolute worst, right?
Zoe felt her face burn and her eyes water as his words hit home.
“Oh shit….,” he muttered, looking horrified.
Biting back a sob, she carefully placed the box of chicken fingers on top of the pizza box in his hands. “Bon appetite,” she mumbled, heading for the door.
Trevor is pretty much irredeemable to me at this point. Not to mention, this book is in dual narrative, and his internal dialog reveals him to be pretty much the worst douchey bro ‘hero’ in book history. How am I supposed to forgive that? It would require true remorse, groveling, and maybe, I don’t know, GIVING THE PIZZA BACK????
Nope. He does not give the pizza back.
Trevor decides to strike up a conversation through their shared wall and apologizes, but doesn’t even offer to give back the food. Not ok, bro. He does however offer to set her up with an interview at his uncle’s construction company – and then pats himself on the back for it liberally.
Zoe gets the job, and she starts working for Trevor doing his cleaning, running his errands, and packing his lunches. She also develops an eating disorder, and Trevor is all, “Oh sweet, if you’re not going to eat that…?” He does not do anything altruistic for approximately 70% of the book. Even when they start hooking up, Trevor keeps up with the, “I’m just doing her a favor” bit in his head. Zoe is being bullied at work for her weight – he does not stick up for her. They start banging each other’s brains out (this was the part of the book I DID like. No complaints about the banging, it was solid A- level), but Trevor insists they keep their “arrangement” a secret, and pretends they aren’t even friends at work.
Towards the last quarter of the book, Trevor has an epiphany that he’s in love, and does an about face. But there’s no notable punishment. He gets everything he wants. There’s a HEA, and that’s not fair. I hate assholes like that who get everything they want. I wanted him to have a long, painful redemption.
I wanted him to suffer.
So that’s why I’m giving this one a C. It is ridiculous and I’m taking this way too personally, but as you may have guessed, I’m like the teacher who was bullied as a child, and takes it out on all the football players in her class by giving them bad grades and calling them stupid.