on 5 July 2011
The story is intriguing: on the surface it focusses on the idea of open relationships: the first third or so dealing with how Adam sets up his roster, his honesty around his relationships, and issues that crop up when inconvenient truths which were always at the corner of their eyes come square into his girls' field of vision. The different reactions Gretchen, Cassandra, Jill and Bethany have to being on the "roster" make for some humorous and emotive moments. At its heart, this is a book about judging people by your own standards and values, and the dangers and fascination of attempting to influence them to conform to your view of what they should be. Although the main conflict appears to be between Adam's concept of love and Bethany's, the real conflict comes from the two characters pulling at each other, trying to change each other to get the resolution they want. The conflict resolution is unexpected but extremely satisfying,
The protagonist, Adam, is a man you both love and hate. Smooth, affluent and charming his attitude towards his "roster" girls, and his cynical pick-up routine initially made me despise him, but his honesty and "I am what I am" philosophy was both engaging and endearing. Most of the other characters are infatuated with Adam in some way, but one by one they become disillusioned and end up hating him. Adam gets a lot of anger directed at him during the course of the story, which guides the reader along the path of hating him. It is refreshing that towards the end one of the characters unexpectedly takes Adam's side, and mitigates the vitriol with something much more gentle.
Bethany, Adam's love interest, is the voice of convention. She falls in love with Adam and tries to persuade him to adopt a life of monogamy. Bethany's main concern is that she not appear "judgmental". Adam tries to show her that being judgmental is perfectly human and OK. In the first half of the book, Bethany is set up as someone who is extremely beautiful and intelligent, a paragon of female beauty. The second half deconstructs that image somewhat, and shows Bethany to be as flawed as many of the characters she tries-and fails- not to judge.
All in all, a wonderful, funny, challenging exploration of the rules of romantic relationships.