My rating: 1 of 5 stars
*Thank you Speak Now for sending me an ARC of this book (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.*
I am quite afraid as to how I should write this critique. The urge to be harsh is boiling in my veins, demanding to be unleashed through the written word. However, given that the protagonist of this book has a mental problem, I shall try to be objective and at least tone down my flaring disappointment.
If I were to be honest, what really persuaded me to read When In Rome…Find Yourself (the title’s such a mouthful) was its supposed similarity to one of my favorite novels this year, Love & Gelato. Both of these books are love stories set in beautiful Italy, but that’s where the similarities end. To simply put it, my feelings for them are on opposite sides of the spectrum.
Rory, the former’s protagonist, suffered from a debilitating case of anxiety. Consequently, although she was already 21 years old, she still acted like an immature teenager. Throughout the book, readers are bombarded with Rory’s irrational and overwhelming worries. She continuously worried about what other people think of her, whether they be close to her or not. To make matters worse, her mental disorder caused her to assume the worst of her peers. Thus, she never hesitated to compromise her entire identity according to their wishes just to prevent any form of altercation. Basically, Rory had no backbone, and it was utterly pathetic, if not downright annoying. I couldn’t believe how she went to such drastic lengths to attain a sense of belonging.
When Rory started to fall in love Ned, her handsome and stoned housemate, I began to hope that I would finally become invested in the story. Unfortunately, any positive feelings I had were immediately crushed by the frivolity of their romance. Although Rory and Ned’s relationship wasn’t another manifestation of instalove (it was more like a case of delayed gratification), I had a difficult time processing their reasons for eventually wanting each other. It was briefly explained that Ned was the only person with whom Rory could finally be herself. However, I beg you to answer this question: is that really enough to warrant the blessing of falling in love? I’ve never had a girlfriend, but I believe that there’s this group of people who will (should) always love you for who you are: your family.
Looking at the bright side, this book had character development. Be that as it may, it was very frustrating because it only happened in the last three chapters. Rory suddenly grew a fragile backbone, finally capable of standing up to her paranoid family and fake friends. And for goodness’s sake, her maturity was WAY OVERDUE as an adult. I was expecting more substantial kinds of growth to happen, and it was all to no avail.
Overall, I would not recommend When in Rome…Find Yourself to my fellow fans of Love & Gelato. The comparison is honestly misleading and preposterous. I was happy to have another vicarious glimpse of Italy, but I really did not feel so concerned about Rory and her collection of exaggerated problems. If this book was meant to evoke sympathy for people with mental disabilities, then it succeeded in doing the opposite.