In Ruins – Danielle Pearl

Carleigh (Carl) and Tucker have been friends since they’ve been kids. Then they fell in love. Now they’re barely speaking. This is the narrative of Danielle Pearl’s New Adult (but we’ll talk about that later) novel In Ruins. Told in the voices of both Carl and Tuck, the novel unravels scenes from the pair’s childhood, their tentative relationship, and their love story, but it leaves the details of their breakup – something big, something Carl feels she’ll never be forgiven for – until near the end.

The story begins when Carl starts her first year of college. Carl is feeling unsettled about being at school, mostly because Tuck is also there (on a lacrosse scholarship – I guess lacrosse is cool in the States) and their relationship had “implode[d] before summer was out.” Now, when she should be excited about her classes, and the parties and being away from her mother, Carl is walking “on eggshells, because Tucker knows my secret. He hates me for it, and he should.”

Tucker, for his part, is

angry that she’s here. I’m angry that she’s not who I thought she was. I’m angry that she’s beautiful, and that my teammates have already noticed her. I’m angry that she ran out of that bar alone last night when she should fucking know better. I’m angry that she still affects me – that my dick doesn’t seem to care whether or not she’s a conniving little liar.

Carl and Tuck are hoping to avoid each other, but they end up in the same Marketing class and before you can say “of course they do” they end up working on a group project. Their feelings are complicated and try as they might to bury them deep, it’s just not possible. But that’s how these stories work, right? And I think, overall, Pearl does a good job of stringing us along, even though we know the “will they won’t they” will ultimately be “of course they will”. There’s lots of other stuff happening here, too: family drama, absent parents, and even some fast-paced intrigue near the end. Overall, I did enjoy reading In Ruins and found it to be well-written and, on the Scoville scale of hotness, it’s about Trinidad Scorpion Butch T hot. I might have rated it higher except….I didn’t believe any of the sex scenes.

I was eighteen about a million years ago – but eighteen-year-old boys like Tucker did NOT exist. I teach high school. There are zero Tucks. There are zero Carleighs, for that matter. Tuck is a gigolo-grade eighteen year old. He’s physically perfect (although I could have done with a little less of his army green eyes), but we sort of expect an idealized version of our main characters in this kind of story. The things I couldn’t get past were the dirty talk and just Tuck’s general skill, which is porn star amazing. I suppose this book counts as NA because of the age of the characters and the fact that it is set in college, but I wouldn’t put it in my classroom library, mostly because I don’t want to give teenage girls unrealistic expectations about what sex is like. There is also so much swearing. It’s irksome. I like a well-placed F bomb, too, but geesh.

Neverthless, if I was going to suggest a quick, decently written, smutty book to read In Ruins would probably fit the bill. It’s far better (by a country mile) than Corrupt.

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