Series: Caroline & West #1
on January 28, 2014
Genres: adult, contemporary
Pages: 400 pages
Amazon • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads
In Robin York’s sizzling debut, a college student is attacked online and must restore her name—and stay clear of a guy who’s wrong for her, but feels so right.
When Caroline Piasecki’s ex-boyfriend posts their sex pictures on the Internet, it destroys her reputation as a nice college girl. Suddenly her once-promising future doesn’t look so bright. Caroline tries to make the pictures disappear, hoping time will bury her shame. Then a guy she barely knows rises to her defense and punches her ex to the ground.
West Leavitt is the last person Caroline needs in her life. Everyone knows he’s shady. Still, Caroline is drawn to his confidence and swagger—even after promising her dad she’ll keep her distance. On late, sleepless nights, Caroline starts wandering into the bakery where West works.
They hang out, they talk, they listen. Though Caroline and West tell each other they’re “just friends,” their feelings intensify until it becomes impossible to pretend. The more complicated her relationship with West gets, the harder Caroline has to struggle to discover what she wants for herself—and the easier it becomes to find the courage she needs to fight back against the people who would judge her.
When all seems lost, sometimes the only place to go is deeper.
If you’re a reader whose interests tend towards (angsty, challenging, occasionally sweet) romance, I can’t recommend Robin York’s Deeper enough. To be clear, this is absolutely not a book for young readers. Deeper definitely falls into the New Adult genre, and as such, is one of the best New Adult novels that I’ve read in the past year. (My favorite of the year is probably Leah Raeder’s Unteachable, which Wendy reviewed a few months ago.)
Although I’m still trying to find my bearings in NA lit in general, I like Robin York’s work quite a bit. (This is probably because she is also romance writer Ruthie Knox, who is a person you should read if you like contemporary romances.) Anyway. Here’s what I liked about Deeper (despite what seems to me to be an awful-ish title, and not just because it’s also the title of a lesbian romance novel that is crazy bad). If you’re interested in NA and any of this speaks to you, you should give it a read.
What Deeper is about: when college sophomore Caroline breaks up with her ex of three years (amicably, she thinks), her ex releases private, intimate photos of her to the internet at large, along with identifying information (her name, her college, the city she’s from – all the works). Soon, everyone at Caroline’s small college has seen it. The amount of hurt and harm this does is incredible; not only has Caroline been hugely violated by someone she loved, but she has to contend with strangers on the internet being totally awful and the possible destruction of her dreams of becoming a lawyer, just like her dad, and going into politics. She tries to learn how to get the images taken down, but they spread like wildfire; while chasing them down online, she quickly becomes overwhelmed by the incredible censure, nastiness, and sick pleasure she sees in response.
Deeper is “about” revenge porn, but it’s actually about so much more than that. It’s about recovering from the trauma of incredible betrayal at the hands of someone you loved and trusted. Caroline tries to figure out how to make her body and her desires her own again; her ex-boyfriend’s actions turn desire for her into something that’s “always going to be full of that stuff, either because I’m pushing all those words away or because I’m trying to figure out how to make them mine. And I hate that.” It’s about the crazy double standard that women are held to; Caroline’s boyfriend takes a picture of her during sex without her consent and releases it, and she’s the one who gets slut-shamed while he denies all culpability.
It is also about relationships.
We’re introduced to West when he punches Caroline’s awful ex, Nate, in the face. Caroline and West quickly become not-friends who spend all their time together; Caroline’s slow to trust and West doesn’t have much spare time or emotional energy, but they are magnetically drawn to and hyper-aware of each other. While at some moments I worried that their relationship would fit the good-girl-fixes-bad-boy-and-gets-him-to-open-up cliche (yes, it’s a thing; I hyphenated it), the book, I think, mostly doesn’t fall into this trap. There are certainly shades of that in Deeper – West is emotionally withdrawn (for really good reasons) and knows he isn’t “any kind of saint.” On the other hand, Caroline’s been a “good girl” all her life. But the book, for the most part, does a good job of emphasizing how mutually vulnerable both Caroline and West feel (both for reasons and about each other) and of demonstrating how messy, confusing, and painful it is for them to work their way towards both one another and better versions of themselves.
One of my favorite elements of the book was how it emphasizes the importance of a supportive community. Sometimes, romances can become a little claustrophic. (You know! Two people meet and then suddenly the rest of the novel world fades away.) Deeper avoids this nicely by having Caroline develop strong friendships outside the one she shares with West; she gets tricked into becoming a rugby player but quickly discovers that she feels like herself again when she’s playing: she feels “strong and fast, bruised and shaken, surrounded by affectionate solidarity.” The rugby players like her and defend her and welcome her into their community, and they were maybe my favorite characters in the book, after Caroline herself. But what I liked about this was that it also didn’t make Caroline and West’s relationship into one where they “fix” each other; they’re both working on stuff, but finding a community of real friends is equally important for both of them. They can’t do it alone.
(I am also partial to them because they immediately adopt Caroline into their ranks, sing a super raunchy song to her, and oh yeah, one of them is bisexual and it’s just part of the book. Woo!)
While I loved this book – and I do – West wasn’t always my favorite. Which is ok, and works with the book – he’s not supposed to be perfect, and I wouldn’t like him if he were – but there are moments in this book where he does things that are more cruel than I’d like them to be. (And in the sequel, Harder, he does something that I think is totally unconscionable and am still struggling with as a reader.) Part of it is my personal preferences as a romance novel reader – I’m down with alpha heroes, but only if we can have super clear conversations around consent and also if they don’t do things like get angry and lash out. This happens in the book, and West owns up to it, but still. There are these instances where he seems totally insensitive to me (i.e., Caroline is legit upset over the fact that everyone on campus has seen pictures of her naked, and West is like, “Well, I wouldn’t care if everyone saw me naked, blargh!” and totally ignores the fact that, as Caroline reminds him, ‘it’s different for guys. … They’d just think you were, you know, kind of a tool. Or that you had too much to drink. Not that you were worthless“).
That said, I did still really like the book and would recommend it if you’re looking to explore New Adult literature. I didn’t really get into this here, but it’s also really funny and sweet and banter-y in places. Give it a go? Let me know what you think? Try not to roll your eyes at the title of the sequel?