So. Chris and Emily grew up together, like RIGHT NEXT DOOR, and then started dating, and I know they aren't blood siblings but they were raised like siblings, so basically the opposite of whatever argument you can make for adult step-siblings dating, which I think is totally fine.
Also, if this is your ex-stepbrother, you hit that.
So, I'm like, Gross. But everyone else in the novel is like, FINALLY. Except Emily, who is like *kills self*
I mean, allegedly, and the whole novel is all, DID CHRIS DO IT? I am here to spoiler you that he did, SORT OF, because she was all, I want to die for reasons I can't tell you (pregnant, really not into sex due to past [secret] child abuse, kind of with me on this whole Being Basically Siblings And That's Sort Of Gross thing) but I can't do it myself, so you shoot me. Ok?
When this all comes out at the end of the novel, the jury is like, Aw, poor guy, he just loved her so much, Not Guilty, and I am like, WHAT, NOT EVEN OF MANSLAUGHTER OR ANYTHING BECAUSE HE PROBABLY ACTUALLY PULLED THE TRIGGER AS WELL AS BEING THE ONE WHO BROUGHT THE GUN TO THIS KNIFE FIGHT.
My feels exact.
Needless to say, the parents (formerly bffs) are all tore up, and Em's mom blames Chris' mom and NO ONE IS FRIENDS ANYMORE and everyone behaves exactly as you would make them behave if you were being super lazy and obvious about character motivations.
And I hesitate to keep saying things like 'Her editor drinks!' because her editor is a living, breathing human being, one who has probably been driven to drink by lines like 'that exotic element, which James suddenly recognized as the sweet, heated scent of a lie', and that causes her to miss things like 'redolent with the scent of coffee' (so...exuding the scent of the scent of coffee?) or when a casual smoker smokes an entire cigarette over five rapid lines of dialogue, but there is no excuse for an inappropriate semi-colon three sentences in. You have to have more stamina than that.
And Jo-Pi wants things to happen, but she refuses to do the work to set up circumstances in which they WOULD happen. Like, Chris is on his swimmer's mark, puts on his goggles (among other things), and then finds Emily in the crowd and winks at her. We are in Emily's POV right now, and as much as it communicates about the nature of Chris and Em's relationship to have him wink (literally nothing that hasn't already been established ad nauseum), I refuse to buy that you can see someone wink through swimmer's goggles, at a distance.
Or, Em's dad is going to grab champagne on NYE and 'It's 11:26, he thought, unaware that the Timex's batteries had died just moments before. I'll run back to the condo and get a bottle of wine. But it was actually two minutes before midnight.' Total DUN DUN DUNNNNN after that last line because she's trying to sound portentous but your numbers have to actually line up. If his Timex had JUST stopped at 11:26, it is currently, at the latest, 11:27. For him to stay gone, he needs to think he has time, but it needs to be closer to midnight, so that he catches Chris and Em kissing, but his watch COULD have stopped half an hour ago instead of 'just moments.' Easy fix, ok? Ok.
Or a giant poster of Emily is hung up during her memorial, 'a trick of the light making her gaze spookily follow students in the audience.' SPOOKY, RIGHT? WHAT COULD IT SPOOKILY MEAN? Oh, that's just how most straight-on portraits seem to do, usually? It's just a perspective thing? Ok.
And the metaphors, the imagery, the ADJECTIVES. I can't even. Chris's mom takes him to Emily's grave, and he kisses it, obviously, and then they're driving home and his 'mouth was ringed with a lipstick of soil as branding as any kiss.' Kisses. So branding, right? I mean, that's how cowboys marked their cattle in 1998. Or 'Just because you can't see the wound doesn't mean it isn't hurting. It scars all the time, but it heals.' Either make a point about some wounds being invisible, or about healing. Also, scarring is a form of healing, and 'scars' is a super-weird continuous verb to use here.
And when she isn't being Extra Creative, she's mad lazy. The lawyer (who, I think, pops up in other books. I recognized his tall, beautiful, yet STILL SOMEHOW COMPETENT OMG assistant) gets a call from his client late one evening and has to kick a woman out of bed and she's like, Srsly? And he actually literally says, 'It's a job, but someone's got to do it.' I think he probably means 'It's a rough job' or 'a dirty job' or 'a job where I sometimes get called late at night.' At any rate, he should probably have his Crime Fighter's Phrasebook updated.
Anyway, like I said, not the worst Jodi-P (that was probably Salem Falls. GOOD LORD, that book) but weirdly boring, despite or maybe because of that. Five and a half caterpillars.