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Unmasking Zach by Edie Danford
I feel a little torn about this book. I’m not even sure how to start this review because I’m still not sure what I think about the book. On one hand, it was great, one of the better things I’ve read in a while. But on the other hand, I feel like it shouldn’t have worked. And even though it did work, I’m not sure it worked in ways I was totally comfortable with.
So, let’s see. The book starts with our two main characters‐ Zach and Kirby. Zach has a life that seems perfect‐ great family, a start on an excellent education, and his family provides him with everything. Kirby, on the other hand, has a lot of family troubles and no one to depend on but himself. Kirby immediately takes a shine to Zach, but Zach is a little more reserved, until he realizes that he’s completely enamored with Kirby. And the two grow closer when Kirby needs help and has nowhere to turn. Meanwhile, Zach’s starting to figure out that maybe the life he had planned for himself isn’t really what he wants.
It’s a good premise‐ nothing really new, but the author does a great job of crafting a solid, multi‐layered plot. A lot of themes get explored‐ family connections, relationships with friends, differences in wealth and status, thoughts about how Kirby and Zach want to live their lives. Also, the writing is great‐ very easy to slip right into, and the story was so absorbing. I liked this book right off the bat, and I never stopped liking it.
But there was a lot that I just felt didn’t… work. And a lot of those things revolved around Kirby and Zach’s relationship. Since the relationship is the main storyline of the book, this was… problematic.
I had a hard time believing that Zach and Kirby were really in love, or even falling in love. They seem to spend a large chunk of the book either being angry with each other, or not speaking, which, while realistic, probably wouldn’t lead to them turning around and falling in love with each other. It shouldn’t. And it didn’t make sense to me that that was basically what happened. I mean, I found their arguments, and the time they spend away from each other, very realistic, so I liked it. I just didn’t think that, in reality, those things would have led to the romance that develops in the book.
I also felt a bit distant from Zach’s character. It’s Zach who’s the title character of the book, but I felt like he took a backseat to Kirby. So much of a backseat that at times he felt like a backdrop to Kirby’s personality‐ he felt less like a valuable character and more like a way to show who Kirby was and how Kirby felt. And I really liked Kirby and I was interested in him, so, I have to admit, a lot of the time I just went with it. But when it came to Kirby being in love with Zach… since I felt detached from Zach, I also felt detached from Kirby’s affection for him.
I mean, Zach had a great premise as a character. He’s slowly figuring out that he wants different things than he thought, and that his family and friends are smothering him. But his arc as a character is a bit flat. By the end, we, as the readers, are only told that he’s changed. I kind of wished there was some kind of confrontation between him and his family or friends, even something small, that showed that he could stand up for himself and what he wanted. But there never was, and I left the book feeling like maybe he hadn’t changed as much as he should have.
But! Despite all of these things that I just felt didn’t work, I couldn’t dislike the book. At all. I really, really enjoyed it. Even while I shook my head and wondered if what was happening on the page was valid or realistic, I still loved the book. I never wanted to put it down. It was fun and satisfying and sweet and just very, very enjoyable. It was so easy to become immersed in it. I loved how the author took a story that could have been simple and told it in a way that made it complex and interesting. I liked how a lot of things that I expected‐ for Zach’s ex‐boyfriend to be a jerk, for Zach’s church to be a point of discomfort, for Kirby’s family problems to be the focus of his character‐ didn’t happen. The book wasn’t predictable, either.
And, aside from when I sometimes felt disconnected from Zach, I thought the characterization was excellent, as well. Kirby was such a rich character, and I loved reading about him and getting into his head. And the side characters were great, too. Zach’s friends are so alive and real and three‐dimensional, and his sisters, even though they were only in the book for little parts, also felt very real.
So overall, it was flawed, but I loved it anyway. This is the first book by this author that I’ve read, and I have to say that, after meeting Ray and Wyatt in this book, I’m so, so eager to read their story, which appears in the first book in the series. I’d, in fact, love to read anything else this author wrote. There’s a lot of talent here, and a lot to be enjoyed.
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