Book Review: Acts of Desperation is a Sad Girl book

Book rating: ⭐⭐⭐

The book in one sentence: A young woman goes to obsessive, tragic lengths to win and sustain the affections of an elusive young man. It’s not a happy ending.

Read if: You’re wondering what it feels like to be in an addictive, toxic relationship, akin to what I imagine would be Amber Heard and Johnny Depp’s disastrous marriage.

Book length: 288 pages. It would be a short read if I didn’t need to consistently put it down and recover from its sad and sadistic overtones—and I do like tragic characters.

Initial Impressions

The best thing about this book is its wonderful writing. Nolan conveys powerful emotion with simple language. That makes the story easy to read, and easy to feel.

What’s strange is that some of the commentary circulating this novel involve “female rage” and “unhinged female behavior”, which are terms I would definitely attach to A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers. Acts of Desperation is domineering documentation of a woman with a feeble mind driven to madness for her desire to be loved by a man. Surprisingly, I did not find this book more relatable, considering that I’ve had my fair share of experiences with unrequited love as a teen. I may have had a mismatch of expectations going into the novel.

Character Commentary

Neither of the main characters in this book is lovable despite their tremendous flaws. Our unnamed protagonist is a very Sad Girl. She falls in love with a very Sad and Narcissistic Boy named Cirian (fun fact: his name means “little dark one”). They have a go, sparks fly, but the crash and burn come as quickly as the ignition.

I struggled to relate to the main character’s thoughts and feelings for most of the book. Sometimes I would read her monologue, her explanations for wanting to do things, and find myself thinking: All for a boy? But I suppose that is the point. She will do anything to be the sole proprietor of his affections and desire. It is probably what at least one of our friends has thought about us while we endure a breakup or hangup of sorts.

My biggest complaint with our main character is her lack of motive. Yes, she is inebriated with attachment for Cirian. Any further than that, and she feels hollow. There is really nothing else about her to drive this madness. But again, perhaps that is Nolan’s point. She just felt very flat, so I can’t even imagine how this would play out on screen were it to have a film adaptation.

However, I will say this: I find Nolan’s portrayals of male rejection and betrayal in Cirian’s character normal. Whether the accuracy is a disappointment or not remains an internal debate.

Plot Thoughts

This book isn’t for you if you’re looking for a strong plot to take you from beginning to end. Acts of Desperation is a visceral, agonizing slow burn of a relationship’s demise. It’s rather linear.

While this isn’t strictly a comment on the novel’s plot, I find the cult following of this novel worrisome. Shouldn’t we find it a little alarming that women in their teens to their 30s find toxic, abusive, obsessive relationships highly relatable? What does that say about us, about others, and the way we are handling human relationships? On the other hand, perhaps we should also be grateful that novels expose exactly that sentiment. Awareness of an issue is the precursor to addressing it.

You should also be warned that this novel has plenty of themes of self-harm, violence, substance abuse, and sexual abuse.

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