Review: The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis

The Temptation of Adam
by Dave Connis

Adam Hawthorne is fine.

Yeah, his mother left, his older sister went with her, and his dad would rather read Nicholas Sparks novels than talk to him. And yeah, he spends his nights watching self-curated porn video playlists.

But Adam is fine.

When a family friend discovers Adam’s porn addiction, he’s forced to join an addiction support group: the self-proclaimed Knights of Vice. He goes because he has to, but the honesty of the Knights starts to slip past his defenses. Combine that with his sister’s out-of-the-blue return and the attention of a girl he meets in an AA meeting, and all the work Adam has put into being fine begins to unravel.
Now Adam has to face the causes and effects of his addiction, before he loses his new friends, his prodigal sister, and his almost semi-sort-of girlfriend.

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Expected Publication date:  November 7th 2017
Source/Format: eARC via Netgalley
Pre-order links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Indiebound | Book Depository
My Rating: ★★☆☆☆

My Thoughts:
Adam Hawthorne, receives an eighty-day suspension from school because he has done a thing revealed much later in the narrative. His disciplinary outline requires him to attend addiction group meetings, participate in a smaller forum of teen addicts and regularly go to Mr. Cratcher’s house to record a music album. In the duration of his suspension, Adam met fellow addicts Mark, Trey and Elliot, who call themselves Knights of Vice, and got involved with this girl, Dez.

I initially got excited upon reading the synopsis of “The Temptation of Adam” because porn addiction is a subject rarely tackled in YA. The book mostly revolves around this question: Can a broken person deserve love? The question it poses is interesting enough and the book has something to say about self-acceptance but it’s bogged down by a bunch of disappointing elements.

The book lost its focus from Adam’s redemption and romance plot because of elements thrown in that does not give much value. For one, it shoehorns music that does not feel organic to the characters. The reader is not given much to believe that the characters are talented enough to play instruments or work in music. Halfway through, the characters decide to hop on a road trip searching for a MacGuffin that does not yield anything much in the end. Mr. Cratcher is introduced as a seemingly important character then dropped out of the pages for a long time to give way to the said road trip. And the next time he is mentioned, we don’t even get to meet the guy in person.

The book has a tendency to repeat itself on a lot of things. Adam has a recurring nightmare that gets described too many times. Honestly when it’s dream sequence description time, I want to take a nap myself because I already got it, son: Adam has mommy abandonment issues. Dez repeatedly denies that she is a manic pixie dream girl. What’s eye-roll inducing here is she did not do anything much to prove that she is not a MPDG except to say it over and over again. The romantic plot is a cycle of Adam wooing Dez, Dez seemingly reciprocating his feelings only for her to pull away at the last minute because a.) they will just “consume” each other b.) kick addiction first before entering a relationship c. a variation of a and b junk.

Speaking of Dez, let me say it straight: I don’t like her. Her mercurial attitude is irritating. I think her character suffers in trying so hard to be cutting-edge. One moment she aspires to be the antithesis of MPDG, – a feat she miserably failed – next moment she is a rich white teenager suffering from the cool girl syndrome. Sometimes, she puts up an “I don’t care” facade. Other times, she wants drama. Even the supposedly redeeming things she do – like not wanting the comforts of beng a rich kid or when she spews feminist stuff – are a bit off for her. She was injected with too much personality, it’s brain-frying.

An addiction story is mostly a self battle of wills and there is not enough showcase of that in the book because the narrative is very plot-driven. Adam is basically just reacting to what the plot is serving him. The plot points move from one point to another without a clear direction, so that’s another problem. I think the book is aware of its aimless wandering; like there are scenes during the road trip part when the characters are not even doing anything. The book compensates by overselling the drama with Adam’s self-pity and Dez’s rich kid problems.

There is also an attempt to add a humorous tone but that fell short. One example is the banters betwen Adam and Dez which have the potential to be witty but unfortunately almost always ends up in drama and volatile conversations. When the characters are laughing, I feel like I’m out of the loop from an inside joke or something. Adam is jokey, he managed to make me snort a few times but I don’t like it when he mimics Gollum. He could be trying to be funny while trying to convey the turmoil inside him, but it did not induce any laughs from me.

Other stuff that did not work for me: characters finding things they need or meeting the right people to talk to is too convenient. The book’s commentary on sexism, racism, consumerism and other –isms are too on the nose and did not fit seamlessly with the story. The resolution to Adam’s strained relationship with his mom was truncated and solved out of the pages. The thing that made him suspended from school was addressed haphazardly. Adam was all weepy and emotional about it but he did not made me feel anything. I am not really invested in the romantic relationship between Adam and Dez in the first place and nothing really made me care until the end.

I imagine that an addiction story is inherently frustrating because the reader is whirled right in the middle of a character’s psyche with a mad cycle of recovery and relapse. But that is good frustration. “The Temptation of Adam” is a bad kind of frustration for me because of its confusing, repetitive and contrived plot elements. I do not doubt that the book has it’s heart at the right place but there are just too many things that obstructed its path to the thoughts and idea that it wants to convey.

Diversity Watch:
Adam and Dez are white.
Trey, one of the Knights of Vice teens, is El Salvadorian.
Mr. Cratcher’s wife Gabby is black.
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