By the time we are 20-years-old, many of us have had one or two relationships under our belts. Our quests for love are often wonderful learning experiences and, if we’re lucky, these relationships (platonic or romantic) can last a lifetime. But what about those of us that aren’t so lucky; those of us that have been in relationship after failed relationship, or have simply had no romantic relationships at all?
In self-published author Stacey Springob’s debut novel, What I Learned From Never Having A Boyfriend, she tackles the topic of love but from a fresh perspective: Springob has, as you guessed from the title, never had a boyfriend being only mere months away from turning the big 2-0. While many people, adults especially, will no doubt say that she has the rest of her life to fall in love, Springob looks at things a little differently and states so in her book. Instead of fixating on the negative like many people her age would, she has not only learned valuable lessons from her own unsuccessful relationships but also those relationships she has seen around her. Thus is the basis of what appears to be a self-help memoir.
As the book progresses, Springob recounts various stories from her young life. Whether it is her own personal experiences or her perspective of a friend’s situation, each story and coincidingly each chapter provides a lesson learned and a takeaway or two for the reader. Springob's theories and opinions involving honesty, respect, self-love, having life beyond a relationship, and more in What I Learned From Never Having A Boyfriend are no doubt excellent concepts worth knowing by any individual. However, it is the execution in which we receive them that my qualms with the book come to light.
Although I did agree with many of the points that Springob made in What I Learned From Never Having A Boyfriend, I had difficulty finding the motivation to finish reading the book once I started. As a writer myself and Springob being a fellow journalism student, I admittedly began reading this book with somewhat higher expectations of its content quality and presentation - things that a person who is embarking on a career of storytelling should always pay attention to. I was willing to give it a chance regardless of my instincts, but those instincts are ultimately what I should have listened to.
It becomes obvious pretty quickly that this book was penned by a younger writer; I have nothing against younger authors, but sometimes details just pop out that display their age. The somewhat limited vocabulary, with the contradictory wordiness used to tell an easy story that I recognized by chapter one, combined even further with the way she describes approaching her various potential love interests - by how “hot” he is and other seemingly shallow methods - only strengthens the belief that she shouldn’t exactly be giving advice about love and relationships. Many of these opinions she writes about, from my perspective as an older woman in the same situation as Springob, are things many of us already know without having been in a relationship. I did consider most of Springob’s theories to be good advice despite the reader’s relationship status, as they apply to life in general. But regardless of what type of lessons the book includes, the ways in which Springob came to realize those lessons, as well as many of the observations of her and her friend’s love lives, were unfortunately partially closed-minded, slightly rude, preachy, and sometimes even naive. Love advice from a younger individual, for younger individuals, was possibly a good idea… but reading this book reminds me why advice should be left to lovers that are a bit more experienced.
As a reader, What I Learned From Never Having A Boyfriend was not really my cup of tea. As a writer, I was even more critical. It didn’t take me long to want to further edit her work or make me wonder who she had helping her in the first place. While reading, I was mentally placing in better/stronger words, moving around punctuation, and fixing sentence structures. This is not necessarily deal-breakers for other leisure readers, but I felt that the quality of writing (or lack thereof) hindered my ability to read it and enjoy it, which is saying something coming from an avid reader and bibliophile.
Most importantly, I wanted to remove all of the apologies: apologies for having standards, apologies for having opinions, apologies for her way of life, apologies that as a writer are entirely unnecessary. When it comes to writing non-fiction, Springob should be standing behind her work 100 percent rather than constantly repeating the fact that her book is a work of opinion, or saying sorry for being a bitch or any other “insert a negative adjective here” type of person (“bitter” is one used often) within each chapter. The key to a successful opinions piece is your confidence in what you’re saying, and Springob only partially has that confidence despite any written portrayal saying otherwise. There is no need to be negate your statement about being a woman that knows what she wants with things like “I don’t mean to be a _____,” and Springob once again demonstrates her own inexperience. Her lack of good transitional sentences and concrete details, like only guesstimating the length of her parents marriage when she could have easily just asked them, only further tarnishes and discredits her work. From a writer’s perspective, little things like this are crucial, even first time authors; it can exhibit the deficient amount of time and effort spent on the book, despite any claims to the contrary.
In the face of my criticism, What I Learned From Never Having A Boyfriend does have a few rays of light that shine through the muck of Springob’s writing. These statements are fantastic theories if you’re able and willing to make your way through the book to find them - statements such as “Good things take time to come together” found at the very end of the book, “Love is respect, not jealousy,” or even the entire chapter about loving yourself - but the trouble is getting to those parts in the first place. They had the potential to redeem the book, but the surrounding mess of stereotypes, cliches, judgements, and constant wishing she was in a relationship overshadows most, if not all, of them.
What I Learned From Never Having A Boyfriend is a fast read for those who would like to support new, self-published authors and are willing to give the book a chance. But for those of us that are prolific readers or have professions related to writing, editing, or book publishing, Springob’s debut falls short.
Genre: Non-fiction, Biography
First published April 6, 2014 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
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