“I’m Not A Stalker” found quick fame on Wattpad and I can see why: a quick story told through a series of emails and texts about what happens when a girl accidentally hits “reply all” and finds herself in the center of a torrent of gossip and (not so) secret admirers? Telling the whole story of Anissa, the main character, trying to figure out who the secret admirer is while dodging nosy classmates and a kind of douche ex-boyfriend through emails and texts works great in a blog / serial format, where the story is more of a guilty-pleasure popcorn munching tale. But when you put all of that in a traditional book format, the charm of it being such a unique format ran out rather quickly, at least for me. Plus, with the title, part of me was hoping for a little of a psycho-thriller aspect to it. I’ve hit “reply all” on important emails before, and the fear and anxiety that comes with that is nothing to laugh at! But none of that is in this story so… don’t worry?
Perhaps it was just me, but the novelty of the format ran out really fast, which left me getting more and more annoyed with Anissa. When all you ever see of her, or anyone else for that matter, is through her email responses, she’s not a very likeable character, especially with how she interacts with some of her classmates early on in the book (and at the very end when she makes a character’s tragic accident all about her!). For me, at least, when all I am presented with is back and forth conversations in emails, I never develop feelings for these characters and they all sort of blended together after a while. This made the characters and the setting feel overly generic, so I never felt all that connected to even the setting as the reader is never shown the college or the kids, you are just told that they are college freshmen, and I needed a bit more than that to really get invested. Anissa and her secret admirer also lost some points with me when all the clues and guesses he was providing her with felt more like a bad horoscope then a legitimate show of “look how well I know you in a totally not (but still kind of) creepy way!” I mean seriously, one of his clues to her is that he, a young man, hates doing laundry. You don’t say! And one of his guesses is that she wants to be treated with respect. No! Surely no one wants that! I had some serious eye rolls with those emails. And once the mystery was solved, Anissa still does something so incredibly selfish that I wanted her nice guy secret admirer to just walk away, because with just the emails, Anissa doesn’t seem worthy of the kind of adoration that this admirer gives her. Also, how she didn’t figure it out sooner, I’ll never know because I knew who the admirer was at just 20% complete with the book!
One thing I need to mention: the main story of this book is done at about the half way mark. Yeah, I know, so what’s the other 50% of the book all about? Well, because this first found a home on Wattpad, the author included a bunch of bonus material so those who had initially read the story had new things to enjoy (or so I assume). I appreciate that, but the organization of those last chapters left something to be desired. Some of the chapters were nice and I’m glad they were included despite how cheesy some of the scenes were (I’m looking at you, first date!), but some were… unnecessary? I struggled with trying to understand why they were included because it just kept hitting the reader over the head with things that get answered in the zoo date chapter: that everyone ends up with someone and is happy. There’s a novella included about Brian and Becca that had all suspense sucked right out of it because the zoo date (a chapter that comes before the novella) spoils the novella’s ending. And I could have gone without the email epilogue at the end that, again, just tells us that everyone got married, got their dream job, and made all the money. It felt so unrealistic that it left a bad taste in my mouth when I was hoping that the bonus material would make me like Anissa more—it didn’t, not really.
I will say that Crawford’s writing does shine when she writes in 3rd person, and I wish that she had interspersed some of that bonus material that was in a 3rd person POV in the main body of the book because that would have made me understand and feel more connected to the characters before the main story came to an end. That’s why I think the organization of this book was lacking, because had that bonus material not been left at the end and was used to develop the characters, I may have cared about them more, I may have not been confused when the book ended at 50% done and yet there was still so much fluff left. That last 50% felt clunky and lagged in pacing a great deal compared to how quickly the email messages in the first half flew by, so the pacing of the two halves was at complete odds with one another, as my friend and fellow author Michael Chrobak mentioned in our “Boom! Books!” read-along discussion. And despite my several eye rolls, I did enjoy the main story much more than I did any of the bonus material. If you didn’t read the bonus material, outside of the first date, you wouldn’t be missing anything.
This book was hard to rate because of its formatting and the bonus content. The first half doesn’t feel like a traditional book because of how it’s told in email and text messages, and while that’s cool for a hot minute, the novelty does wear off and I began to see why this may have been better left on Wattpad, but it flies by and I did have a hard time putting it down. That wasn’t the case for the bonus material that felt like a cumbersome and overly long “and they all lived happily ever after”, but I may just be a heartless person when it comes to that, who knows? Despite the characters being in college, there is no bad language or any gratuitous scenes of any kind, even the romance is pretty tame and innocent so readers as young as 14 would enjoy it, and probably dig the formatting a lot more to be honest. I’d probably give the first half of this book a 3 and the second half a 2, but as you don’t have to read the bonus material, I’ll stick with my 3 star rating overall. Thanks to the author for providing a copy for review!
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