I read Hall’s debut book last year, A Little Something Different, and actually found it surprisingly enjoyable. It was relaxing fluff, happy and funny without a lot of angst, swearing, or sex. Plus A+ cover! However, Hall’s second book, Signs Point to Yes, was, quite frankly, terrible. The story made no sense, every time any of the characters did anything it just seemed like the most ridiculous and unnatural action to me ever, relationships between the main characters and their parental figures were pretty bad and never resolved – and speaking of never resolved, this book just sort of stopped without actually fixing any of the issues.
We start the book with Jane, our main character, being all angsty and annoyed because her mom has just landed her (Jane) and unpaid internship at the small college where Jane’s mom works. Jane, we find out, doesn’t want to work near/with her mom, doesn’t want to go to college, and really appears to just not want to grow up. In a desperate attempt to find a good reason to reject the internship, Jane agrees to work as a babysitter for her neighbor. With a paying job lined up, her mom gives up in the internship.
The neighbors consist of three little girls, their parents, and their half-brother (conveniently close to Jane’s age). Once Jane starts her job, it’s basically just this long boring story about her crushing on Teo, Teo crushing on Jane, and Teo wanting to find his birth dad, whom he’s never met.
Okay, from here forward, there will definitely be spoilers to the story, because it’s impossible to get up a really good rant for this type of book without some spoilers. Personally, I think I’m going with a 1/5 for incredibly poor plotting and irrational characters/actions. Still, ironically, I actually liked Jane and Teo has a pair and thought their relationship was the only thing about this entire book that even kind of made sense – but it just wasn’t enough to redeem the “story”.
So. I’m going to try and break down my reasons for thinking this story was ridiculous. Spoilers below.
#1. “Jane is stupid”/All Smart People Go to College
One of the reasons Jane isn’t sure that she really wants this babysitting job is because she’s always had this crush on Teo, but years ago Teo’s best friend, Ravi, decided he (Ravi) hated Jane, so he basically doesn’t “let” Teo hang out with her. Ravi is super snitty when he finds out that Jane is going to be hanging around all summer and says some really mean things to her. We’re told that “Ravi hated her. He claimed she was his archnemesis.” We first see Jane and Ravi interact (after already being treated to Ravi ranting to Teo via text about Jane’s presence for the summer) on Jane’s first day at the job. Ravi is super rude, ignoring and insulting Jane by turns, including telling her that he thinks she’d be “good with one of those HVAC repair programs, or maybe a gas station attendant” when they are talking about future plans.
And here we have my first genuine rant: throughout this entire book, everyone tells Jane she is stupid. And then they frequently equate stupidity with blue-collar jobs, which I find incredibly insulting. Like, smart and successful people go to college and get “real” jobs, while stupid people learn how to, I don’t know, wire your entire house, make sure all your water goes the right direction, and keep your car running all the time?? (Also, I’m pretty sure it takes significantly more education to become an HVAC worker than it does to work in a gas station??) I’m kind of tired of blue-collar work getting slagged on all the time, and this attitude is leading to a genuine shortage of workers in the skilled trades, so I guess the joke will be on the college people when they have to pay exorbitant amounts of money next time they have a plumbing issue.
But I digress. The main point here is that this whole “Jane is stupid” mantra never gets resolved. We never get a point where we’re like, “Oh, maybe Jane just doesn’t get straight-A’s and that’s okay.” Instead, Jane’s B-C average is ridiculed throughout and absolutely never deemed as “good enough” for anyone in the story.
2. Ravi’s Inconsistency
As for Ravi himself, he goes away for the summer (luckily for Jane), but when he shows back up, we never get any real resolution with him, either. All of a sudden it goes from him being genuinely cruel to him just kind of kidding around and they all go on a little emergency roadtrip together and have a great time so…..??????????????? I was so confused about Ravi’s character. Like he is such a jerk – why does a nice guy like Teo want to be his best friend? Plus Hall keeps acting like Ravi and Teo are basically codependent, but then Ravie goes away for the summer and… oh well? Ravi’s character made zero sense. It was like Hall wanted to make him a mean character but didn’t know how, but also didn’t bother making him likable.
3. Margo = Pointlessly One Dimensional
We first meet Jane’s older (perfect) sister, Margo, at the beginning of chapter 3.
Margo had one thought on her mind all day, all week, even all month if she was being honest with herself. There was one thing that was keeping her up at night, making her feel guilty, and taking up a lot of brainpower. She kept telling herself that ripping off the Band-Aid would feel so much better than dealing with the pit in her stomach and her clammy palms every time she thought of this one particular thing: finally coming out to her parents.
And that’s pretty much all you need to know about Margo. Any and all interaction with Margo that we have revolves around her being bisexual and trying to decide how to tell her family, her crushing on this other girl, and oh did I mention that she’s bi and she doesn’t know how to tell her family? It wasn’t the fact that Margo was bisexual, or the fact that she was wrestling with how to tell her family about this, that annoyed me. What annoyed me was that that was all that there was to Margo. The entire purpose of her character was so someone could agonize over the sexual orientation.
Also, we’re told repeatedly that Jane feels that Margo is the favorite daughter because Margo is the “good” daughter who gets perfect grades and always does everything right. And guess what? We never get any resolution there, either. At the end, Jane literally tells her mom that she feels like her mom favors Margo, and her mom more or less is like, “Well, yeah, but that’s because she’s smart and does what we want” not, “What? Of course not, we love you both so much.”
4. Jane’s Immaturity
Throughout this whole story, Jane’s parents, especially her mom (her dad is basically nonexistent – we’re told he likes to build models in the basement, and apparently that’s all we need to know about him), are presented as the bad guys because they are trying to pin Jane down on a decision about college/career. And while I agree that you shouldn’t have to have all these life-decisions confirmed at the age of 17, I also was really annoyed with Jane whose only response was “I’m going to get a job and find some roommates on Craigslist” and then she would get super snotty if her mom didn’t think that was a good enough plan. Sorry, Jane, “a job” and Craigslist roommates really is probably not going to be that great of a plan. I mean seriously. And guess what? She never has a plan. The whole “what Jane is doing with her life” thing is absolutely never resolved. I guess she really is going to work at the gas station??
It really annoyed me because Hall had a chance here to tell a story about someone who isn’t “book smart” and doesn’t have a strong desire to go to college – and this story could have been about someone who explored some of the other options for adulthood and making a living. Instead, we get Jane basically coming across as a whiny, spoiled little girl who only knows what she doesn’t want. Sorry, Jane, reading and writing fanfiction isn’t actually a job.
5. Teo’s Dad/Teo Being an Irrational Jerk to His StepDad for No Reason/Dads Are Only Useful If You Want Their Money
The main arc of the story involves Teo wanting to find his birth dad, mainly because Teo is really discontent with his step-father, despite the fact that his step-father is working hard to reach out to Teo. Teo basically finds all of his step-dad’s overtures to be awkward and annoying, and instead of meeting him halfway, constantly blows him off and acts like a snotty, spoiled whiner. Instead of just going to his mom and asking about his birthdad, Teo hares off on this absolutely RIDICULOUS cross-country trip to meet a total stranger who might be his dad (and conveniently does turn out to be related – also not a creeper – well that’s lucky, isn’t it?!).
In the end, we get what is genuinely my A-#1 rant about this book: Teo’s dad never knew about Teo. And this whole concept where a woman can get pregnant and then decide that the dad should never get to know about this baby – wow, that just fills me with SO. MUCH. RAGE. Where in the hell does Teo’s mom get off thinking she can just keep this huge part of Teo’s dad’s life from him? And she’s literally like, “Well, I didn’t want him to feel obligated and I didn’t want to marry him so.” Wow. Seriously. Wow. What a selfish bitch. So yeah, turns out Teo’s dad died years ago and he never got to even know that he had a son. Just. Wow.
This idea where the father of a child is only important for financial reasons really, really, really annoys me. And that was what she said – she didn’t want his money, so there was no sense in telling him. As thought money is the only thing Teo’s dad had to offer Teo!? Seriously!?
6. Zero Resolution
So yeah, in the end everything gets even stupider before the whole story just stops. Jane, Teo, and Ravi get in trouble for this whole thing where Teo goes to find his dad (Margo doesn’t really get in trouble – and also, after spending paragraphs and paragraphs wondering about how to come out to her parents, Margo literally just blurts it out to try and keep Jane from getting into more trouble?? And her parents are like, “Oh, okay, we just want you to be happy, honey. BUT JANE YOU ARE IN SO MUCH TROUBLE.” Gag.)
And we get… nothing? I felt like none of the characters had grown. Jane’s relationship with her mom? Unresolved. Teo’s relationship with his mom? Unresolved. Margo’s coming out? Blown off. Ravi being a jerk to Jane? Unresolved. What is Jane doing with her life? Unresolved.
In the end, this book was basically pointless because no one became different from who they were in the beginning. Sure, now Jane and Teo are a “couple,” but what’s really the point of that if they both still kind of suck as individuals?
I enjoyed A Little Something Different enough to watch for Hall’s next book (I’m not a huge LGBT-romance fan, so I’ll probably skip Been Here All Along), but hopefully that next book is a little more like her first and nothing like her second.