July 13, 2021

Review: U Up?

U Up?
Available now from Melville House
Review copy

I am a firm believer that protagonists do not have to be likeable. For me to be interested in their story, there must be something intriguing about them, but they don't have to be likeable. U Up? has a protagonist that tests my patience. Eve is relentlessly self-centered, judgmental as hell, and the sort of lesbian who throws around a slur every two seconds like her personal reclamation is activism. (It's a trait that made me wince multiple times a page, on average.) Reading her stream-of-conscious narration was often hellish.

This narration is only broken up by text messages. The poor decision was made, either by publisher Melville House or author Catie Disabato, to print a full-screen of text messages every time instead of just the new texts, often wasting entire pages with repeated texts. In other words, it isn't much of a relief.

In U Up?, Eve is on a rampage because it is the anniversary of her best friend Miggy's suicide and her other best friend Ezra is ghosting her after telling her that he broke up with his girlfriend the night before. Everyone they know tells her to cool it and let him lick his wounds in private, but she's determined that something must have happened to him since he's not answering her calls, and their friendship is extra special.

Oh, and Eve can talk to ghosts. The cover copy mentions that she texts her dead friend Miggy, but I thought that meant she sent texts to the void, saying things to a friend who could no longer speak back. No, she holds conversations with her dead friend Miggy, who also thinks she should cool her jets. Ezra's ex Nozlee can speak to ghosts too, and she and Eve were actually buddies back in New York before they met all their LA friends, because they met in witch school. 

Since U Up? is more literary fiction than speculative fiction, this aspect of the novel tends to recede into the background even though it is the most fascinating thing happening. It's an underbaked element that I kept wishing would be explored more, until it becomes integral to the climax.

I enjoyed the end of the novel more than beginning, partially due to the nature of story about the protagonist going on a journey means that Eve is more bearable by the end. But also because the end has a bunch of weird ghost stuff and that's the best part. 

I found Eve to be a very believable character, but she grated on me too much for me to vibe with her story. I might've enjoyed the full on crazy ghost version of this story, but the one I got dragged for far too long.

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