Book Review: No Judgments

No Judgments by Meg Cabot

🌺/5

City girl Bree has been enjoying life in Little Bridge, Florida, after fleeing from NYC, her mother, her boyfriend, and The Incident. She’s revamped her life and image, and isn’t going to run anymore. Not even with the storm of the century bearing down on her new home in the Florida Keys. Not even from hot but bossy carpenter, Drew, who thinks she should get out of dodge. Because Bree is taking a stand. For herself.

Buckle up bitches, because I have feelings.

First of all, please let me establish some (minor) street creds:

1. I have been through 3 hurricanes (Irene, Hermine, Dorian), and evacuated a fourth (Florence). All but Dorian were direct hits on my house—as in, the eye passed over where I lived.
2. Hurricane Michael obliterated my in-laws’ house (and destroyed a lot of my friends’ homes and businesses), and my wife and I drove through the wreckage to find them five days later.
3. I’ve been a part of state and county planning (on a very small scale, but still more than this author) in Florida and North Carolina for hurricanes.
4. My wife and her family have lived in the Florida Panhandle for generations. They’ve seen shit.

The vast majority of my feelings for this book come from Bree and her attitude towards preparing for this storm.

understand that the girl is a spoiled naive ninny, but in the aftermath of Michael (and being published two weeks after Dorian demolished the Bahamas), the entire tone of this book just felt like it was exploiting a natural disaster for a love story. It felt super wrong, particularly with how the hurricane in this book was portrayed.

The Preparation

First of all, Bree is an idiot. Let’s establish that right now.

Granted, she’s an idiot who has been seriously emotionally abused, sexually assaulted and gaslighted, but that doesn’t take away the fact that she’s an idiot.

Her entire justification for refusing to evacuate, and spreading lies to friends, family and coworkers about her future whereabouts for the storm?

I’m not being stubborn. For once in my life I’m standing up for myself and not running (paraphrased)

Bitch, it’s not called running, it’s called being smart. This is a category five hurricane with 170+ mph winds bearing down on you. Nothing in the Florida Keys is built to withstand that, and lemme just say that 20 feet above sea level is um, not that high when you’re on a small island.

And don’t give me that bullshit about your beloved cat being sick and recovering from surgery and not traveling well so you can’t leave your home. Nuh uh. You have the means and the funds and the ability to leave. Leave. Trust me. You’re only putting yourself and your precious cat in danger.

She gives this excuse over and over and over and it’s never convincing or a solid reason.

Also, while the author does a good job capturing Floridians’ attitudes towards hurricanes, she doesn’t really do that great of a job portraying the storm preparation itself? Or how county, state, town and federal officials and entities handle storms? While yes, the water and utilities do get shut off before the storm particularly on islands, what she didn’t really mention was the mandatory curfews implemented before the storm itself.

She’s got people evacuating to shelters…in the event of a hurricane of this magnitude, there would probable be no shelters open in the direct path of the storm (shelters are only open if they are rated to withstand the category of storm…usually a cat 3—there are very few buildings rated to cat 5 wind speed, much less storm surge). There would be mandatory evacuations for everyone—not just tourists. There would be government transportation to help those who couldn’t get out on their own get out. There would be shelters available outside of the direct hit zone for those who need it. Curfews before, during and after the storm are standard, not implemented on a whim so that it’ll look good.

The hurricane parties though…accurate, to a point.

The Love Interest

Maybe dips in barometric pressure affect one’s sex drive (paraphrased)

Uh…what?

I just don’t see it. Bree gets wet at the mere sight of Drew, but this half baked enemies-to-lovers (why tho? why are they enemies??) romance is all wet, and not in a good way. Sure Drew is like, the one person in the world who believes her sexual assault was a sexual assault (what is this, 2008?), but come on. They had no chemistry at all. That they hook up right away seemed…weird.

He treats her like she’s an idiot throughout the entire story (granted, that’s the truth), while hypocritically staying in his house by the water to defend his land against the storm. Like a Real Man, he’s going to stay throughout the storm—with his five dogs in the house—so that he can make repairs on the spot. Because his house will withstand 250 mph wind and is strong on forty foot pilings (what an eyesore this house is, plus…forty feet?? Really? wtf no that’s ridiculous).

Also, this quote:

That was the way with males. It took some of them longer than others to learn not to play rough.

Granted, this was about her cat, but it seems pretty fucked up coming from a sexual assault survivor.

The Storm

Welp, Bree got a full night’s sleep in a 200-year-old mansion, sooo. My in-laws said Michael sounded like a freight train coming at them for five hours straight. I guess Bree can just sleep through anything.

The Aftermath

Oh lawd.

So you’re telling me, that this storm that was worse than anything that’s ever hit the Keys, to include Irma and Wilma (the recent ones) and that Little Bridge sustained a direct hit but really didn’t have much damage beyond the bridge (THE BRIDGE BITCH NO YOU DID NOT) washing out and a bunch of boats going missing???

Oh—why did the good folk of Little Bridge not have a lot of damage to their homes aside from some light flooding?

They boarded up their windows.

That’s what saved their houses against a Cat 5 hurricane.

Boarding. Up. Their. Windows.

Fun fact: boarding up windows does a great job protecting your windows and limiting glass shards going everywhere, but know what it doesn’t protect against? Your roof coming off due to the wind.

Also, yes, you can take a near direct hit from a cat 5 and get away relatively scott free due to bands, wind, tides and surge, (see: Panama City Beach vs Panama City), but this is UNUSUAL AND ONLY FURTHERS PEOPLE’S MOTIVATIONS TO NOT EVACUATE.

FFS at least get some basic information right.

I guess this was a wind event, even though apparently there was 10 foot storm surge over an island where the highest point was 20 feet above sea level (the highest point in the Florida Keys is 18′, which IS NOT HIGH).

No Judgments

And to the pet rescue.

Look. I don’t give a flying fuck about Bree’s no judgments resolution, since 1) this bitch is the judgiest thing on the planet and 2) I have no sympathy for anyone who evacuates from a hurricane and leaves their pets behind. Period.

The author did her damndest to make the characters who did this as sympathetic as possible, but I’m telling you no. No. No.

Pets are your family. And this book more than played up the catastrophic nature of the storm, so those who were like,”oh I just thought I’d be able to come back in a couple days and get them and it’d be okay” I’m just going to scream eternally into the night.

1. This book is set on the Florida Keys. There is one road in.
2. That road is built like a bamf (seriously, those bridges are the stuff of my wet dreams they are amazing). No, I’m not talking about the smaller roads but Highway 1.
3. Priority on the roads is for FDOT, emergency personnel, relief and recovery efforts, and line crews. Not civilians heading home.
4. Everybody and their second uncle is going to be heading down to check out the damage/go home. Good luck getting back quickly.

So no. Leaving your heat-sensitive birds in the attic during the hurricane (knowing the aftermath is the worst because of the lack of electricity, AC and care) is not going to garner any sympathy. Leaving your dogs chained in the back yard during the worst hurricane ever is going to get a phone call from Animal Services and your ass thrown in jail.

This book glamorized animal abuse and I’m not having it.

Yes, I get that there are circumstances where you might not be able to evacuate with your pet, but you’d better make damn sure you try your hardest to take all members of your family with you.

Takeaways

1. A community can fully recover from the worst hurricane ever (without hardly any structural damage) in four months. (lol author needs to visit Panama City…and I’m not talking about the beach).
2. Boarding your windows will 100% protect your entire house from 155+ mph winds
3. Bridges are structurally weaker than Drew’s beach house
4. Leaving your pet behind? Don’t worry—a sympathetic rich girl will be their savior and will enlist the help of her super famous mom to get resources in!

Yes, this is 100% a work of fluffy romantic fiction but please, please, please don’t romanticize natural disasters

description
This is perhaps not the most appropriate setting for a romance

Anywho, definitely don’t read this is you’ve lived through a hurricane, been part of the planning for a hurricane, are/were employed by FDOT, are a sexual assault survivor, or want to preserve your remaining brain cells.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review, but held off reading it due to preparations for Hurricane Dorian. I ended up listening to the audiobook.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: No Judgments

  1. Fantastic review! Agree wholeheartedly with all your points, and it’s great to hear from the perspective of one who’s experienced natural disasters and can critique this book on that informed level. The flippant approach to the incoming storm felt quite idiotic. Having the main character indulge in that was definitely annoying to read at too many points.

    Liked by 1 person

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