Love Will Tear Us Apart, by Sarah Rainone 

click to enlarge LoveWillTearUsApart_Rainone.jpg
Three Rivers Press
Available now


If you title your book after an iconic song, you tether yourself to expectations that necessarily cannot be fulfilled. The trappings of appropriating such a title are many, and the act inevitably raises eyebrows among people who care about the music. As is foreseeable, Sarah Rainone's debut novel Love Will Tear Us Apart mangles the spirit of the song for which it's named — but worse, it's a cliché-ridden and uninspired read.

The song-structured narrative concept is gimmicky from the get-go (Nick and Norah have already done this), and the plot crossbreeds The Rules of Attraction with that wedding-in-the-Hamptons episode of Sex and The City. High school sweethearts Dan and Lea get married in the town where they grew up and invite all their frenemies to come back for the occasion, forcing them to face the past and each other. It has all the makings of a tired Hollywood screenplay with voiceover and frequent flashbacks.

The novel's ensemble cast narrates in alternating chapters, but each voice bleeds together, their run-on sentences as interchangeable and expendable as pennies. Conveying twenty-something turmoil is a fine balance, and while there's an occasional plausible observation made, it mostly feels like Rainone used a madlib of caricatures to heap stock characteristics one upon the next. There's Cort, the faux hippie; Lea, the perfect pretty girl; Dan, the complacent pawn; Alex, the cokehead who reinvented herself in the NYC; Shawn, the gay one; and Ben, the jock misogynist who, in his narrative sections, exhibits all the bullshit machismo you'd expect from Brody Jenner if someone handed him a pencil. It's one thing to create unlikeable characters, but in this case, it's their sheer lack of dimension that makes them loathsome.

On occasion, it's entertaining to witness shallow, disingenuous, self-centered people who have absolutely no concept of friendship or self-reflection do their thing. But an episode of The Real World only runs 20 minutes, not 300 pages.

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