The AfterEllen.com Book Club: “The Gravity Between Us”

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The Gravity Between Us by Kristen Zimmer, the choice for June’s book club, proved to be a divisive one. So many people loved it! Some people admitted that it was a “fluff” read, but one that they still thoroughly enjoyed, because hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little fluff now and then, right? And then some people, well, didn’t really enjoy it at all.

Sadly, I found myself in that last camp. Which I hate, because any book that portrays a lesbian romance happily is one that makes the world shine a little brighter, and this book was definitely a happy one. So my criticism doesn’t necessarily feel fun for me, but I still can’t bring myself to lie. So let’s break it down a little and maybe some of you can convince me of your side!

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1. One thing that seemed particularly grating was how gosh-dang perfect both of these characters were. Both Payton and Kendall were described as stunningly gorgeous more times than I could count, and both were young geniuses in one way or another: Kendall being a white-hot movie star, and Payton being a musical savant. And while I know Zimmer tried to infuse some humility into them, life was really pretty breezy for both of them throughout the entire novel, aside from their own self-inflicted romantic dramas.

So were they too perfect, or am I being too harsh? The fact that our last book club choice, Everything Leads to You, was also about some freakishly talented and lucky girls in Hollywood might be negatively contributing to this judgment, like my brain is just tapped out on super perfect people in The Industry. (Which, considering I help draft the choices for this book club, would be my own fault.)

But, even if they are perfect, it begs the question: is that necessarily a bad thing? Do stories have to be realistic to be good?

2. Another aspect that readers critiqued that I actually didn’t have as much of a problem with was the alternating narrators. What did you think of this technique?

I tend to personally really like alternating narrators, which is probably why it didn’t bother me as much, but I did agree with some who said that Payton and Kendall’s voices were so similar that it kind of defeated the purpose. There were lots of moments when I’d be in the middle of a chapter and have to remind myself whether I was in Kendall or Payton’s brain, and that’s not a good sign.

3. One of the main things that plagued me was the writing. There were many great moments and really well-phrased lines–for instance, the title itself, and the line in the book it came from were very lovely, I thought. But the abundance of saccharine sweet cliches overshadowed the really good moments for me in the end. Perhaps this book could have benefited from some tougher editing, and I would have liked it a lot more. What were some of YOUR favorite lines?

4. What are your thoughts on the “new adult” categorization for this novel? I originally hypothesized that this label might essentially mean just YA with more sex. After finishing the book, I tend to think I was right, although, listen, you guys, there wasn’t even as much sex as I expected? Sure, the sex that was there was nice, but I don’t think it was extravagantly more abundant or explicit than sex scenes I’ve read in other YA novels. So I suppose I’m still a little puzzled.

5. I also thought that two key moments in the book were very rushed, to the point where I almost felt confused reading them: when Kendall and Payton finally admit their feelings and get it on, and then when Kendall decides she can’t handle the public pressure and pushes Payton away. For the first one, I thought there was SO MUCH build up to this one moment, and then there was so little processing about it, and the very timing of the moment didn’t make a lot of sense to me. And then for the second, it seemed at first that Kendall was going to be cool about her lesbianism. And then so very suddenly, she was kicking Payton out of the house, and I was like, wait, huh?

These were crucial moments in the plot, but if they were slowed down a little, they also could have been crucial moments for both of their character development. But again, was this just me?

6. Did you like Kendall and Payton? Did you think they had chemistry?

One of my thoughts upon finishing the book was that, while a lot of things about it annoyed me, I still found it easy to read. Many people mentioned reading it in two days or less. And so even with my reservations, there must have been something that made me keep reading, and maybe it was because these were essentially two likable characters with a very sweet story. I tended to like Payton more than Kendall, as I personally found Kendall’s “Oh, it’s so hard being a really rich and famous person!” shtick kind of irritating. But still, you wanted to root for them, and that says something. And the fact that the story flowed so quickly proves that Zimmer is clearly doing something right.

7. What other thoughts or questions did you have about Kendall and Payton’s story?

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