UNTIL FRIDAY NIGHT
Maggie is not speaking. To anyone. Physically, she’s capable of it, but emotionally? Not so much. Silence is how she protects herself, now that her mother’s dead and her father’s in prison, and she’s afraid that if she starts talking again, people will want her to talk about what happened – something she’s definitely not ready for.
West has problems, too: His dad – his hero – has been diagnosed with cancer, and doesn’t have much longer to live. He hasn’t told any of his friends because he doesn’t want their pity, but pretending everything’s normal is becoming less and less possible as his dad’s time gets shorter. Enter Maggie, who’s guaranteed to keep his secret, and might just be the only person in his peer group who understands what it’s like to lose a parent.
Until Friday Night is the first book in The Field Party series, and was published in 2015.
This was very much a character-driven story: In terms of plot, not much happened at all, except for a few football games that were largely glossed over. Mostly, it revolved around Maggie and West both avoiding their own problems by trying to help each other instead, and agonising over their feelings for one another. Maggie’s cousin – and West’s best friend – Brady was the main obstacle to their romance, but his role seemed a little contrived at times; only added so that there would be some kind of conflict for the story to resolve.
So, main character #1 is Maggie, who’s likeable enough. She’s a bit of an outsider, enjoys reading, and doesn’t much like attention. West, on the other hand, gets a lot of attention. He’s the star player on the football team, has a tonne of friends, and a very public relationship with the most popular girl in school. He’s also a bit of a git.
First off, I want to say that I did like both of these characters. Maggie was a little bland, and West took a (long) while to warm up to, but I did like them. They had a lot of problems however, the first of which is the aforementioned fact that West is not a nice person. He’s moody and controlling, and treats both the girls he dates before Maggie like crap – and it seems like we’re supposed to forgive this just because his dad’s dying. His relationship with Maggie is also slightly problematic (and I’ll talk more about that in a bit), but it also brings out a softer, more vulnerable and sympathetic side to him. My main problem with Maggie is that she’s way too forgiving of West. The first time they meet, he basically assaults her, and she’s okay with it because… she can apparently see into his soul, and knows that he’s a good person deep down? This excuse gets used a lot in the beginning of the book, and it gets old quickly.
[As a side note, I’d like to acknowledge that Maggie should definitely be seeing a counsellor after what happened to her. The fact that she’s not is absurd, especially since she apparently hasn’t spoken at all in two years – she is very obviously Not Coping.]
In regards the the side characters, most of them were complete non-entities. I liked Brady and Nash a lot (though neither of them had particularly big parts to play), but was annoyed by the portrayal of all the female characters, who were divided into two categories: They were either long-suffering, innocent angels (Maggie, her aunt, and West’s mum), or stereotypical slut/bitch-type characters, all of whom were out to steal West from Maggie (or, in the case of the older characters, spread malicious gossip about West’s mother). And, no, that’s really not a simplification.
ROMANCE (& RELATIONSHIPS) [2/5]
For a romance book, the main romance in this story was decidedly weak. It was the story’s main focus (and this was a reasonably long book), yet Maggie and West’s relationship development felt extremely rushed and unnatural; and although they both claimed to have some kind of incredible connection, they misunderstood each other a lot, and not in a way that made the story any more interesting or exciting… The best word to sum it up? Unhealthy. Also, codependent. Which is actually kind of understandable, given what they’ve both been through, and how their relationship develops, but is still a bit uncomfortable to read. This is (briefly) addressed towards the end of the book, but doesn’t seem to change their relationship in any meaningful way.
I’ve also seen a lot of reviews complaining about how West was just using Maggie, but one thing I did find that I liked about their relationship was how reciprocal it was. Yes, a big part of it was Maggie helping West to deal with his father’s imminent death, but he was also able to help her build up the courage she needed to (literally) find her voice.
I’ve tagged on the “and relationships” part to this section, not because there was any particular emphasis on platonic relationships (even West’s relationship with his father was kind of eclipsed by his relationship with his father’s illness), but because I want to talk about West’s friendship with Brady… We’re told at several points that they’re best friends, but I was never able to see any real evidence of this. They don’t act like best friends; in fact, they’re downright hostile towards each other when Maggie’s involved, and a friendly-neutral the rest of the time. In West’s friendship group, the only thing that really seems to set Brady apart from all the others is that he knows about West’s dad, but that’s not because West told him – it’s because their mothers are friends.
Perhaps the strangeness of their supposed epic friendship has been warped slightly because of how badly West has been coping with his father’s illness, in which case I’d hope to see some improvements as the series goes on, but as it stands, this is a really poor portrayal of friendship.
By far the best thing about this book, the writing flowed really well, and was very easy to read. The dialogue was occasionally a bit cheesy, and I found the chapter titles (made up of often-melodramatic quotes from the chapter in question) rather cringe-worthy – though thankfully, they were easily ignored.
OVERALL IMPRESSION [2/5]
A fun, but problematic romance, which I enjoyed a lot while I was reading it, but which I liked less, the more I thought about it. I’m sure that this series will have its fans, but as far as far as I’m concerned, if you’re looking for a story about teenagers-with-issues falling in love, read some of Katie McGarry’s books, and if you want a book about a misfit who falls in love with her school’s star football player, read First & Then by Emma Mills. Both are far more worth your time than Until Friday Night.
Fans of Simone Elkeles, Sarah Dessen, or Katie McGarry’s books – particularly McGarry’s new Thunder Road series. People who liked the misfit-falls-for-football-star aspect of this story should also try First & Then by Emma Mills (a really fantastic novel).