Hating Olivia by Mark SaFranko
review copy provided by Harper Perrenial
Summary from Goodreads:
Max Zajack's life is cheap rooms, dead-end jobs, and suicidal fantasies until he meets the alluring and mysterious Olivia Aphrodite, and everything goes to hell.
Max is a struggling musician and wannabe writer. His life is in a rut until one night, while playing a gig at a local club, he gazes out into the crowd and sees Olivia. Before long, they are sharing a bed and host of dark vices that begin to consume them. Their love turns toxic, sending them spiraling downward toward the inevitable. Violently romantic, viscerally honest, Hating Olivia is the story of two loners whose obsessive love brings them to the edge of destruction.
This book initially sounded intriguing, but somehow it was different than I expected. I'm torn on this one. There are things that I liked about the book, but the characters were not really very likeable. Olivia is just trouble from the get-go. I also would not call Max and Olivia' relationship "love" in any real sense - obessession, most definitely - but not love. The story is told from Max's point of view, so we only get his interpretation of Olivia's motives for her behavior.
Max is just this guy who reads all the time and thinks he is too smart or too good to work like everyone else, so he holds down a series of low-level, unchallenging jobs to pay the bills --- but only when he has to. He would prefer to let Olivia support him while he spends his time reading and supposedly working on his novel. For most of the book, Max gets nothing useful done. All he cares about is not being required to actually work and having sex with Olivia. And occasionally talking about writing his book. He knows he is just stumbling through his life, but he keeps doing it.
The relationship that Max and Olivia have is just so wrong on so many levels. They are one of those couples that bring out the worst in each other. We've all known a couple or possibly been part of such a couple. It is painful to watch and it was painful to read about them. But here's the thing -- I couldn't put the book down once I got a couple of chapter into it. Not much happens, and while I didn't really like Max or Olivia much, I thought Max was pretty funny and the writing is very good. There are lots of literary references throughout the book, which were fun. And, I wanted to see if Max and/or Olivia made it through to the other side of their completely awful relationship.