Book Review

“We were perfect for each other. Until we met.”

Spoiler Free Review
 Punk 57
Author: Penelope Douglas
Series or Standalone: Standalone
Genre: Romance, New Adult, Erotica and Contemporary
Publication Date: October 21st 2016
Publisher: Penelope Douglas LLC
Format: Kindle
Source: Amazon
Star Rating: ★★★★★

In the fifth grade, Ryen and Misha are mistakingly paired as pen pals, their teachers not realizing they are pairing their students up with kids from the opposite gender. Although, it doesn’t take long for Ryen and Misha to figure out their teachers mistake. But in no time at all, they are arguing about everything. The best take-out pizza. Android vs. iPhone. Whether or not Eminem is the greatest rapper ever…

And that was only the start. For the next seven years, Ryen and Misha keep writing to one another and become best friends. They have only three rules – no social media, no phone numbers and no pictures – out of fear it’ll risk their friendship.

One day, Misha accidentally finds himself at the same party across town with Ryen. He can’t help but get to know the girl who’s been his muse for the last seven years. He just doesn’t expect to hate what he finds.

When Misha stops writing to Ryen, she’s devastated. He’s the only person that knows the real Ryen. Not the person she goes to school as everyday, the mean cheerleader that students are afraid of. Ryen fears Misha could be gone forever, but little does she know he’s right under her nose…

Punk 57 was a book that I was nervously anticipating. It sounded like it had a lot of potential and with so many glowing reviews, I couldn’t keep it off my radar. However the term “bully romance” seemed to follow this book around, and quite frankly I’ve known for a while that those types of romances aren’t my jam.

Despite that, I gave this book a chance after being lucky enough to snatch it off Amazon for $0. So there were no more excuses. Despite this book sounding like it would be really far from my comfort zone, to my surprise, I pretty much loved the entirety of this book. This is a romance story quite unlike any I’ve read before.

We meet Misha on a night that changes his life forever, so much so, he can’t even bring himself to write to his best friend – Ryen. And although it’s been three months since Misha has written to Ryen, she doesn’t stop writing to him. But their relationship changes, unknowingly to Ryen, when Misha finds out she isn’t the outcast her letters made it seem, but is instead the mean popular girl and he’s outraged.

When Misha moves to Ryen’s high school, he makes her life hell. Challenging her solely because it’s amusing. Apart of himself feels guilty for being right under her nose and not telling her the truth about who he really is, but he also loves seducing her too.

“Stuck-up Ryen Trevarrow is learning how to play in the mud, and I feel a little excitement course through my veins.”

Although this story was largely narrated by Misha, Ryen was the character that really captured my attention. She has a nasty temper and is very obviously unlikable for the fact that she is often mean to other students for the sake of making herself look better. That doesn’t necessarily sound like a character anyone would want to root for or champion, right?

But the reader knows Ryen’s secret, that she is essentially two different people. The girl Ryen is at school, is to shield herself from being alone or bullied herself. Even if it means the only friends she has are arseholes that secretly hate her too. The real Ryen is tucked down deep inside and is a secret to everyone but Misha, who only knows the real her through the letters they’ve shared over the years. Ryen’s letters to Misha are the only times she gets to be her real self, and so when her anchor goes missing she looses the only outlet she has where she didn’t have to be fake.

Ryen’s character arc here is the most rewarding I think, not only because the change towards becoming a better person was inevitable, but because the way Misha teases it out of her exciting. They aggravate each other and drive each other insane and I was living for the angst.

“Until yesterday in the parking lot when I bit and she bit back. That’s my Ryen. And I want to see more.”

In fact, this story is driven by Misha and Ryen’s love hate relationship, and honestly, Penelope Douglas has proven to me she is a queen at angst. It really makes me excited to read her other romance books. Considering their hate to love relationship was what I was most concerned about going in, yet what I ended up enjoying the most… well I have to give Penelope Douglas props.

Yet I would still tell readers to be hesitant going into this if you’re like me and don’t particularly think bully romances are for you. Because majority of the story is Ryen and Misha being downright mean to each other. Like this book went to some nasty places. Although, I wouldn’t define Misha and Ryen’s dynamic by that sole trope. Enemies to lovers can be broadly applied here and friends to lovers in an even broader sense.

“I’m going to hell. I’m pretty sure she’s going to drag me there herself.”

I’m generally not a fan of books like Vicious (by L.J. Shen) and other romance stories like that, but I found Punk 57’s bully romance to be a special kind of exception. Misha definitely is the instigator here, if you will. Yet this story never crossed any lines for me because these characters felt like they were on an even playing field for most of the story. Seriously, Ryen and Misha both give as good as they get, and so I think that’s why I never felt uncomfortable.

I know that Penelope Douglas is really well known in the romance community and it’s me that has let this book slip under the radar. But to other readers that love a good enemies to lovers story — you should consider this if you don’t mind it when your hate to love gets nasty (like literally mean, but also super erotic.) This book also aims to make you emotional, Penelope Douglas is coming for your heart strings and I thank her for it.

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