Review: "Altered" by Kelly Cain

Warning: do not read this book on an empty stomach! 

I feel like I gained 10lbs from reading this novel. The main character's constant narration about what she was eating, and how much, made me feel like my own waist was dangerously close to expanding.

Truth be told, it was the food references that kept my attention 60% in and persuaded me to finish the book. Each chapter held a new mystery; I couldn't wait to find out what type of seafood dish she was going to consume next!

But 60% in, I'd lost all interest in the story, primarily because Olivia is perhaps the most unlikeable MC I've ever come across, and this is coming from someone who enjoys reading thrillers about psychopaths, murderers and crooks! She's supposed to be 23 and in law school, but Olivia acts more like a spoilt 14-year-old. Reading her first-person narrative was like cracking open a teenager's diary, filled with angst and rants about how unfair life is. Saying that, I did enjoy the parts that were akin to a food diary!

But back to Olivia's annoying personality… At the beginning of the story, she has a pillock of a fiancĂ©, who decides he's going to become the next Martin Scorsese and move to Hollywood, leaving her behind. Olivia is understandably broken up about their breakup, and spends much time crying. She finally decides to move on by practically stalking Nicholas, following him after a lecture and asking him all kinds of personal questions within 2 minutes of meeting him. Surprisingly, 18-year-old Nicholas, genius law student and virgin extraordinaire, doesn’t run for the hills! (I actually liked the fact that he was shy and a virgin. It endeared me to him).

Once Nicholas had developed an appropriate level of Stockholm Syndrome and agreed to do everything on his stalker's terms, he and Olivia's friendship/quasi-relationship blossomed. Throughout, Olivia was constantly hot and cold, using Nicholas as her own personal sex toy one minute and then refusing to kiss him the next when she suddenly decides that they should take it slow. When she didn't get her way, Olivia would cry! She did this over every little thing.

Nicholas was by far the more mature partner in the friendship/relationship. When it became apparent that he was going through stuff and wasn't ready to share just yet, did Olivia wait patiently for him to open up like a good friend would? No, she badgered him and cried when he wouldn’t succumb to her demands: "He's hiding something from me… I feel a tear creep down my cheek."

Nicholas texts because he cannot meet up: "I don't even bother to text back. I throw myself on my bed and start sobbing."

Nicholas finally tells her everything, and she can't deal with it all: "I burst into uncontrollable sobs and flop into an oversized chair."

Olivia kicks up a fuss about Nicholas not asking her if she wants to meet his useless, absent father: "You have to let me in on those decisions."

So Nicholas asks her, "Do you want to meet him?"

Her answer? "No."

Well, why make such a big deal out of him not asking you, then?!

I was so glad when her friend Julia finally tells it like it is: "You tell that boy everything from how to feel to when he can say hi to you. And he lets you do it."

While I liked Nicholas, Olivia got on my nerves, as did their relationship, which involved her making all the decisions and bossing him around, and him mostly letting her, hence, my 2-star rating of Altered.

However, should Kelly Cain write a cookbook, including dishes from Silas' barbecue bonanza, I'd be sorely tempted to pick up a copy, because his food sounded delicious!

Finally, I have one burning question for anyone who has read this book. The unnamed restaurant Olivia and Nicholas meet Darren at in San Francisco - the one opposite the NFL shop and up the wooden stairs? - it's the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., right? I visited Pier 39 in San Francisco last year, and it's killing me that I missed out on that amazing feast ;)