Saturday, September 3, 2016
ARC Review: Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton
Title: Diplomatic Immunity
Author: Brodi Ashton
Rating: 3 Stars
Release Date: September 6th, 2016
I'll admit it: Diplomatic Immunity was a tad bit disappointing. I enjoyed Ashton's debut series quite a bit--I didn't love it but I was impressed by the characterization and, mostly, the complex world-building--so I expected a lot from her latest installment. For the most part, Diplomatic Immunity delivered. Just...not to the extent I wish it had.
Piper is an aspiring journalist and I absolutely loved her voice throughout this novel. When she wins a scholarship to attend a prestigious private school for her senior year--a school where the children of ambassadors study!--her life changes drastically. More importantly, for Piper, she now has a shot at winning a journalism scholarship for college. Piper's family is struggling financially and it's up to her to find a way to pay for her higher education. I really admired Piper's dedication. While her parents are supportive and caring, and her relationship with her younger brother is truly adorable, the financial strains her family is under weigh heavily on her. Piper works outside of school and is disdainful of the privilege that the students at Chaswick possess.
In particular, Piper cannot help but be both enamored and disgusted by Rafael, the son of the Spanish ambassador. They literally bump into each other on the first day of school and, ever since, Piper is enthralled by Rafael's world. By the secret party invitations, the underage drinking, and the diplomatic immunity that allows him to get away with it all. In order to win her journalism scholarship, Piper decides to go undercover and get "in" with the DIs, the Diplomatic Immunities, and then expose their crazy lifestyle to the world. But the more time she spends with Rafael, the more she realizes that she just might be wrong about him and if she wants to salvage her friendship with Rafael, she just may have to give up her dreams.
Diplomatic Immunity sounds incredible. It seems like a Pride and Prejudice re-telling, almost, with Rafael the rich and "misunderstood" Mr. Darcy and Piper our modern-day Elizabeth Bennett whose prejudice clouds her judgement. While Piper and Rafael's friendship develops over time, and is extremely believable, I just couldn't fall for this couple. I adored the way that they challenged each other but all-too-often Rafael is forced to ignore Piper because of her class status and I just couldn't forgive him for that. Moreover, he hesitates for far too long to tell her the truth about his relationship status and his excuses seemed flimsy at best, to me. Their friendship drags on for far too long, taking up the majority of this novel, and the time we glimpse of them together is so brief that I remained unconvinced that these two were the real deal.
I also felt rather uncomfortable with the treatment of Piper's financial situation. I think it's important to highlight the stark class differences that exist in our world and, moreover, I really loved watching Piper grow from being someone who was bitter and judgmental to becoming much more understanding that money did not equate happiness. However, I think I would have liked to see more of Piper's family or a stronger discussion of how they came to rely on food stamps since their financial situation only deteriorates over the course of the novel. It's a messy, difficult topic to broach but I think Ashton did a disservice in bringing it to light and then not discussing it quite fully. I really also wanted to see Rafael and Piper work through their class differences more while in a relationship, as well.
Another aspect of this book that I found lacking were the female friendships. Piper's best friend from her old high school, Charlotte, texts, e-mails, and calls her all the time but they never meet up outside of work throughout the school year and their interactions solely revolve around Piper. Charlotte seems like a doll. She never gets upset that Piper has moved on and made new friends, she never shares stories of her life or her struggles or her own dreams of becoming a news reporter, and she is never physically there in Piper's life. It's such a cop-out of a friendship and I felt genuinely annoyed at the way this was handled. I really enjoyed Tell Me Three Things and the messy friendship where one girl moves to a different school and it's genuinely hard to maintain their old friendship but there was none of that nuance in this.
Diplomatic Immunity is a quick read. It's funny and entertaining and the sparring matches between Rafael and Piper are sure to keep you flipping the pages. Piper is a wonderful female lead and her passion for journalism bleeds through the page. I love characters with interests and goals and most of the characters in this novel have those. They have families that are present and make an impact on their lives and they have class baggage that is something that they deal with. So while Ashton may not have made me swoon with this romance or won any points on the friendship department, I suspect that this is going to be a hit among readers far more easy to please than I am.