by Dallas Woodburn
Publication: February 8, 2022
**I was provided a copy of the book from the author. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
Thanks, Carissa, for Ruining My Life (2022) showcases how complicated relationships are when you’re not only trying to figure out what you want but also who you are. After Brad’s girlfriend Carissa unexpectedly breaks up with him he is determined to win her back by turning himself into the responsible, ambitious man she wants him to be. Meanwhile, Carissa has also upturned her sister Rose’s life by entering her into a weight loss reality show without her knowledge.
Although Carissa’s actions are hurtful, she serves as the catalyst for main characters Brad and Rose to make positive changes to their lives. Carissa is someone easy to dislike because she isn’t the nicest person. She can be perceived as a villain, but she feels more complex than she appears and more insightful than she is given credit for. It’s too bad we don’t get her point of view to better understand the reasoning behind her actions because she was instrumental to the changes in the leads. Of course, this doesn’t excuse her behavior. With Carissa penned as a mean girl character, it was easier for me to somewhat push to the back of my mind that this is a romance between Rose, Carissa’s sister, and Brad, Carissa’s ex. This is a relationship trope that I am not a fan of, but it didn’t affect my rating, which might have been lower had I not enjoyed the book so much.
The emphasis on Carissa allows us to see how her presence has influenced both Brad’s and Rose’s sense of self worth. They both measured who they were through her. Rose felt overshadowed by Carissa while Brad was the average guy dating one of the most beautiful girls in school. In many ways, their identities revolved around Carissa so her actions forced them÷ to reimagine their lives without her. Brad’s devastation over the breakup leads to initial behavior that is somewhat destructive but the character growth he undergoes is indicative of how relationships, both those ongoing and those that end, can push people to be better versions of themselves. Rose’s transformation is an empowering one, but I wish there had been more internal dialogue to showcase her growth. She learns that she’s perfect the way she is but also that the will to change needs to come from within, not just through someone else.
Part of the reason why I enjoyed the book can be attributed to Woodburn’s writing style. The pace was just right and the short chapters meant I didn’t have to wait very long to switch between Brad and Rose. Each chapter provided just enough about what was going on in their lives without feeling like it was dragging on and making me antsy to see what was going to happen next.
Thanks, Carissa, for Ruining My Life (2022) is an enjoyable quick read that offers insightful look at the value of relationships and self-discovery. While the relationships are a little messier than I normally like them, it did not overly affect how much I liked the book.