Parker’s life is kind of a mess. Her dad has lost his job, and their house is about to go into foreclosure. Her older, perfect, self-absorbed sister, Paige, won’t stop pointing out all the areas in which Parker is lacking. Marion Henessy, who’s hated the Prescotts ever since Paige filed for a restraining order against Marion’s brother, is spreading nasty rumors about Parker on her blog. And no matter how hard Parker tries, she just can’t get over her ex-boyfriend, who is as irresistible as he is infuriating.
Each of these conflicts is an interesting part of the book in its own right, but it’s the last one, Parker’s relationship with her ex, that kept me reaching for Handcuffs in every spare minute I had. Griffin does an amazing job depicting Parker’s struggles with her family and classmates, but even if she didn’t I still would have stayed with the book just to see how things would play out with Parker’s romance. The relationship Parker and the ex have isn’t necessarily healthy, but it’s certainly steamy. Parker can’t get enough of the guy (even though she technically broke up with him), and it’s not hard to see why.
The ex-boyfriend oozes sex appeal. Part of what makes him so alluring is the air of unapproachability and mystery that surrounds him. You never know exactly what he’s thinking or feeling, and he’s difficult to figure out. Griffin heightens the sense of mystery by withholding details from the reader, such as the ex’s name, which isn’t mentioned once in the course of the novel, and specifics about what he looks like. Rather than sharing information about build, hair color, etc., Griffin simply conveys how hot the ex is by showing how the girls at Parker’s school react to him. For example:
All the girls were panting over him. I was hot for him too, but I didn’t know how to break out of the cool quiet calm façade that I had built around myself, so I just observed while every creature with breasts threw herself at his feet.
It gets the point across, huh?
I normally like getting detailed descriptions of a character’s appearance, but in the case of Handcuffs Griffin’s avoidance of specifics works. By withholding information from the readers, she fans the flames of our curiosity. The less you know, the more you want to know. It will drive you wild.
The interactions between Parker and her ex are fascinatingly complicated. The ex can be a total ass at times, pressuring Parker to sleep with him, acting as if he couldn’t care less about spending time with her, and flaunting his exploits with other girls. And yet, at other moments, he can be incredibly sweet. He stands up for Parker when she’s being picked on in class, admires her intelligence and spunk, and seems to feel true tenderness for her at times.
Much of what kept me reading was the desire to discover whether the ex and Parker were meant to be together and just needed to work things out or if their on-again, off-again romance was toxic through and through. It’s a question that Parker wants answered, too, and I enjoyed watching her mature and grow while trying to navigate her relationship with the ex as well as her relationships with others.