Over the years, I’ve come to realise that the things I dislike aren’t inherently bad, and the things I like aren’t necessarily good for me. With that in mind, I hope it makes sense when I say I kind of disliked this book, and it is for that reason that I kind of like it. There were parts I struggled with, parts that compelled me, parts I rolled my eyes at, parts I couldn’t tear myself away from, and it’s left me with a tangle of feelings to try and unpick as I write this ‘review’.
Dirty-Good by Evie Bliss tells a mature story of two people discovering themselves (and each other) through a series of escalating BDSM encounters. I say “mature”, not in reference to their ages or the fact that this is an adult story (no-brainer there), but that the psychological elements underlying the characters’ actions and decisions offer more than the typical depth/shallowness of context I’ve come across previously in this genre. Debbie and Dan are interesting and intellectual characters who don’t pander to genre tropes; and somehow the author sustains this without sacrificing any sex-factor.
Stylistically, I found this a curious specimen. The author writes with a 3rd-person omniscient narrative mode, including references to pop culture and literary memes, delivered with academic tones and tongue-in-cheek slickness. This had the odd effect of making me feel emotionally disconnected from the events and surroundings — like I was reading a research paper or information pamphlet — yet the degree of technical precision interwoven with flowered prose seemed to draw me right into the steamy scenes. This is freaking hot smut, people!!
I’m easily put off by writing style, and admittedly, there were parts throughout my reading experience where I’d be thinking “enough now!“, but I thought the dynamic between Dan and Debbie was so interesting, and their needs as individuals so relatable that, to my surprise, I found myself tearing up towards the end. For much of the book, I felt somewhat unmoved, so to suddenly realise that yes, this has resonated quite a bit gets me figuring there’s something that really works here, and I’m just not experienced or awake enough to consciously register it. The tagline is no joke — this is indeed a naughty book for clever people.
On reflex, I wanted to give this book a lower star rating, but in hindsight, I wonder if that’s because it touches a few nerves — thank goodness for having a standardised star system. I felt challenged by this book in so many ways, and yet I sense some qualities in it that I can’t deny. Perhaps it’s akin to how, as a child, I hated the bitterness of coffee and beer, only to love them both now after my tastebuds developed.
Life isn’t perfect. It’s bittersweet, and we’re all governed by the human condition. My feeling: Dirty-Good shines a light on this, rewarding the patient reader with both intense titillation and a serve of life education.
4 stars from me:
Read if you like books that make you think.
Avoid if you prefer simpler, tropey stories that wrap up perfectly.