Trade Me by Courtney Milan

January 23, 2015 New Adult, Reviews 8

A blonde man with ice blue eyes and a five o clock shadow stares intently at the viewer while unbuttoning his shirtOk, it’s official – I really do hate NA as a genre. I thought the biggest hurdle for me in Courtney Milan’s Trade Me would be the first person present tense, but the NA setting threw me the most. I didn’t dislike it enough to abandon the trilogy (I think?) but I am definitely not it’s market. If you love NA, chances are good you’ll like Trade Me. Other reviewers are reporting happy tears so let me embrace my inner Grinch and wreak some havoc on Whoville. I loved one aspect of Trade Me (almost) unconditionally – Blake’s father. The rest of Trade Me was a study in patience. Why don’t Tina and Blake know anyone but each other? Courtney Milan’s strength is interpersonal relationships!

Let’s start with Tina. She’s lovable. Tina is a first generation Chinese immigrant trying to squeeze through college while holding her family up. She’s smart, she’s hardworking, and she’s not interested in nonsense. She’s stupidly proud, despite coming from a family that strives to help others. I completely understood Tina feeling she had to be the adult in her family. And still. Let me put this as spoiler free as possible – there’s an aspect of Tina’s relationship with her sister* that changes. I was unable to believe Tina could make that change, having been in her shoes myself. I was willing to accept everything but that part, and it fed into my larger dissatisfaction with Tina’s level of interpersonal involvement.

Tina has a roommate, Maria*, who is also her best friend. (She’s the heroine of the next book in the series, Hold Me.) Maria is willing to follow Tina’s lead in all things. Maria pops up for the occasional conversation but is not really present in Tina’s life. She never interacts with Blake, she doesn’t bring third parties in, she seems to exist only when Tina looks at her. This is partially the fault of first person present as a narrative choice, but also part of Trade Me‘s construction. Maria is the only friend in the book. Which brings us to Blake.

Blake is the a young version of the hero of a Harlequin Presents. He’s a billionaire with a big B. The class issues that arise from his relationship with Tina form the basis of the book and yet are also underplayed. Both characters assimilate into their opposite class with an ease that comes from maturity, not sudden exposure. While Tina is vocal where Blake is stoic, both of them got a lifted eyebrow from me in the mild tone of their conflicts. A potentially huge wake up call for his classism is easily sidestepped by… well that would be a major spoiler. You’ll see it when you get there. Half a term at school under the glaring light of his fame yet Blake hasn’t formed a relationship with a single student. I don’t buy the reasons that have sent him to college as being something that would block him having even acquaintances. No one hangs out at his house. No one grabs a ride in his car. There’s no nightly Skype group. Blake hasn’t even joined a running club. You can’t walk down Telegraph Ave without people chatting you up so Blake’s self possession is truly remarkable.

Blake’s best friend is his father, a dominating Ari Gold type. I loved this guy. If Tina had gone for him instead it would have made sense. There’s a weird thing with Blake defining only having friends from work as being an incomplete life.  Since Blake goes out of his way not to make interpersonal connections (save Tina and co-workers), I’m not sure where he thinks these other friendships would arise. Blake’s father is a live to work type, his needs appear to be pretty simple. He and Blake are both spinning out of control from the same life event*. Having gone through it myself this year I have to agree it makes everything look upside down. On to the * behind a spoiler tag –

View Spoiler »


All of that aside, I deeply appreciated Milan’s afterword acknowledging that many college kids are set to fail no matter what their work ethic. I realized before my first college semester ended that withdrawing would be the best choice for my family and my future. While the reasons are as individual as the student, I don’t cheer when I read a happy headline about an at-risk kid getting a great admission package. There’s an incredibly long road between admission and degree. Many students end up with financially crippling loans and no way to earn enough to pay them, much less achieve more than the poverty of their youth. The system is deeply broken, and I loved Tina for refusing to pretend otherwise.

Final Assessment: Powerful NA about a lonely rich boy and a working class girl. B

Source: Copy provided for review.

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Meoskop's first non-compulsory book review was in 1973. Although a hit with the 3rd grade, concerns raised by the administration necessitated an extended hiatus. Reviews resumed in 1985 but the concerns are ongoing.

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8 Responses to “Trade Me by Courtney Milan”

  1. Heidi Belleau

    Definitely gonna have to pick up Maria’s book after reading that spoiler warning! Hopefully it doesn’t have a billionaire hero tho too because BLECH.

  2. willaful

    Your Comment Here…@Heidi Belleau: The info is that he’s a genius who does something with lasers — but also a tattooed bad boy, presumably because that’s what sells.

  3. Ros

    I didn’t really notice the absence of friends, partly I suspect, because I read a lot of category romance which tends to isolate its main characters even more than this. But I think it’s pretty reasonable for Tina not to have many close friends, working the kind of schedule she does. As for acquaintances – I guess I just assumed that they both have them, but I didn’t need to see them in the story.

    NA is not usually my thing either, and the alternating 1st person grated as much as it always does. However, I did appreciate that neither Blake nor Tina were angstily immature. So I bore with them for the length of the book, and I expect I shall read the rest of the series.

    Also, I laughed out loud at the scene with the lights going on and off.

  4. Meoskop

    I loved that scene too – I’m with you on Tina and her time constraints but it especially bothered me for Blake. There should have been someone he had to avoid, explain himself too, or otherwise interact with. His having no one made him seem (to me) even less emotionally stable than the book did. Given his determination to Not Be That Guy his being that guy was a sore tooth.

  5. willaful

    That was a favorite scene of mine, too. I’m surprised more people haven’t mentioned how funny the book is.

  6. Ros

    Your Comment Here…@Meoskop: Yeah, I actually thought he might have a close friend or two from Cyclone, rather than college, to fill that role.

  7. Ros

    Also, I forgot to say I totally agreed with you about her sister. I thought the first thing she’d have done with Blake’s money would be to get a pre-paid prescription card for her or something that guaranteed that she’d always get her meds no matter what else her mother did.

  8. Ros

    @Ros: Huh. Pre-paid prescription cards are apparently not a thing in the US. They are a good idea. US pharmacies, you should start offering them!