Book Review: Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas

This book review of Punk 57 is delayed, but for the life of me, I couldn’t decide what rating would be right for this book. Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas is a contemporary romance taking place in a high school setting, and although it’s way out of my comfort zone, the author pulled me in. However, there were elements that made this book a little cringeworthy.

(Review contains major spoilers.)

Book review of Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas

Punk 57 official cover art
Punk 57 official cover art

My rating: ★★★ (3/5)

Summary: Ryen and Misha have been pen pals since elementary school. They’ve never met each other, but one night, Misha spots Ryen at one of his band’s events, and he soon realizes it’s the same Ryen who’s been writing to him. After an accident completely changes Misha’s life, he stops replying to Ryen’s letters, but unresolved family problems lead him to attend the same school as Ryen. Of course, she doesn’t know who he is at all. Under the fake name Masen, Misha discovers Ryen is truly a bully and not the sweet girl who used to confide in him.

Genre: Contemporary romance

Audience: New Adult

Themes/potential trigger warnings: explicit sex, slut shaming, bullyism

Solid characterization

Let’s start this book review with the things I liked about Punk 57. As usual, Penelope Douglas draws the reader in without having to try too hard. Her characters feel real, and although I grimaced when I saw them being able to have sex on an adult-like/experienced level, I must say everything else was pretty solid. Teens are mean and dramatic for no reason sometimes. Punk 57 definitely takes you back to those high school days.

Confusing Plot & Slut Shaming

I won’t lie; I had trouble figuring out what the story was about for several chapters. There was a lot of emphasis on this “Punk” who vandalizes Ryen’s school, although it’s so freaking obvious it’s Ryen… Misha/Masen is so busy with his personal agenda that it was hard to tell if he even gave a damn about Ryen attending the same school. The worst part was that the reasons behind Misha’s presence at this school aren’t revealed until the very last chapter, which made me care less and less about his goals.

I don’t really approve of this choice, because it made the story revolve around Misha and Ryen’s love/hate relationship with no serious obstacle to overcome.

Other than their hateful personalities.

I think it was a pleasant touch to have Ryen be the bully and not some sort of good girl that Misha torments for shits and giggles. However, I don’t understand why every other female character in this book is the stereotypical “easy girl, nasty bitch,” making it so that Ryen has no female friend to rely on. This doesn’t enhance her connection with invisible-pen-pal Misha at all.

Not to mention it’s also pretty misogynistic.

Unrealistic Ending

Punk 57 was fun to read, but I think the ending is ultimately what triggered me. I get it that romance is formulaic, and there’s always this expectation of a happy ending. However, I think it would have made more sense to have a HFN (Happy For Now) kind of ending, because let’s be real; Ryen and Misha are kids. They’re bound to make mistakes and change.

I also don’t understand how Misha, in just a few years, is some sort of famed lyricist living in the lap of luxury, ready to have kids. Nothing hints at the fact that his stupidly rich family helped catapult him to fame, so it just added to the nonsensical ending. Yes, it’s fiction, but come on.

I also don’t understand the need for that letter to Delilah extra. Delilah was mentioned maybe once, when Misha took Ryen’s diary. Throughout the book, Ryen didn’t seem to care much about some girl she bullied when she wasn’t even 10…

Overall an ok book, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it.