Swipe Right For Murder shoots high, aiming for satire, action, comedy, and drama all at once. Unfortunately, it falls short of all, ending up as an incoherent, unpleasant read.
On the run from the FBI.
Targeted by a murderous cult.
Labeled a cyber-terrorist by the media.
Irritated texts from his best friend.
Eye contact with a nice-looking guy on the train.
Aidan has a lot to deal with, and he’s not quite sure which takes top priority.
Finding himself alone in a posh New York City hotel room for the night, Aidan does what any red-blooded seventeen-year-old would do—he tries to hook up with someone new. But that lapse in
He soon realizes the only way to stop the chase is to deliver the object everyone
“This whole place–where they’re ironically now playing trap music–is a fucking trap.”
Swipe Right For Murder was not for me in a major way.
It can be hard to tell how much of that is because of the book and how much is just about me, but I’ve done my best to break it down.
Let’s start with the man himself, our hapless hero, Aidan Jamison. There’s a healthy dose of “it’s not you, it’s me” in my inability to connect with Aidan as a character.
To quote from the jacket copy, “…alone in a posh New York City hotel room for the night, Aidan does what any red-blooded seventeen-year-old would do—he tries to hook up with someone new.” I recognize that this blurb is tongue-in-cheek, but that’s essentially the character we’re given, and it’s just not a person I have much in common with–especially since Aidan’s version of “hook up with someone new” is going to the hotel room of an unknown adult man he found on a hookup app. That’s an instinct I personally can’t relate to.
But I’m a firm believer that there’s nothing actually wrong with a protagonist I can’t relate too. I have plenty of favorite reads that feature protagonists I have nothing in common with. But those stories give me something else to hang my hat on, some way of understanding the character’s choices and connecting to their emotions.
Aidan, unfortunately, is a character that I’m not sure anyone is like. Our backgrounds and experiences and identities are very different, yes, but it’s much more than that. Aidan’s choices and reactions never became coherent to me. I can’t understand or
From the third chapter until almost the end of the book, Aidan is in near-constant mortal danger. (That set-up brings some real pacing/plot problems that I don’t even have time to get into.) I was simply not able to understand a character who, when in such serious peril for the first time ever, has no problem pausing the running-for-his-life to have arguments about his friends’ relationships or whine about unrelated insecurities or make Drag Race references. Constantly.
It kind of reminded me of the characters on the TV show Archer, who bicker and joke throughout top-secret deadly spy missions. But in that case, there are two important differences: First, Archer and his colleagues, despite their constant screw-ups, are supposed to be highly-trained spies who are in danger all the time. They’re used to this! They have it under control! In fact, the bickering just serves to show how competent they are. Secondly, and more importantly, Archer never tries to get profound on me. It doesn’t try to reach for some deep moral or dive into characters’ unironically tragic backstories. It’s able to pull off being a slapstick comedy with guns because that’s all it’s trying to be.
Swipe Right For Murder, on the other hand, wants to be everything at once. It wants to serve rapid-fire jokes, mining the juxtaposition of high stakes with petty teenage concerns. But it also wants to be an elevated discussion of homophobia and abuse, preaching messages straight to the readers. It wants to be satire, but also drag me through completely serious flashbacks of abuse. In trying to be everything, the book isn’t able to succeed at anything.
I can get on board with comedic action, but if large numbers of innocent people are dying, it’s not going to work for me. Milman had complete irreverence for the casualties piling up but still expected me to be invested in Aidan’s pains and problems. The result was a book every bit as self-absorbed as Aidan. It’s realistic for a teenage boy to be self-involved, sure, but when the entire book has the same ego-centric approach, I come away feeling gross.
“Leave it to me: simultaneously worried about not fitting in, yet terrified I was a boring suburban clone with my whole life laid out before me.”
I tried for a while to rationalize making this a three-star read. After all, some of the problem was a simple miss-match between the book and me. Even if the book were perfect executed, it still probably wouldn’t have been my cup of tea. But reviewing my notes, I find little that I thought was done well. From the insincere voice trying painfully hard to sound young to the thinly-drawn side characters built on racial stereotypes, Swipe Right For Murder was an unpleasant read all the way through.
The only aspect I would recommend is the handling of Aidan’s coming out to his parents, referenced in some flashbacks near the middle of the book.
Content warnings for Swipe Right For Murder include:
Death, serious injury (on-page and graphic, by/of POV character)
Homophobia (mostly challenged in-text)
Racial stereotypes (in character descriptions, unchallenged)
Abusive relationship (Young teen boy and adult man, semi-challenged)
Substance abuse (teenage drinking and drug use, unchallenged)
Sexual content (on- and off-page sex, including sex between consenting teenagers, sex between teens and adults, sex within relationships, sex with strangers/hookups)
POV internalized homophobia and self-loathing
Family death (death of a sibling, off-page past)
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a review copy at no cost. No money exchanged hands for this review and all opinions are my own.