Book Reviews

If I Fix You: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Jill Whitaker knows the exact moment she fell out of love with Sean Addison. It was the same moment she caught him in a compromising position with her mother. It was just before her mother walked out leaving behind nothing but a post-it note by way of explanation.

In the aftermath of that horrible day, Jill is trying to relearn the intricacies of her life. She still works with her father at his garage. (She isn’t about to give up fixing cars when she could turn a wrench before she could tie her shoes.) She runs cross country with her best friend Claire to train for the high school track team. Sean is there too, but Jill isn’t sure how to be around him yet. She isn’t sure if she’ll ever be able to fix everything that has broken between them.

When a new guy moves in next door, Jill finds herself trying to fix him too. But as Jill gets closer to Daniel she realizes that his problems (and his scars) may be bigger than she imagined. There’s also the small matter that despite their obvious chemistry Daniel is twenty-one. Jill used to be able to fix anything but before she can move on, she’s going to have to learn how to fix herself in If I Fix You (2016) by Abigail Johnson.

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If I Fix You is Johnson’s excellent debut novel.

Jill is a thoughtful and entertaining heroine. Her first person narration is conversational and breezy filled with evocative descriptions of a hot Arizona summer. Jill’s love for cars and skills as a mechanic are unexpected and add another dimension to this story.

I enjoyed Claire as a best friend and counterpoint for Jill but I do want to say that it was frustrating to see Claire described as overweight before her Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis and her subsequent efforts to get healthy which included becoming more athletic which, it turns out, she really enjoys. The conflation of being overweight with Type 2 Diabetes is a really tired and damaging stereotype. It’s also not at all accurate (going with the little information given by the author Claire should even have her diabetes under control if not reversed with her fitness and food regimen) and was one dark spot in an otherwise excellent story.

Johnson negotiates a complicated love triangle well. Jill’s interactions with both Sean and Daniel are fascinating with chemistry that is tangible. While the romance is a huge part of the story, If I Fix You is really about Jill and her own choices as she tries to decide how to move forward after the painful heartbreak of her mother’s departure.

If I Fix You is a solid and often unexpected contemporary romance. Recommended for readers who enjoy stories about characters pulling themselves back from the brink, books with chipper best friends, and romances that keep you guessing.

Possible Pairings: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre, Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake, This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, When We Collided by Emery Lord, Falling Through Darkness by Carolyn MacCullough, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle

Book Reviews

Places No One Knows: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“I start, because if I don’t, then everything just stays the same.”

“I thought he made me a different person altogether, but maybe I was always holding those pieces inside me, waiting for a chance to use them.”

Waverly Camdenmar doesn’t sleep. She runs instead going as fast and as far as her legs will allow until she can’t think and the only option is collapse. Then the sun comes up, she pastes on her best face, and pretends everything is normal. It’s easy to hide behind her academic achievements and the popularity her best friend Maribeth so covets.

Marshall Holt is too apathetic to pretend anything is normal in his life or even remotely okay. Neither has been true about his family or his life for quite some time. He doesn’t care because he’s busy trying to lose himself in the oblivion of drinking too much, smoking too much, and making too many bad decisions. It’s been working great so far except for the whole maybe not graduating thing.

Waverly and Marshall are used to watching each other from afar–a little wary and a little hungry–but never anything more. Not until Waverly’s attempt at deep relaxation dreams her into Marshall’s bedroom and everything changes.

Now when the sun comes up Waverly’s carefully ordered world is stifling instead of safe. After years of trying not to feel anything, Marshall is feeling far too much. Waverly and Marshall thought they knew exactly who they were and who they could be. Now neither of them is sure what that means in Places No One Knows (2016) by Brenna Yovanoff.

Find it on Bookshop.

Yovanoff’s latest standalone novel is a razor sharp blend of contemporary and magic realism alternating between Waverly and Marshall’s first person narration. This character driven novel focuses on the ways their two personalities clash and intersect throughout their strange encounters.

Waverly is analytical and pragmatic. She knows that she is the smartest person in the room and she doesn’t care if that makes her threatening. Her sometime friends describe Waverly as a sociopath or a robot and she feels like she should care about that but it also seems to require too much effort.

Marshall, by contrast, is hyper-sensitive and philosophical and impractical. He doesn’t want to care about the way his family is falling apart or the way everything else in his life is crumbling. But he does care. A lot. And it’s wrecking him.

At its core Places No One Knows is a story about how two people engage with each other and also the greater world. Yovanoff’s writing is flawless with deliberate structure and scathing commentary both as a whole and on a sentence-by-sentence level. This story subverts gender roles and societal norms all in the guise of a slightly unconventional love story.

Places No One Knows is an excellent novel filled with fascinating characters. Although Waverly and Marshall’s relationship is a centerpiece of the story both characters also have their own stories to tell and their own journeys to make, which sometimes mirror each other and sometimes diverge, as they struggle to make the active choice to save themselves.

Possible Pairings: Take Me With You by Tara Altebrando, The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhatena, The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley, The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby, The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen, But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry, One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, Break Me Like a Promise by Tiffany Schmidt, All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater, American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Book Reviews

Since You’ve Been Gone: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan MatsonEmily had planned to have the Best Summer Ever with her best friend Sloane. Ever since she met Sloane two years ago, it felt like everything was better. Emily could be braver and more interesting just by virtue of being around Sloane.

But then Sloane disappears. No emails. No calls. No texts. Suddenly, the perfect summer Emily had imagined with her best friend is a lost cause. With her little brother busy trying to climb everything in sight and her parents starting a new play, Emily is expecting some quality wallowing time in her near future.

Then the list arrives after Sloane has been gone for two weeks.

This isn’t the first time Sloane has sent Emily a list of random, sometimes scary, things to do. But now, with Sloane gone, Emily hopes that completing the list might also help her figure out where exactly Sloane has gone.

With the help of some unlikely friends, Sloane starts working her way through the list. Apple picking at night should be easy. Dancing until dawn might actually be fun. Kissing a stranger could go either way. Skinny dipping? Stealing something? Those might take a little more work in Since You’ve Been Gone (2014) by Morgan Matson.

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Since You’ve Been Gone is Matson’s third novel. (It includes a surprise behind the dust jacket so be sure to check that out!)

From the cover and book design to the plotting and story, Since You’ve Been Gone is a perfect package. Every piece makes sense. Every aspect of the story clicks. Matson delivers a strong and immediately accessible story here.

Most of the story occurs during the course of Emily’s summer. Matson also includes key flashbacks to Emily and Sloane’s relationship to highlight the arc of their friendship. The flashbacks also add just the right amount of tension to the story as readers wonder what might have changed between these two girls.

Emily is a deceptive narrator, initially seeming passive and very meek. During the course of Since You’ve Been Gone readers can see Emily’s obvious growth as a character. Matson also delivers spot-on secondary characters ranging from Emily’s quirky brother and playwright parents to the friends she never expected to find in Frank, Collins and Dawn.

While Emily loses Sloane before the novel even starts, this book is very much about finding things–including a very authentic and charming romance. In her efforts to complete the list, Emily finds inner courage and maybe even a little bit of herself. Sloane’s tasks also add a nice structure to the story as each chapter focuses on one task and how its completion unfolds–often in unexpected ways. Since You’ve Been Gone is an effervescent, delightful read that is sure to leave readers smiling.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, City Love by Susane Colasanti, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, Reunited by Lauren Weisman Graham, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, Everywhere You Want to Be by Christina June, The Romantics by Leah Konen, Everything All at Once by Katrina Leno, Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills, Flannery by Lisa Moore, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson, Even in Paradise by Chelsea Philpot, Damaged by Amy Reed, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott