The Book Itself: Definitely a rom-com book, obvious from its cover. Flourishes, swirls, coffee and takeout, lots and lots of books (you assume this book will have a lot to do with books, there are five icons of open books on the cover). It’s pink, there are hearts…I feel like I should read it on Valentine’s Day!
My Review: The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out. But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.
Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together….
Sounds cute, right? Goofy, romantic, everyone can see it but you two! kind of scenario. Very romantic-comedy-chick-flick-movie-esque. Unfortunately, poor Gabe and Lea, our Romeo and Juliet are just not rounded out as characters, and they grate on one’s nerves.
The book is told from everyone’s perspective but theirs. And it’s all very cute little vignettes (I wouldn’t call them chapters, at most the installments cover only a page or two). But there’s no differentiation between characters. The angry Creative Writing classmate, the Chinese food delivery guy, the gay best friend, the mature older brother, even the bench and the squirrel talk in the same voice. One girl supposedly talks like a Valley Girl, but there isn’t enough color, enough variety in her voice to differentiate between her and any of the other female characters, let alone the male ones! And most of them just come off sounding pissed off at Gabe and Lea! Which honestly, I could understand.
Because Gabe and Lea are obnoxious.
Gabe’s Thing is that Something Happened to him a while ago, and it’s affected his mood and progress in school. It also makes him act like he’s allergic to girls, and that half the time he hates the people he interacts with. And when we find out about the event that makes him act like a shrugging weirdo, he suddenly, miraculously, lifts himself out of the doldrums and everything is fixed. Of course, he’s weirded Lea out enough at that point that they – gasp! – might never get together! But of course they do, because that is the entire point of this book.
Lea doesn’t ever seem to talk above a whisper. She whines a lot about Gabe to the point that I’m totally on her roommate and best guy friend’s side: just shut up and do something about it.
I’m under no delusion that this isn’t accurate to young relationships. They just like each other so much but they can’t tell each other that! That would be unthinkable! But it doesn’t mean I want to read a book about that frustrating frame of mind.
The fight before they get together is seriously lacking in vocabulary and nuance. The big confessions they make to finally profess their feelings to each other (spoiler alert: they read those feelings aloud in Creative Writing class) aren’t sweet or tender or really romantic. They’re repetitive and confusing.
It strives too hard for cute, when it should be looking for story and character development.
My Grade: D