Yes. I know. “I’m back guys, look out for my blog posts” > *2 weeks later*
OKAY, I’M ACTUALLY BACK THIS TIME. I PROMISE.
And what better way to get back into blogging than with a book review for this cute and fluffy contemporary!
Thank you so much to Simon & Schuster for giving me the opportunity to be part of this blog tour after I expressed interest. I had only heard a few vague things about this book and mixed reviews so I went in completely blind – literally only interested because of
- 1. the cute af cover and
- 2. the fact that one of the protagonists was of Asian representation and although I love all books and characters, I do like to see me some Asian since I am one too 🙂
If you haven’t heard of this book or seen this gorgeous cover (see banner above) before, here is the blurb!
From debut author Mary H.K. Choi comes a compulsively readable novel that shows young love in all its awkward glory—perfect for fans of Eleanor & Park and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.
For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.
Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.
When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.
Let’s get my good ol categories up!
Characters & Plot
We meet the main character Penny, an aspiring writer (sidenote: who now that I think about it, is a lot like me when I was a cute preteen in her early emo phase in primary school except for the fact that Penny is tiny and I was as tall as a giraffe). Introverted, constantly wearing all black, and ready to leave home to start the next chapter of her life, Penny is thrilled to be going to college. Her mum annoys her a lot because she tends to treat her more like a best friend than a parent, and I honestly found that so interesting to read. I haven’t read a lot of books where there is such an intricate and reversed parent-child dynamic that I weirdly understood in some way. It gave Penny so much depth to her character and throughout the book, Penny went through a whole lot of character development in general.
As she starts her classes at college, learns and matures, she also finds a connection in her WIP for her college class. Her story is her creative take on a couple who kill their baby from spending too much time looking after a fictional baby in a game. Two words: So. Whack. Although I felt a little iffy about reading her writing something for her class, the symbolism and meaning of what she was writing really gave more depth into the overall story of the book.
Okay, Sam time. The attractive baker who wants to be a filmmaker and has the worst ex-girlfriend ever, who *gasp* may be pregnant and is ready to turn his life upside-down. How rude. His character was just as complex, if not more than Penny’s. Sam gets our attention because we meet him before he meets Penny (being that the chapters are generally alternating between her point of view and his), and we all want to read a great meet cute. Turns out his niece Jude is Penny’s roommate and further events lead to Penny becoming his Emergency Contact on his phone – thus beginning their adorable relationship over text. I loved his personality, he was so hard-working and open. He deals with so much emotional baggage to do with his family and how hard he’s trying to get over and grieve the relationship he had with his ex.
These characters were all so goddamn flawed and it was the best part of it. While Penny and Sam had such different individual storylines, they were so similar in their personalities. I can see why they were hard to like by other readers and why many might mark this book as problematic but it felt so raw and real. Normal people are like this and I honestly just lived for all the development in this book.
Writing & Structure
I found definitely found Mary’s writing so easy to read. I read this book in one day. ONE DAY. After being in a month and a half long slump, so suffice to say that I did enjoy the writing and found it such a fluid and cohesive style. The dialogue was smart and meaningful.
Although many times I could pick on up Penny’s wit and sarcasm, many times throughout the book I felt like she lacked tone. I couldn’t always feel her emotions as I read (either that or I really do have a stone cold heart), she was sometimes robotic in her reactions and responses. Something I felt resonated with me, but at the same time made scenes very elongated was the frequent little lists Penny would write as her options for what she could do. Kind of like Bandersnatch, sans the ability for the reader to choose (wouldn’t that be fun though? ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)) I felt much more emotion and tone from Sam, despite the fact that he’s probably more stressed than Penny for majority of this book ~ the eminent possible future of fatherhood and being super duper poor and all…
While Penny sometimes lacked tone, other characters like Jude sounded so enthusiastic in an almost forced happiness but weirdly enough, still seemed so real.
Otherwise, the writing was so cute and fluffy. I loved their text message conversations and their interactions. Their inside jokes were adorable and how their relationship slowly developped melted me from all the fluff!
The only way I can describe the structure of the writing and of this book is almost too closely related to the way we text nowadays: sporadic. It was personally one of the only things I didn’t quite enjoy. Not all the chapters were alternating between Penny and Sam, some were little chunks of Penny or Sam, and while I thought the book was so well written in that it had these two completely different yet intertwining storylines, the timelines could’ve been structured better. Some chapters had some time jumps that gave me a little start and sometimes it did feel like you were being told a bit more than showed what was happening exactly.
The only way I can describe this book is beautifully imperfect. It was really enjoyable and such a quick cute read, I’d recommend it to anyone who loves a good complex and character-based contemporary. I also found some amazing quotes that I personally think explain my views on diversity in the book community perfectly, so many good quotes! (Guys, I TABBED THEM. @thatidiotfranklin has gotten me into tabbing again. *sigh*)
Until next time,
Big thanks to Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of this blog tour. All opinions are my own and are not influenced or affected in any way.