Author: Christina Lauren
Rating: 5 Stars
Dates read: 04 Apr 19
Publication date: 04 Sep 2018
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre(s): New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take – and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and taste for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter and tendency to say exactly the wrong thing will. Their loss. Not everyone can handle a Hazel.
Josh Im has known Hazel since college. From the first night they met – when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes – to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.
Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them . . . right?
I think it’s clear from my reading history that I like me some Christina Lauren. They are the first author(s) that I have encountered that write New Adult novels that are not in the boardroom or a setting I can’t visualise. I bought this as an e-book, something I don’t usually do, because I was so set on reading it quickly and didn’t want to wait for a physical version to arrive, and have to say that they have hit it out of the park once again.
The authors have a great way of making their characters accessible and their relationships and lives attainable. New-adult is a new(ish) genre and thee is definitely a period at the moment where the boundaries are being drawn. They don’t shy away from writing explicit scenes, in fact, their original works were less plot focused and more action based than they are now. As they have become more established, they have become stronger plot writers, and have created great stories, and I think this was one of my favourites I have read.
Hazel is fantastic. I really loved her. I thought her dedication to herself, to embodying her true demeanour and not dampening her spirit for anyone was actually quite insprirational. She is weird and wonderful in the best way, exuding passion and humour and colour, and is just shamelessly herself in any situation. I really like that she doesn’t hold back in what she says, and to who she says it to, favouring an honest and blunt approach that is hilarious and refreshing. Her relationship with her family, with her friends, with her students, and ultimately with Josh are brilliant and different and loving in each. I also really enjoyed the discussion about teaching and her attitudes towards classroom behaviours and teaching practices. I taught young children for a period, and loved how dedicated her children were to her, and she was to her kids. I can imagine she would be a fabulous and inspirational teacher to have in your formative years.
Josh, who is the brother of Hazel’s best friend, and the university acquaintance of Hazel is so different to her, yet so accepting of her weirdness. I know there is an old adage that the path to true love is to find the someone that is your brand of weird and accepts you for who you are, and this is a great example of this. The unfortunate flooding of Hazel’s apartment throws them together, and their lives are meshed, her colourful chaos is a shock to his ordered life, and I think he likes it. He enjoys having her energy around the place, her animals in his space, and ultimately he implicitly accepts her as se is, and she likes him for what he is. I really believed throughout the story that his life was enriched by her presence and that he valued everything around him, and thought it was better for her being in his life. I feel like his personality grew and he came out of his skin as the story progressed, we certainly learnt a lot about him, and Hazel as a by product, from his story arc.
The side characters, like all Christina Lauren novels, were great. His sister/her best friend Emily and her husband Dave were absolutely hilarious, and saw the union from much further out that the characters themselves. They were the epitome of adult married couple, and even though they were completely different to Josh and Hazel, they were equally as suited to one another and were a good second couple to have in the story. Her mother was laos a shining light, and was a great example of how following your family, trusting in your life lessons, and being yourself produces the happiest and most productive environment.
The most surprising character development for me was related to his family. He is of Korean descent, and it is clear that his family means a lot to him, and how they are treated by his friends/partners is of huge importance (as it should be). Hazel’s unwavering acceptance and delight at spending time with his family is incredible, and clearly lifts a wait from Josh’s shoulders, but also his family’s. They clearly look out for him, and so they are relieved he has finally found someone who is his match, and his equal, and fits with their family dynamic gloriously. There wasn’t a requirement for this storyline, but I think it really added weight to the moral messages and the strength of their relationship and I really appreciated this development.
Ultimately, it was the use of these character traits and the manipulation of these relationships that shone through to make a great novel. The premise that Josh and Hazel were not dating, that they weren’t interested in each other in that way created a brilliant platform for the double blind dating situation they found themselves in. Through this, there were hilarious situations a plenty, but more importantly, it showed that their relationship (platonic or romantic) was always at the forefront of their brain. They had dates where they got on better, where the dates themselves bonded, dates where they were shamed for being themselves, and ultimately this showed to the reader and to the characters that valuing yourself and others for who you are and not trying to change things is the best foundation for ANY relationship of any kind.
The dates were often the comical and the bad. I mean, we’ve all heard about bad dates where the blind date is an ex, or a vegan, or doesn’t like anything you do, or prefers the other blind date to the person you’ve set them up with, and this book is like a series of them all. They were a great spine to have through the book and provided a little bit of comedy whilst relaying the same moral message I found throughout the book. Christina Lauren interweave comedy and caring pretty well in their plots, and have certainly improved at this since their first published books.
I devoured this book in a 24hrs and absolutely loved it. It doesn’t quite eclipse Roomies as my favourite of their novels, but it went right in there and as really cemented them as a favourite author/author pair. The book combined comedy and romance, dating and working, and was a great example of real people in real relationships with real jobs in their 20’s/early 30’s which is ultimately something someone aged 27 wants to read about. It wasn’t overtly romantic and the action wasn’t in your face and unreadable which it can be in some new-adult or erotica books and I appreciate that, because no-one minds a bit of the loving if it’s well written and well plotted, and this is what they have become masters of. I can’t recommend this enough, it was really really good and I’m so glad I’ve committed to reading all of their works!