ARC Book Review: What If It’s Us

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Synopsis:

Critically acclaimed and bestselling authors Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera combine their talents in this smart, funny, heartfelt collaboration about two very different boys who can’t decide if the universe is pushing them together—or pulling them apart.

ARTHUR is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

BEN thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them . . . ?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t nail a first date even after three do-overs?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

What if it’s us?

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Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Books for Trade. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on October 9, 2018.*

I love Becky Albertalli’s books and I love Adam Silvera’s books so when I heard they were writing a book together I knew I had to have it. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to find a kind soul on Twitter who was willing to trade their ARC with me for my ARC of Save the Date, which is also an incredible read. Thus, I finally got What If It’s Us in my hands and I’m so glad I got to read it early because it was just as good as I thought it would be.

The story is told in the alternating POVs of Arthur, a Jewish boy from Georgia who’s spending his summer in New York City as an intern at his mom’s law firm, and Ben, a Puerto Rican New York City native who’s stuck in summer school with his ex, Hudson. Arthur and Ben coincidentally cross paths when Ben attempts to mail a box of Hudson’s stuff at the post office. Unfortunately, their love story isn’t an easy one and begins with Ben leaving the post office before Arthur could get his phone number.

Even though I wouldn’t call this a high stakes novel since it’s a contemporary romance, I will say I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out how in the world these two guys would ever cross paths again in this huge city. Once they did, I then wondered how they’d ever make their relationship work. Over the course of the novel, there were a lot of questions about fate and whether or not the universe was trying to bring Ben and Arthur together or pull them apart, which I loved.

I also thoroughly enjoyed all the Hamilton and other musical references and I think any musical geek will love this book for that alone. Besides the great references though, this book was also really funny with a great cast of characters. I really loved both Ben and Arthur’s support systems, but Ben’s best friend, Dylan, was hands down my favorite. I also loved that this book took a hard look at Ben and Arthur’s differences. I loved the discussions of race/culture and what it means to be “smart.” I also really liked that the book combated this idea that homophobia doesn’t exist in places like New York City, because it does.

Overall, I will say this book really felt like a perfect combination of Albertalli and Silvera’s talents. While it gave me all the feels, it also made me think, and definitely tugged at my heart strings a few times. In sum, definitely preorder this book if you haven’t already. It’s a must read.

Borrow or Buy: Buy it!

Stars:

5 stars

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ARC Book Review: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating

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Synopsis:

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 thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. 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?

Purchase From:

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Review

*I received a free digital advanced reader’s copy of this book from Gallery Books via NetGalley. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on September 4, 2018.*

On Monday I saw Christina Lauren post about this book on Instagram and asked if there were ARCs. That same day I requested it on Netgally, got the eARC, and then proceeded to stay up until 6 a.m. reading it. Yeah, it was that good. And I have a problem, but that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, this novel is told in the dual POVs of Josh and Hazel, and I love them both but I might love Hazel just a tiny bit more. She was hilarious. I literally laugh out loud at so many points because of the things she did and said. I also shook my head a few times and said, “Oh Hazel,” but with the same kind of fondness Josh had for her. Hazel’s just the best.

Then we have Josh and my God he definitely tops the book boyfriend list. As Hazel likes to say he’s “the blueprint for Perfect.” First of all, I love that he’s Korean and that his culture was explored in this book. We got to see his Umma (mom) who was constantly cooking food for Josh and his sister, Emily, and then of course also Hazel, who’s also Emily’s best friend. (Side note: All the food descriptions made me hungry and want Korean BBQ) Christina Lauren did a good job exploring Josh’s culture and traditions and I loved getting to see that in this book.

Now, Josh and Hazel together. They were so cute and funny, and I loved that they spent the majority of this book setting each other up on pretty awful double blind dates. The number of times I wanted to jump into the book and yell at them, “Why are you wasting your time? The love of your life is right there!” was a lot. That said, I love a good slow burn and this book totally gave me that and while I always expect a happy ending from Christina Lauren this book still managed to surprise me.

Thus, I must highly recommend this book and I’m truly mad you have to wait until September to read it because ALL I WANT TO DO IS TALK ABOUT IT. Alas, that’s just how this goes. But preorder it so you can get it immediately and we can gush about Josh and Hazel as soon as the book comes out. K, thanks!

Borrow or Buy: BUY!

Stars:

5 stars

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ARC Book Review: The Brink of Darkness

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Synopsis:

In this sequel to the cinematic, romantic fantasy The Edge of Everything, star-crossed X and Zoe must overcome the boundaries of their two worlds in order to find their way back to each other.

Things have changed for seventeen-year-old Zoe ever since the otherworldly events that brought her together with the mysterious bounty hunter she calls X. In order to save Zoe and her family, X has done the unthinkable–he’s given up his freedom and returned to captivity in the Lowlands.

X is determined to break the lords’ hold on him once and for all, but being stripped of his power pushes him toward a darkness he’s never experienced and a past he’s never known. The secrets that surface could be the key to reuniting X and Zoe . . . or they could mean the destruction of everything they have been fighting for.

Gripping and full of heart, this epic continuation of Jeff Giles’ series will bring readers right to the edge of everything.

Purchase:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free digital advanced reader’s copy of this book from Bloomsbury YA. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel was released on July 10, 2018.*

I didn’t love The Edge of Everything, but I enjoyed it enough to want to read the sequel and find out how Zoe and X’s story would end. Unfortunately, I felt about the same about The Brink of Darkness as I did about The Edge of Everything, which is to say I thought it was so-so.

This sequel picks up a little after where the first book ended. Zoe and X have been separated because X had to return to the Lowlands and be punished for breaking the rules to be with Zoe. However, because of his time with Zoe and her family, X was more determined than ever to find his mother and find a way out of the Lowlands. Thus, began an epic adventure of self-discovery for X.

Meanwhile, Zoe was coming to terms with the fact that the love of her (teenage) life was living in literal hell, and there was pretty much nothing she could do about it. That was until Zoe was given a task to help X, one he couldn’t complete himself while in the Lowlands. Thus, both X and Zoe began to learn more about X and how he came to be born in hell.

As with the first book, I really loved the humor in this story. All the characters had their own quirks, which really added to the story. I loved seeing Dallas and Val learn more about what Zoe went through in The Edge of Everything. It was also nice that though Zoe and X still had trials to face in this novel, to me the stakes were actually lower in The Brink of Darkness. In The Edge of Everything, I felt so bad for Zoe and her family, whereas here, I was so happy to see them living a relatively normal life in Montana.

I think the biggest issue for me was I did get bored at times with this story. There were definitely times I started skim, and just wanted the story to just get to the point. I wanted to see action or romance or something exciting, and there was just a lot of walking around the Lowlands or backstories I personally didn’t need.  Thus, this was just an okay read for me. I wish I enjoyed it more, but I didn’t.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow

Stars:

2 stars

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ARC Book Review: One Small Thing

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Synopsis

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author duo of The Royals and When It’s Real comes a sensational new novel about a girl falling for the one boy she should never have met…

Beth’s life hasn’t been the same since her sister died. Her parents try to lock her down, believing they can keep her safe by monitoring her every move. When Beth sneaks out to a party one night and meets the new guy in town, Chase, she’s thrilled to make a secret friend. It seems like a small thing, just for her.

Only Beth doesn’t know how big her secret really is…

Fresh out of juvie and determined to start his life over, Chase has demons to face and much to atone for, including his part in the night Beth’s sister died. Beth, who has more reason than anyone to despise him, is willing to give him a second chance. A forbidden romance is the last thing either of them planned for senior year, but the more time they spend together, the deeper their feelings get.

Now Beth has a choice to make—follow the rules, or risk tearing everything apart…again.

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Review

*I received a free digital advanced reader’s copy of this book from Harlequin Teen. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel was released on June 26, 2018.*

I loved Erin Watt’s When It’s Real so when I heard they were releasing another contemporary romance novel I knew I had to have it, and it did not let me down. Unlike When It’s RealOne Small Thing is told in only one POV that of Beth, who’s sister, Rachel, died three years ago. After Rachel died, Beth’s parents became overly protective of Beth in suffocating ways. They wouldn’t let her go out with her friends and her mom took her college applications out of the mail, refusing to let her go to school out of state. Additionally, they still acted as if Rachel was still alive. For example, Rachel’s room looked exactly the way it did when she died, Beth’s mom got mad at her for putting her stuff on “Rachel’s bench,” and Beth wasn’t allowed to get a pet because Rachel was allergic.

It was a lot and I was on Team Beth from the very beginning, and was throughout this novel, even when she developed feelings for Chase, the one boy everyone wanted her to stay away from. Every one in Beth’s town hated Chase, including Rachel’s former boyfriend, Jeff, who also recently returned to town. Despite everyone telling her to stay away, Beth just couldn’t and neither could Chase. The friendship they developed gave me all the feels and I was rooting for them throughout the story, wanting Beth to honestly give the finger to everyone who told her it was wrong.

However, as the novel went on the author did a good job of showing all sides of this situation, and I did end up feeling sympathy for Beth’s parents, though they still made a lot of mistakes. What I loved most about this novel, was how it surprised me. There were of course things I expected from the novel, but there was plenty that truly surprised me.

Watt did an excellent job of drawing me into this story and looking at grief, forgiveness, and guilt. The novel also looked at issues of class and abuse. In sum, though this book isn’t large it tackled a lot of topics in a way that never felt heavy handed, but instead pushed the story forward, so much so that I read it one sitting. So definitely pick this book up if you’re looking for a quick read that will tug on your heart strings, and also infuriate you a little because really I just wanted Beth to catch a break throughout the whole novel and punch a few people in the face. Just saying.

Honestly though, do yourself a favor and get this book today, because it’s now on shelves. You won’t regret it. Trust me!

TW: Sexual assault

Borrow or Buy: Seriously? Buy this book! Do it, now!

Favorite Line:

“Rachel’s gone. And I have to let my broken heart heal instead of pretending I’ve been fine.”

Stars:

5 stars

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Blog Tour Review: Tell Me Lies

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Synopsis:

Lucy Albright is far from her Long Island upbringing when she arrives on the campus of her small California college, and happy to be hundreds of miles from her mother, whom she’s never forgiven for an act of betrayal in her early teen years. Quickly grasping at her fresh start, Lucy embraces college life and all it has to offer—new friends, wild parties, stimulating classes. And then she meets Stephen DeMarco. Charming. Attractive. Complicated. Devastating.

Confident and cocksure, Stephen sees something in Lucy that no one else has, and she’s quickly seduced by this vision of herself, and the sense of possibility that his attention brings her. Meanwhile, Stephen is determined to forget an incident buried in his past that, if exposed, could ruin him, and his single-minded drive for success extends to winning, and keeping, Lucy’s heart.

Lucy knows there’s something about Stephen that isn’t to be trusted. Stephen knows Lucy can’t tear herself away. And their addicting entanglement will have consequences they never could have imagined.

Alternating between Lucy’s and Stephen’s voices, TELL ME LIES follows their connection through college and post-college life in New York City. With the psychological insight and biting wit of Luckiest Girl Alive, and the yearning ambitions and desires ofSweetbitter, this keenly intelligent and staggeringly resonant novel chronicles the exhilaration and dilemmas of young adulthood, and the difficulty of letting go—even when you know you should.

Purchase From:

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Review

*I received a free digital advanced reader’s copy of this book from Atria Books. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel was released on June 12, 2018.*

On the eve of her best friend and former roommate’s wedding, Lucy Albright is nervous because for the first time in years she will see her ex, Stephen DeMarco. As the moment Lucy will see Stephen draws near, author Carola Lovering takes readers back to the beginning. Through Lucy and Stephen’s points of view, Lovering demonstrates how their tumultuous and toxic relationship began and then ultimately came to an end.

I found the parallel POVs to be interesting because the way Lucy and Stephen viewed their relationship, if you could even really call it that, was vastly different. At first, Lucy wasn’t all that interested in Stephen, however as soon as Stephen saw Lucy he knew she would be his next conquest, because Stephen, unfortunately for Lucy, is a sociopath who doesn’t know how to be in a real relationship. And I don’t call Stephen a sociopath in a joking manner, I mean it was eventually deemed by a psychiatrist that Stephen is actually a sociopath, though I’m confident readers could come to that conclusion on their own. Unfortunately, Lucy could not.

I know that people, particularly women, can often be blinded by love, but Lucy’s tunnel vision when it came to Stephen was so extreme it was a little hard for me to believe. For most of the novel, Stephen was in a relationship with someone else while sleeping with Lucy, a fact Lucy was well of aware, but was able to look past, convincing herself that one day Stephen would just want to be with her. Honestly, Lucy’s POV was very hard to read because I often just wanted to shake her and tell her, “Stephen is honestly the worst and you deserve way more than what he’s giving you.” Thankfully, her friend Jackie was there to say all the things I was thinking, not that Lucy listened.

On the flip side, Stephen’s POV was hard to read because he was just so callous and had such a disregard for everyone’s feelings. Again, he’s a sociopath, but still. He was terrifyingly detached and a horrible person. While I understand why having Stephen’s POV was necessary for the story, I felt like I could’ve done without it. He just infuriated me so much, and while I know he’s not supposed to be a likable character it was just too much for me and I didn’t enjoy reading his POV at all.

There were two things that really saved this novel for me. The first was the great way Lovering used Lucy and Stephen’s Long Island history to tie their pasts together. I thought that was really well done and added another layer to this book that made me more interested. The second was Lucy’s relationship with her mother, CJ. While I found Lucy referring to the reason for her tenuous relationship with her mother as “The Unforgivable Thing” a bit irritating at first that was simply because I just wanted Lucy to tell me what her mother did, which was obviously Lovering’s goal. The mystery of it made me keep reading and I really liked seeing Lucy’s relationship with her mother evolve.

Overall, my frustrations with Lucy and my total dislike of Stephen really pulled me out of this story so I didn’t enjoy as much as I wished I’d had. That said, Lovering told an interesting story and while I can thankfully say I’ve never let a guy take advantage of me the way Lucy let Stephen take advantage of her, I know this story will be relatable to a number of people. So though this wasn’t the book for me, I would argue that it’s definitely the book for someone else.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow.

Stars:

2 stars

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Book Review: Anger Is a Gift

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Synopsis:

Moss Jeffries is many things―considerate student, devoted son, loyal friend and affectionate boyfriend, enthusiastic nerd.

But sometimes Moss still wishes he could be someone else―someone without panic attacks, someone whose father was still alive, someone who hadn’t become a rallying point for a community because of one horrible night.

And most of all, he wishes he didn’t feel so stuck.

Moss can’t even escape at school―he and his friends are subject to the lack of funds and crumbling infrastructure at West Oakland High, as well as constant intimidation by the resource officer stationed in their halls. That was even before the new regulations―it seems sometimes that the students are treated more like criminals.

Something will have to change―but who will listen to a group of teens?

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes again, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

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Review

*I received a free digital advanced reader’s copy of this book from Tor Teen. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel was released on May 22, 2018.*

As a person of color, I’m well aware of police brutality and the injustice that occurs to people who look like me. That being said, I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. When I went to school the only thing we had to go through was the doors. We had one security guard, who was a POC and was quite chill but besides that, you just showed your school ID and you went inside. That was it.

My point in saying this is I did not grow up in an environment like the one Moss and his friends go through. If anything, I’d say I’m more like his best friend, Esperanza, who goes to a different high school, and doesn’t truly understand all that Moss and his friends have to go through on a daily basis, both at school and with the police in general. And recognizing that privilege in myself was definitely uncomfortable, but that’s the whole point of the book.

Moss is a young black man who’s father was killed by the police six years ago. Since then, Moss has suffered from anxiety and after seeing all the protests that were done for his father and how that didn’t really lead to change, Moss tries to stay away from protests and anywhere else where there will be a heavy police presence. That is until metal detectors are brought into his school. When one of the detectors ends up harming one of his good friends, Moss is rightfully angry and he decides to take action. Together with the help of his mother, Wanda, his friends, and his community, they stage a walkout at school. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end well.

Over the course of the novel, Moss struggles with wanting to do something about all the injustice he’s seen, but also feeling defeated, wondering if there really will ever be change. I think this is something that many POCs experience. I know I have myself. But what Mark Oshiro does so well with this story is he keeps it real about how bad it really is for POCS, particularly in areas like West Oakland where Moss is from, but Oshiro also shows the hope and joy in these communities as well.

While this book made sad, angry, upset, and uncomfortable, it also made me laugh and smile. Moss’ relationship with his mother was heartfelt and something I could definitely relate too, being close to my mom. Similarly, Moss’ meet cute with a boy named Javier and the romance that ensued, also made me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside.

And in between all of that, this book showed be a different experience that made me question my own worldview. Even having what I felt was a good understanding of police brutality, reading this book at times I found myself asking, “Is this legit? Do these things really happen?” When really I should be asking why does this happen and why isn’t anyone doing anything about it? The fact that this book raises those questions and will hopefully spark those conversations, is reason enough for me to say you have to read this book.

Borrow or Buy: Buy!

Stars:

4 stars

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ARC Book Review: My So-Called Bollywood Life

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Synopsis:

Winnie Mehta was never really convinced that Raj was her soul mate, but their love was written in the stars. Literally, a pandit predicted Winnie would find the love of her life before her eighteenth birthday, and Raj meets all the qualifications. Which is why Winnie is shocked when she returns from her summer at film camp to find her boyfriend of three years hooking up with Jenny Dickens. As a self-proclaimed Bollywood expert, Winnie knows this is not how her perfect ending is scripted.

Then there’s Dev, a fellow film geek and one of the few people Winnie can count on. Dev is smart and charming, and he challenges Winnie to look beyond her horoscope and find someone she’d pick for herself. But does falling for Dev mean giving up on her prophecy and her chance to live happily ever after? To find her perfect ending, Winnie will need a little bit of help from fate, family, and of course, a Bollywood movie star.

Purchase From:

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Review

*I received a free digital advanced reader’s copy of this book from Crown Books for Young Readers. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on May 15, 2018.*

I didn’t know about this book until I went to the New York City Teen Author Festival and Nisha Sharma was on a debut authors panel and read an excerpt of this novel. I thought it sounded hilarious, so when I saw it was available to request on NetGalley I immediately jumped on it and I’m so glad I did.

Told in a close third person narration, My So-Called Bollywood Life follows Winnie, a senior in high school who’s returned home from film camp to discover her boyfriend, now ex-boyfriend, Raj, is dating someone else. Although, in Raj’s defense, they were on a break. However, if he’d watched Friends he would know that’s not a reasonable excuse, but I digress.

The point is, Raj and Winnie are over, which is especially confusing for Winnie because all her life she’s believed in a prophecy she got from a pandit who said she’d meet the love her life before her 18th birthday and the guy’s name would begin with a ‘R’ and would give her a silver bracelet.

Now Winnie is fighting against believing that prophecy and wants to make her destiny, beginning with getting into NYU. To do that she needs to run the film festival at her school and be co-president of the film club…with Raj. Of course this doesn’t go well and it doesn’t help that another boy at school, Dev, is now showing renewed interest in Winnie and Raj just can’t seem to let go and still believes he and Winnie are meant to be.

With a love triangle, drama, a lot of Bollywood references, and the best parents you’ll ever meet, My So-Called Bollywood Life was a fun read that I just couldn’t put down. It also made me want to watch a Bollywood movie (I’ve never seen one!). My only issue was with the conflict at the end. It’s hard to explain without spoiling so I’ll just say I thought the conflict made it seem like Winnie should give up on something she worked quite hard for just for a guy, and the fact that her best friend, Bridget, seemed to also agree with this sentiment really irked me. If you want a more detailed explanation I’ll put it down below with spoilers.

However, this issue aside, I think the book kind of made up for it in the end, and overall I really did enjoy this book despite that one little thing, so I still highly recommend it. Definitely grab a copy of the book, which is on sale today!

Borrow or Buy: Buy!

Stars:

4 stars

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More Detailed Explanation Of My Issue With This Book Below (SPOILERS!)

In short, Dev and Winnie get together, they have a great time at the fundraiser dance for the film festival, but then the next day Dev is accused of stealing the money from the ticket sales and the money is found in his locker.

It obviously wasn’t him, but there’s no concrete proof it wasn’t so the faculty advisor for the club, Mr. Reece, pulled Dev’s movie from the film festival. Winnie was determined to clear Dev’s name, but she didn’t quit the film club, and for some reason both Dev and Bridget got angry with Winnie for not quitting. I thought this was absurd and for them to ask Winnie to quit the club, something that would boost her college application, was ridiculous.

Of course Winnie wasn’t going to quit the club and give up on something she’d been working towards for so long for some guy she just started dating. That’s crazy, and it was so unreasonable to me that everyone just agreed that’s what she should do. Maybe this why I’m still single but I think it’s a bit ridiculous to ask someone to give up on their dream for a guy, much less one she hadn’t even been dating that long.

That being said, I felt the novel sort of corrected the problem by having Winnie still pursue her dream, just in a different way. The epilogue also made it abundantly clear that Winnie could have both the guy and her career as a film critic, which I appreciated. Still, that one part just didn’t sit well with me at all.