Sunday 18 November 2018
#CBR Book 98: "Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating" by Christina Lauren
Rating: 4 stars
Hazel Bradford is rather intense and most people, certainly the guys she's ever shown any interest in, can't really handle her, or prefer to deal with her in small doses. Her spirited enthusiasm and quirky personality is ideal in her work as a fourth grade teacher, however, and the friends she does have love her to bits and appreciate her for who she is.
Josh Im may be one of the most laid back men Hazel has ever met. They got to know each other in college, when Josh was Hazel's TA, but lost touch and only reconnect at a barbecue seven years later, as Hazel's best friend Emily turns out to be Josh's sister. Hazel announces happily that she and Josh will also be best friends and doesn't win any time working towards making this happen. When Josh discovers that his girlfriend of two years has been cheating on him, Hazel is a rock of support. When Hazel's apartment is accidentally flooded, Josh allows her to stay at his place, even though he's a neat freak and she's a total mess.
She starts trying to set him up on dates, and he wants to return the favour. Josh and Hazel keep going on strange and often catastrophic double dates, repeatedly ignoring everyone else's suggestion that perhaps they should just date each other? They're completely and utterly wrong for one another, after all.
People who have read Christina Lauren's earliest romances may be a bit disappointed with the direction they seem to be taking their current books, which all seem to be standalone romances with a fairly low number of actual sex scenes, and usually long, slow build-ups of the romantic tension between the hero and heroine. While last year's Roomies didn't really work too well for me (it's now been optioned into a movie, and I hope they fix some of the things I was unhappy about in the adaptation), I was glad to find that this was as sweet, diverting and entertaining as I was hoping for.
The romance trope the co-authors are working with here is 'friends to lovers', but there's also absolutely an 'opposites attract' element to the story as well. I also think that the authors are playing with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl character trope in their creation of Hazel. While I enjoyed reading about her in this book, and she was clearly adorable and very caring, she was also a LOT extra and I suspect that in real life, I would find her exhausting to be around. Apparently her mother is much the same, which her father could never really handle and it led to the dissolution of Hazel's parents' marriage and has left her wary of guys her entire life. It's not like Hazel isn't aware of how different she is from most other people, she's very open about it (the book is narrated from both her and Josh' alternating POVs). Hence, while she'd love a long term relationship, she's not very hopeful she'll ever find one.
She certainly doesn't expect to find it with someone like Josh. He's a physical therapist and likes things neat and tidy. Unlike Hazel, he thinks carefully before he speaks and doesn't seem to end up in crazy and/or embarrassing situations every time he's out in public. He's a caring brother and son (he and his sister Emily are of Korean descent, with very strong expectations from their parents about their careers and personal life) and while his family pretty much hate his girlfriend, he's pretty upset when he discovers her betrayal. Subsequently, he's not really looking for anything serious for the first half of the book, just trying to "get back on the horse", so to speak, dating-wise.
Josh and Hazel are both very engaging characters, and as always, Christina Lauren includes a strong supporting cast to help flesh out the story. If you're looking for a really steamy read, this is probably not the book for you, but if you want a funny, sweet and quick read, not too bothered about a lot of *insert funky bass line here*, this is an excellent book to spend some time with. I could absolutely have done without the "surprise" element causing some complications towards the end of the book, and especially the developments of the epilogue, but those are minor niggles. The authors have a new book coming out at the start of December, I hope it's as good.
Judging a book by its cover: I think the warm candy colours of the sunset on the cover are very happy and cute. I forget which city the story is set in (or if it was even mentioned in the book - it doesn't really matter all that much), but the skyline is also nice.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.