by Mary H. K. Choi
” “Even so,” she said. “You’re the best person I ever met. And my favorite.” “And you’re mine.” “
Penny, newly starting in university, is excited to get away from her MILF mother and become the Sci-fi writer she has always dreamed of being. Sam is still hung up on his beautiful ex-girlfriend and needs to get his life together. The two of them seem to find themselves by finding each other and they lean on one another, over text of course (because IRL is scary and who needs human contact?), through the hardships they are both facing. This book is laugh-out-loud funny at times and heart-wrenchingly real in others, blending to make a current and familiar story of moving through pain and learning to grow.
It has been a very long time since a book has pulled at my soul the way this one has. It is achingly real and current, the dynamic, flawed characters and the intense relationships that bond them bringing an insight into connections in a digital era and our own insecurities. Each chapter felt like a journey that I was both living in my own life and watching happen to a friend. I think the relationships and concerns in this novel are relevant to everyone growing up and coming to terms with their own pitfalls, which, incidentally happens to be most of the population. Everyone at one point has likely found themselves in a time of loneliness and struggle, held things back from the people around them or pushed people away because it all seemed “too much”. This novel does an excellent job at showcasing the desperate need to lean on others and to open up even if it is terrifying, even if you aren’t particularly close with anyone.
Penny was relatable, I could se myself in some of the decisions she made. She was far from perfect, but unlike some other contemporaries where the flaws make the characters “quirky”, Penny’s flaws made her real. As an individual that keeps everything in her bag from band-aids, to snacks, to lysol wipes, I could relate to Penny’s scattering brain and need for structure. I enjoyed that the texts between her and Sam weren’t flirty or serious, but everyday things that come to ones mind, meaningless and nonsensical. Penny was clearly a character that was continuing to develop even as the book came to a close, not neatly wrapped up with some sort of epiphany at the end, making for a satisfying and hopeful character arc. Sam was much the same, still figuring things out throughout the novel and past the end of the book. I enjoyed that Sam felt like a typical contemporary “bad boy” but in a more realistic way. He wasn’t stereotypically masculine and it was clear that he struggled with self identity among other things, giving him depth. Overall I felt the characters, even the side characters, had very real struggles, not just plot devices, which was refreshing to see in a contemporary novel.