CBR 12 Bingo: Debut
I’m still on my kick of wanting to read witty, contemporary romance, but honestly I’m starting to wonder if I have the same definition of “witty” or “funny” as other people. Just like The Hating Game and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, reviewers describe Sarah Hogle’s debut novel You Deserve Each Other as witty, funny, laugh-out-loud, etc. The thing is, witty banter and teasing, or even teasing that goes a little too far, are very different from being mean, and Naomi and Nicholas are downright nasty to each other.
Naomi and Nicholas’s wedding is quickly approaching, and Naomi wants out. She eventually realizes that Nicholas does, too (but be forewarned she’s a bit of an unreliable narrator), and she doesn’t want to have to reimburse her mother-in-law for the wedding bills (especially since Naomi didn’t want most of what her mother-in-law chose/paid for), so she decides to let loose and get Nicholas to break off the wedding.
We never get a clear picture of what changed between their second date, which is where the book starts, and the way their relationship is almost 2 years later, which to me detracted a bit from the book. There’s at least some indication that it has to do with poor communication between Naomi and Nicholas, as well as Naomi’s fluctuating self-esteem affecting how she interacts with Nicholas. Regardless, they seem to hate each other so much that it’s actually hard to believe they hadn’t already broken up. Or at least, Naomi really seems to hate Nicholas. They say a lot of awful things to each other, and the things Naomi doesn’t say are even worse. She is so caustic, and they are just so toxic to each other that by page 54 I was considering dnf-ing the book. This is the exchange that got me to that point, which starts with Naomi complaining about not getting flowers:
“‘Oh my god, Naomi,’ [Nicholas] sputters. ‘You told me forever ago that you don’t want flowers. You said you didn’t need them.’
“‘Well, I didn’t mean it! Obviously I want flowers. What girl doesn’t? . . .’
“I can feel his burning stare. ‘If I told you I didn’t want something, would you buy it for me anyway?’
“I turn to him. ‘Why would you want flowers?’
“[Nicholas’s] laugh is chilling. ‘Yeah, why would it ever occur to you to give me anything? A token of affection? Of course you don’t think about that.’
“I am giving him something. Patience. It is a gift. I’m giving him a miracle in that I don’t launch myself onto his seat and throttle him . . .” (p. 54)
The thing is, the book isn’t boring. If it were, that combined with how awful they are to each other would have made me stop reading. But it’s fairly fast-moving and I wanted to see what happened next and how it all worked out. This is an enemies-to-lovers novel (or more accurately in this case enemies-to-friends-to-lovers), and the switch back to friends/lovers was too quick. It really seemed like it should have been more gradual. I will say that the humor picked up a lot more once they reached that point, and there’s a great scene where Naomi and Nicholas team up against his mother (who is just awful). It’s just a shame that you have to read through 2/3 of the book to get to the good stuff.