Thanks to Berkeley and Netgalley for the Advanced Reader’s Copy.
This book and I went on a ride together. It didn’t really gel with me at first, but by the end, there was more of it that charmed me and worked for me than that didn’t. I will definitely read more books from this author going forward.
The premise here is that Shay has been a radio producer at a public radio station in Seattle for ten years, and wunderkind Dominic is fresh out of grad school. Their boss talks them into hosting a show where they pretend that they used to date (the station is having money troubles and this would boost donations and get them more listeners). It’s called “The Ex Talk” and it sounds like something I would actually want to listen to. (Solomon clearly knows her podcasts.) But Shay and Dominic barely know each other, and the lie doesn’t sit well with either of them. There are other underlying conflicts in this story but I only have so much room.
First of all, it was delightful to read a book set in the world of public radio and podcasting. As always with books where the characters’ jobs are part of the narrative, I wanted more of the job! Honestly, I may be alone here, but I wanted more of the transcripts to their podcast. I wanted to see them overcome obstacles in their work. I wanted to see what it was like to really be a radio host and producer. But that gripe aside, I thought the setting here was absolutely great and worked really well. I could have done without the sexist boss and the incredibly stressful and stretch-your-disbelief of the premise, but I’m not sure Solomon would have been able to sell the book without the higher stakes concept. (My preferred version of this book would not have involved them lying about dating. They would actually have been exes and worked their problems out!)
Another reason I would have preferred the book without the lie is that it was really bothersome to me at a core level, and I don’t think it bothered the characters enough. For most of the book, they lie to their audience, an audience who relies on NPR and its affiliates for honest radio. It just struck a bad note for me right from the start, and made me think less of the characters, who I otherwise really would have liked. It’s also a really hard premise to sell. If this had happened in real life, I never would have trusted either of these people or that radio station with content again. I don’t know how you come back from that. And I didn’t really buy how they did, to be honest. I just wanted things to work out for Dominic and Shay. Solomon is great at building their relationship, and they have the most fun banter. They just work really well together, and you want them to work out, enough to overcome the premise even.
Plus Shay has a small chihuahua rescue dog named Steve Rogers Goldstein.
[3.5 stars, rounded up]