Talia Hibbert is a damn treasure.
Plot: Eve Brown is a bit of a scatterbrain and has a pathological fear of failure. Only one solution – never try, never fail! Only her parents have had it up to their necks with their adult daughter’s failure to launch, so they hit her with a challenge. Find a job. keep it for a whole year. Then she can have access to her trust fund again. Being on the dramatic side, Eve launches herself out of the house and starts driving at random before landing on the doorstep of a cute bed and breakfast that needs a cook, and hey, one of the many careers she started for like 5 minutes was as a chef. Only Jacob, the B&B owner, is not enamored with her manic pixie dream girl energy. But he really needs a cook. So even after she accidentally hits him with her car, he reluctantly hires her on, and it turns out they have a lot more in common that either one realizes. Adorable shenanigans ensue.
I feel like there are almost only two kinds of stories that get told about people who deviate from the norm – either they are unlovable monsters due to said deviation or they are lovable specifically due to the deviation. These are both exasperating, boring, patronizing stories that fail to acknowledge that people are more than just one thing. You can have a disability and be great (for example, Hibbert herself), you can also have a disability and be a giant asshole (looking at you, dude who used his cerebral palsy to get away with groping girls in my high school). Hibbert never reduces human beings to a single characteristic, nor does she define them by a diagnosis. They are people first. They are lovable not because they are different, not despite their differences, but because they are lovely.
I related deeply to Jacob. Though I don’t have autism, we share a lot of our world views. For one, we’re both aggressive feminists. He comes to this book a fully formed feminist who spots creeps without even needing to be told about them because he’s such a mensch. He’s also a grumpy old curmudgeon trapped in the body of a 30 year old man. He does not trust happy pixies who seem to get by on luck and wealth because they are unreliable and must be gotten rid of before they wreck your life with their lack of long term planning. I am basically Jacob minus the abs. So I was surprised at how quickly and easily I came to love Eve, our manic pixie dream girl who just needed someone to let her succeed her own way rather than trying to pigeon-hole her into how to do things Correctly.
Eve, who is scattered and prone to dramatics, but not flighty and not uncaring and not stupid. Eve, who has an endless well of affection and patience, who doesn’t judge people, who is very quick to forgive when the apology is honest, who works tirelessly to make people happy and who is learning to value her own happiness too. May all us curmudgeons have a manic pixie dream girl like this in our lives and may we all treat them as well as Jacob treats Eve.
This book was an excellent reminder that while I have my way of doing things, a way likely refined over years of testing and therefore is clearly superior to all other ways, there’s probably still room to learn, and my way absolutely won’t work for everyone (even though it’s definitely better). It’s vital to allow people to find their own way and to celebrate the ways in which they flourish. Don’t get angry at a fish for being a bad climber, just put her in some water and let her do her thing.
And in true Hibbert fashion, while it’s forcing you to confront your own biases, it also makes you laugh. Eve’s long list of prior careers is as long as it is random and hilarious. The level of positive, enthusiastic, ongoing consent in this book is unreal. This is the third in a series and though it is a standalone, I’d recommend reading the other books first because (a) they are fantastic (b) unfortunately Eve’s sister’s don’t get much air time in this book, so reading their stories first will really help ground their characters and (c) they are fantastic.
As always, they’ve picked an excellent narrator for the audio book – Ione Butler does a fabulous job of bringing all the characters and their relentless sass to life.
Content warnings: mentions of childhood neglect and anti-autistic ableism (that gets shut down hard and fast).