The Friendship Study was a lovely read that made some choices near the end that I didn’t love. The first thing that I loved about this book is the cover. It’s gorgeous and really conveys the feeling of the book. I don’t usually care much about covers, but this one is an A+.
In 2021 I felt like all the books I was reading were about grief. This year the theme has been loneliness. Grief is still a big factor in so many books, but isolation and loneliness are taking center stage. After an accident that ended his career as a firefighter, Jesse has been solitary. Even though he is lonely, he avoids his friends and former co-workers.
Dr. Eloise Banks, but please call her Lulu, is back in her hometown after her best friend had an affair with her boyfriend (she’s more upset about the end of the friendship). Her father got her a job teaching at the university where he is a well known professor and Lulu feels like her nepo baby status stands between her and her colleagues (she is correct).
Jesse and Lulu go on one blind date that ends with some kissing and a no thank you. They don’t see each other again until they join an adult friendship study. The study (which is being run by their mutual friend George) is exploring why adults, mostly Millennials, have such a hard time making friends. They are asked to journal, take part in individual and group therapy, and do friend things with the other participants. I would like to take part in this kind of study.
They take small steps towards just being friends, but the attraction between them leads to some rule bending shenanigans. Both of them are dealing with issues around identity and expectations. Jesse is bisexual, but he hadn’t worked up the courage to tell his grandfather before Alzheimer’s stole his memory. Lulu is trying to understand why she never feels like she fits. In a lot of ways, I identified so much with Jesse. He gets in his own way a lot because he is afraid to speak.
I wish there hadn’t been a third act break-up. I am not opposed to them in principle, but in this book, I think it was unnecessary and I wish Ruby Barrett had made a different choice. I understand why she made that choice, but I hated reading it. Once they tentatively start a friendship, Lulu and Jesse are so soft and kind with each other. I would have loved for that kindness to continue. They both had plenty of external stressors that I didn’t need for them to be mean to each other.
Ruby Barrett is a fantastic writer. I fell in love with her characters enough that I’m mad at her for making them break-up (they do get back together).
CW: death of parents in distant past, family member with Alzheimers, aging parents, friend break-up, betrayal, multiple injuries, car wreck in past.
I received this as an advance reader copy from Carina Adores and NetGalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.