Classic second book syndrome strikes again.
I feel like if this was Erin Hahn’s debut, I’d lower my rating because compared to her first novel, You’d Be Mine, this isn’t even close to being good. That doesn’t mean that this is a bad book that’s deserving of a low rating, but it does mean that it’s more of a mediocre 3 star book that teeters closer to the low side of the rating rather than inching closer to a bumped up rating. It’s a fine sophomore title, and that might be it’s only saving grace in my review because the further I got into the story, the less impressed I felt. Again, it was a fine reading experience but it was missing so much. I want to say that I feel like a lot of fault isn’t actually with the author and more with her editing team, but more on that later. I think I messed up reading this in 2021 because this is not the vibe I want going into the year.
I do want to say that at its bones, the book contains a cute little story. I am always a sucker for some unrequited crushes in contemporary romances, but this was doubled with both characters having crushes on the other and having no idea that their crush feels the same. Like come on, that’s the cutest little romcom moment ever. However, it kind of doesn’t really go beyond that. Like yes, you see how both Vada and Luke get flustered around each other and appear to be super clueless to their feelings, but it doesn’t really help to progress the romantic relationship. I think if maybe only Luke was the one with a crush on Vada and by spending a lot of time together she’d eventually develop feelings for him in return it’d be a better development, but we immediately went into the book knowing they had crushes on one another and that was it. It left little room for actual progression and development and for over 250 pages we were left in this limbo or stalemate of a relationship that felt like it wasn’t moving beyond the unrequited crushes that were actually requited. Does that make sense? And when the relationship finally starts going somewhere, a petty argument over a complete misunderstanding that could’ve been solved in literally 10 seconds was brought in as the last minute climactic drama just to do something in the story. I think my point is that there weren’t really a whole lot of stakes in the romantic relationship for these two which made it feel slow and a bit boring.
Another problem I had was that while the characters were pretty good, they all felt the same. Vada and Luke both had a deep love for music, both had an arts talent, and both had severe daddy issues. I mean, it’s no wonder they had crushes on each other because they’re the same person. And the problem with that is that when you’re in their respective POVs, you can’t really differentiate one from the other. It felt like Hahn made them so similar to one another, I’m assuming to give them a lot of things in common, but never gave them their own voices. They had the same voice, the same mannerisms, and even the same opinions that it was like you’re reading the same character story twice. And I think this even stretches to the secondary characters with both parental units being of the same cloth and even Luke’s twin and his boyfriend felt the same. There was also a lot of self-insert going on with the two as well, in my opinion, because their taste in music and all the titles and references felt very Gen-X to me, which I know Hahn is and when I used to follow her on socials she talked about these songs and bands, and while I’m not the direct target audience, I couldn’t relate to these songs that Vada and Luke talked about so how could a Gen-Z? Sure, it shows how Vada knows her craft but her taste in music is outdated even for her. That’s just how I personally feel but I also listen to Hanson exclusively, so what do I know?
The reason I think this book was more on the disappointing side was mostly due to the editing team behind it, and not solely on Hahn’s shoulders. There were a lot of inconsistencies missed that I noticed and I just don’t think the editors did a good job actually helping to mould the story. One thing Hahn did a lot of in the book was have Luke and Vada speak in parentheses a lot, which got annoying after a while and also didn’t make sense because they’re speaking in first person; why are you protecting your thoughts or adding thoughts in parentheses as a quirky little afterthought? This is a book, not Twitter. And the editors just let all those slide when they easily could’ve been left in the story as actual sentences or italicized as an inner thought, as one typically does. I also feel like the editors didn’t help to flush out the story the way they should have, like with actual queries and factchecks, and you could tell in certain parts the things they skimmed over. You know what it is? It didn’t feel like anyone cared about this book. It felt like a “ok here’s a new story for your pub house, do whatever you want” and lacked that love and care that I feel like a contemporary really needs. I’m sure people did care about it but the book doesn’t feel like someone really had love for it.
Also, whoever decided not to use chapter breaks and made this book an overall design disaster deserves to be fired. I know Macmillian has money so I don’t think there was a cost issue here.
Overall, it’s a fine and borderline mediocre book but it’s not one I’d tell you to rush out and read. It’s an enjoyable book to tide you over if you’re in between titles but I don’t think it’s going to change your life. I don’t believe Hahn is a bad writer, because her debut was one of my favourites of 2019, but I just think this was a case of second book syndrome mixed with a bad editing team. Sorry, but that’s how I feel. Better luck next time?
Growing up under his punk rocker dad’s spotlight, eighteen-year-old Luke Greenly knows fame and wants nothing to do with it. His real love isn’t in front of a crowd, it’s on the page. Hiding his gift and secretly hoarding songs in his bedroom at night, he prefers the anonymous comfort of the locally popular podcast he co-hosts with his outgoing and meddling, far-too-jealousy-inspiringly-happy-with-his-long-term-boyfriend twin brother, Cullen. But that’s not Luke’s only secret. He also has a major un-requited crush on music blogger, Vada Carsewell.
Vada’s got a five year plan: secure a job at the Loud Lizard to learn from local legend (and her mom’s boyfriend) Phil Josephs (check), take over Phil’s music blog (double check), get accepted into Berkeley’s prestigious music journalism program (check, check, check), manage Ann Arbor’s summer concert series and secure a Rolling Stone internship. Luke Greenly is most definitely NOT on the list. So what if his self-deprecating charm and out-of-this-world music knowledge makes her dizzy? Or his brother just released a bootleg recording of Luke singing about some mystery girl on their podcast and she really, really wishes it was her?