I’m not sure if you guys can relate, but sometimes, romance feels ….. cliché. And.. it’s ROMANCE, I know that’s sorta the POINT. We read it so we can fall in love as two characters fall in love and then no one dies and they live happily ever after. They have sex in places people would never actually have sex in, and they say I love you WAY too early. And it’s FINE because it’s romance and it’s our escape and we love it. Part of why we love it is BECAUSE it’s cliché.
But lately romance has felt all the same to me, and not in a good way. Maybe I overdid it reading 12 regency novels a day, or maybe Sally Thorne’s amazing, can’t-put-it-down The Hating Game ruined all books that came after it. I’ve been in a romance funk.
But Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating got me out of it. I keep saying it feels “Fresh and New” and like “Old School Christina Lauren,” but that makes it seem like I’m saying their books have been old and stale lately, which is NOT the case. I think that we just expect such great stories out of Christina Lauren, which they deliver every time. So this one feels FRESH because it’s an outlier- It’s like a great Christina Lauren story times 10. It’s like when all we had from them was Beautiful Bastard, which we knew from the fan fiction, and then suddenly they published their next book and we were like BAM- WHO ARE THESE WOMEN!?
That’s what Josh and Hazel feels like. It’s a star in a catalog of already incredible books.
Christina Lauren have done something in Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating that they’ve never before achieved with one of their books. Don’t worry, they still packed it full with their signature hilarious characters that you’ll fall in love with and unresolved sexual tension that’ll make you feel like you’re thirteen again. But what I didn’t expect was to deeply crave Korean barbecue with the passion I usually reserve for my book boyfriends.
If we’ve learned anything from
my twitter feed this summer’s box office, stories that explore multicultural and multi-ethnic relationships are everything. You can add Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating to that list.
Josh is Korean-American and, while she may have a colorful wardrobe, Hazel’s ethnicity is Portland, Oregon white. (Which should really be in its own category on the SAT’s.) They have divergent life experiences and expectations, but this isn’t a story where those differences cause conflict. Rather, their differences are acknowledged and celebrated. It’s a snapshot of a true all-American romance and I loved every second. Come to experience Hazel tripping on the “sexual speed bump that is Josh speaking Korean,” and stay for the description of his umma’s bulgogi.
We spend so much time around here (and everywhere online) talking about book boyfriends that no one ever really gives the girls in our stories the credit they deserve. In fact, usually our most scathing reviews of a romance plot deal with the decisions/the personality/the physicality of the heroine. Girls can’t seem to catch a break in romancelandia sometimes. And I guess it makes a sort of sense. We want to imagine ourselves in their place, being lovingly doted on by a super hot pediatrician, or being furiously banged against a wall of windows in our company’s impressive high-rise. And when those girls do or say or seem unlike ourselves, it can grate on us, in ways that we don’t even realize.
It’s unfortunate because we all know that we are better with a slew of awesomely differentiated women in our lives. The ones who make choices that you don’t can change your perspective. The ones who don’t look like you do can enhance your empathy and help you boost your own confidence. The ones with different experiences can give us the best advice. The positivity we get from other women beats all the attention we’ve ever gotten from dudes. And so, enter Christian Lauren’s newest heroine, Hazel, in all her quirky, crazy glory to teach us something about ourselves and to crack us up.
Hazel is one of my favorite CLo heroines. She loves third graders – a super fun but equally bananas age – and forgets she is wearing Homer Simpson slippers (she owns Homer Simpson slippers). She never stops smiling. She’s the person who always keeps a conversation going, keeps it interesting. She eats her entire meal (GOALS! I bet she even eats BOTH Pop-tarts like a Viking). And while there are certain people who can’t handle her eccentricities, I think women like Hazel are THE BEST. Women who go out in the grass to do cartwheels because you insinuated they were getting older. As much as I love this romance, this story, and Josh … I’m here all the way for Crazy Hazy.
You had me at Friends to Lovers.
As a voracious romance reader there is one trope that I am a sucker for, the friends to lovers storyline. Maybe I love this storyline because dating your friend always seems like such a good idea, until you actually try it. Josh and Hazel are everything I wish my failed romance with friends could have been. I can honestly say this is in my top five favorite friends to lovers books, maybe even my all time favorite, it is definitely my favorite Christina Lauren book to date!
I love that Josh and Hazel aren’t necessarily perfect for each other, but their genuine love for each other as friends outweighs all of their quirks and differences. I felt like Hazel was such a relatable character and Josh is the quintessential perfect guy friend- You know that one guy friend you think about a little too long after you get home from hanging out with him.
This book gave me all the good feels of those moments right before you know you’re going to fall hard for someone knowing that it might be the biggest mistake of your life but the chance that it also could be the best decision of your life far outweighs the fear of falling flat on your face.
Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating is out 9/4! Buy it today!