Review: I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn, Allison Raskin

I Hate Everyone But You chronicles a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

I’ll start off by saying that reading this book was probably the most FUN I’ve had in ages with fiction. I practically couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for the entirety of my reading experience. I Hate Everyone But You is perfect for fans of We Are OkayGena/ Finn, and Queens of Geek. That is to say: This book is an entirely character driven story, and like We Are Okay the premise is about two best friends in college, but we also have the shenanigans shared in Queens of Geek. I read through it in a whirlwind.

I will admit, however, that it took some time to get fully into the swing of things with the characters. But I was pretty sold once we had that one random scene at the beginning of the book where Gen tried cocaine in the bathroom with her new “friend.” It truly left me both baffled and in fits. Particularly when I recalled this fittingly iconic Christine Sydelko vine:

“Overall, I would give cocaine 2 stars.”

But once I was into it, I really was in… From clickbait-worthy titles for emails, relatable budding crushes (“I like him so much. I hope he can’t tell.”), mental health, weird therapists in training, exploring your sexuality and labels, growing into yourself, the complexity behind friendships, finding your friend’s crush online at the speed of light (I’m still laughing @chinatownjake98), and so much more that left me both reeling and feeling alive.

The dialogue (entertaining as hell, by the way) shared between Ava and Gen just began to flow so easily overtime, and I genuinely felt included on the fun and on the conversation, without actually having to experience any of the things they went through, which is low-key my heaven.

“Grow! Flourish! Experiment with things so I don’t have to.”

Also, the one-liners in here are something else. You would think that only one character would properly succeed at them, but that’s thankfully not the case with I Hate Everyone But You. On one side of the coin, we have screenwriter Ava Helmer who’s not afraid to tell it like it is:

“I just spent three hours gluing sparkle Greek letters to a poster board while twenty other girls gossiped about The Bachelorette like the contestants are real people and not robots hired by a massive corporation to fulfill their given duties and then disappear into minor Instagram fame.”

And then we also have journalist Genevieve Goldman, whom I admire for a plethora of reasons, but mainly because she’s impossible to define without using her own words one too many times:

“Where do I fall, you might ask? I don’t subscribe to labels. Unless I’m labeling other people.”

Their friendship, however, is the epitome of unconditional love. They can always count on one another to put everything in perspective. Plus, they never fail to be there on the other’s side when needed. It was inspiring to experience from the sidelines.

“Not everyone hits it off immediately. I fear that I’ve ruined you for other women. I am the best. We all know that. Sometimes you have to settle”

Whether it’s bringing Ava out of her spiralling mind by reminding her of how utterly incredible she is and how she don’t need no man, or by partying it up like a true college kid… Genevieve Goldman is a piece of art.

“Just remember: Jake is a typical college guy who barely knows how to take care of himself. Your self-worth should not hang in the balance of his New Balances.”

I feel like the only way I can visually show what their conversation left me like is through the one and only Jean-Ralphio:

“Quick question: Remember winter formal sophomore year when you told Chris R. to kiss me and then he did on our way home and I didn’t realize that you could breathe through your mouth while kissing and I suffocated? Does that have to count as my first kiss?”

Have I mentioned that I like Ava?

Also, on a more serious note, I cannot stop thinking about this next passage talking about Ava’s behavior with her caring parents:

“I hate that I am my worst self around the two people who are nicest to me. I’m unable to keep my barriers up when I’m around my parents, so all the ugly comes out. Even when I’m mad, I can feel the guilt spreading through my body, but the mad overrides it.

I always apologize once it’s passed, but that’s not good enough. I’m 18. I can’t freak out on my lovely, supportive parents anytime they say something I don’t like. I’ve put them through enough. She literally drove an hour to drive me 20 minutes and then sit in the waiting room while I went into another room and complained about her. I am a terrible person.”

These lines really just made me travel back in time to that exact emotion.

But on a more lighthearted note, the surprising fourth wall break dropped in the novel regarding Just Between Us made me shriek. Which pretty much sums up the entirety of my reading experience, thinking “Why can’t I stop smiling? What is this sorcery?”

And though the ending did feel a tiny bit rushed with so much left in flux at the last minute, I still seriously applaud the authors for making 352 pages fly by without me even looking up from the book.

Last but not least, I also listened to this next charming song during my reading time.

5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying I Hate Everyone But You, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

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Review: A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma

In A Life of Adventure and Delight, Sharma delivers eight masterful stories that focus on Indian protagonists at home and abroad and that plunge the reader into the unpredictable workings of the human heart.

I started this short story collection a bit skeptical, since it took me nearly the whole day to finish reading just the first tale because I wasn’t vibing with the characters, premise, or writing. A retired divorcé taking advice from Cosmopolitan to get into his neighbor’s pants, while chronicling their confusing yet utterly ordinary relationship didn’t grip me at all.

“He wondered if he was sadder than he knew.”

I went on with lowered expectations, thinking this would be a similar let down as Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her, but the minuted I opened up the second story titled “Surrounded by Sleep,” I was blown away from start to finish. What pulled me in particular was Ajay, the eleven-year-old protagonist at the heart of this tale. With his love for books, superhero comics, extreme superstitions and mind-expanding talks with God, it was as if the author knew exactly what to include to win me over. Also, the mother in the story was a sight to behold, especially when she used her devotion to “shame God into fixing” her oldest son.

“Are you going to tell me the story about Uncle Naveen again?” he asked.
“Why shouldn’t I? When I was sick, as a girl, your uncle walked seven times around the temple and asked God to let him fail his exams just as long as I got better.”
“If I failed the math test and told you that story, you’d slap me and ask what one has to do with the other.”
His mother turned to the altar.
“What sort of sons did you give me, God?” she asked. “One you drown, the other is this selfish fool.”
“I will fast today so that God puts some sense in me,” Ajay said, glancing away from the altar and up at his mother. He liked the drama of fasting.
“No, you are a growing boy.” His mother knelt down beside him and said to the altar, “He is stupid, but he has a good heart.”

Another point I unexpectedly came to cherish was Ajay’s character growth and how immense it seemed over the course of this swift tale, so much so that I nearly forgot that he was still eleven by the end of it all. Truly wise beyond his years.

“He was having difficulty talking. He didn’t know why. The only time he could talk easily was when he was with God. The explanation he gave himself for this was that, just as he couldn’t chew when there was too much in his mouth, he couldn’t talk when there were too many thoughts in his head.”

Needless to say, I was spellbound by how captivating “Surrounded by Sleep” was compared to the impression left by the first one. Consequently, my expectations were raised a tenfold for the remaining collection.

So I was then sad to see that the remaining pieces didn’t live up to what I’d so loved in the second story. Reading A Life of Adventure and Delight is probably the longest it has taken for me to complete a collection of short stories. I got stuck for days on end with a tale here and there, and in the end I just had to skip some pieces altogether to get the momentum back. I think my main problem was the fact that there wasn’t one theme or arc being explored, unlike in my favorite “Surrounded by Sleep”. Usually the tales started of in one way, only to end on a completely unrelated note, which of course led to numerous loose threads that left my mind spinning.

But I will say this: All the mothers in Akhil Sharma’s short story collection were a force to be reckoned with. The author can write dynamic mother figures like no one’s business, and I’m frankly jealous. So I was quite dismayed to see that A Life of Adventure and Delight didn’t live up to my overall expectations in the end. But I am eager to see what Sharma’s future works will entail.

3/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying A Life of Adventure and Delight, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

Nine interlinked short tales chronicling ruined relationships, cheating, death, family, and more. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness–and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own.

“And that’s when I know it’s over. As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it’s the end.”

This being my first read by Junot Diaz, I was in for a pleasant surprise regarding the writing and the tempo of each tale. The author specializes in making his short stories fly by. However, I had a hard time reading most of these tales of cheating and feeling literally zero remorse for it… And even going so far as to say that “it was just a mistake.” I have only one thing in mind for people that use that heinous excuse:

And I just wish the women in this collection could’ve listened to Dua Lipa’s New Rules:

Side note on the above song: I recently discovered this feminist, girl-power bop, and I’m completely digging it. It’s been on repeat for days now. Not only is the aesthetic on point in the music video (those color coordinations!!!), but Dua Lipa’s singing voice is one not to be trifled with.

Circling back to the actual story collection: While the first handful of stories were capturing and different enough to keep me interested, once the narrator became the same one for each coming tale I grew quite over it. Following Yunior from a teen to adulthood didn’t end up working in my favour, since his character wasn’t that intriguing to see developed over the course of a number of stories. And neither his family nor his romantic partners kept me intrigued enough, so I was disappointed with the second half of this collection.

This Is How You Lose Her is, however, a striking introduction to the author’s immaculately curated writing style. I’m not sure, however, if I’ll be eager to check out Junot Diaz’s other books in the near future. Mainly because the short stories left me extremely underwhelmed with the characters as a whole. So only time will tell on this one.

2.5/5 stars 

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying This Is How You Lose Her, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!