I finished this not even a full 24 hours ago and I remember barely anything about it. Such was the utterly forgettable nature of this book.

I’m going to keep this review short because I don’t really have much to say about this one. I found it to be a largely underwhelming read, tonally flat and narratively meandering. Win Me Something feels like a lethargic book, like it doesn’t have the energy to give the reader anything that’s even remotely interesting or exciting. Because of that, it reads as very dull, one-note: we go from one scene to the next, from past to present, without a sense that the narrative is progressing, or going anywhere, really. It’s less a narrative and more a series of observations with some reflections tied to them. And for some novels that execute this well–I’m thinking of something like A Winter in Sokcho–that’s enough, but that is certainly not the case here. Win Me Something is a short novel with short chapters, so part of me wants to say that maybe it could’ve used a bit more space to develop its story, but no: I don’t think length is the issue here. It’s the lack of substance; Win Me Something feels so flimsy, like it’s barely holding itself together. Needless to say, I didn’t find it anywhere near substantial or interesting enough to sustain my interest.

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I was disappointed by Book Lovers, here’s a review in point form:

• My biggest issue with this book is that I simply didn’t feel strongly about any of it. When I read a romance novel, I need to feel strongly about said romance–it can be a fun, lighthearted romance, or an angsty, hardhitting romance, but regardless of tone, all I want at the end of the day is to feel deeply invested in the characters’ relationship. Needless to say, I didn’t feel that way about Nora and Charlie. I didn’t feel one way or the other about them, really. Their interactions were fine–and frankly, the worst thing aside from outright hating a romance is to think that it was fine. Fine is boring; it’s lukewarm; it’s forgettable. (Unsurprisingly enough, I’ve already started to forget this book even though I literally finished it yesterday.)

• As to why I thought the romance was mediocre, there are a lot of reasons. Namely, it wasn’t developed slowly enough. There wasn’t enough of a buildup, and the buildup is the best part of the romance: the tentativeness, the second-guessing yourself, the realization that you actually like this person, the tension–all of that was missing here. With the exception of their first encounter, Nora and Charlie pretty much immediately hit it off, and, like, good for them, but it’s not very interesting for me as a reader to just have all that fun buildup stuff almost entirely skipped over.

• Emily Henry writes some really great banter in this (it’s one of the few things I truly loved about this book), but banter does not a good story make, and the overarching structure of the romantic plotline was lacking. It was too vanilla in that it just wasn’t dramatic enough: there was very little conflict, or a sense of there being narrative ups and downs. There were inconveniences and half-truths and little misunderstandings, sure, but there was just no underlying sense of actually significantly highs and lows in the story (at least with regard to the romantic plotline).

I feel like the whole time I was reading this, I was waiting for something to impress me–some “wow” moment that would stop me in my tracks–but it just never came. Part of that is the hype–a third Emily Henry romance!!!–and part of that was just my own expectations: I wasn’t especially taken with Beach Read, but I loved People We Meet on Vacation–structurally, it’s one of the most well executed romances I’ve ever read–and I thought (or hoped) that Henry’s stories were on an upward trajectory. Sadly, this was a major step down for me. It wasn’t bad, but it was underwhelming, which ultimately means give it a couple of weeks and I will pretty much have completely forgotten about this book.

• Some additional little gripes: first, the writing is overly sentimental sometimes, especially when Nora is waxing poetic about how much she loves New York and how much of a City Person she is. Like okay, we get it, you love the bodegas and trains or whatever, no need to tell us about it for the umpteenth time.

• Second, as with Beach Readthe fictional novel that Henry makes up for this book–a novel that Nora’s author client, Dusty, is in the process of writing–sounds awful. Like it truly sounds so bad, and the fact that the characters talk about it like it’s a literary masterpiece that they simply have to get their hands on boggled my mind.

• And third, I found it really annoying how Nora constantly had to babysit Dusty. Nora’s workaholic tendencies are a big part of the book, so it was surprising to me that this was never addressed in any way. Nora is fielding phone calls from this lady left and right to coddle her and give her pep talks and make sure she’s doing okay and like!!! Sure it’s your job to make sure your client feels supported and all, but the way that it’s written here makes it sound like Nora is just there to manage Dusty’s emotions 24/7. That’s not part of your job, Nora !!!!!

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Well, this was extremely average.

This is a quintessential 3-star read for me: it wasn’t egregiously bad, but it didn’t really impress me in any way either. Reputation is being touted as a mashup of Mean Girls and Bridgerton, and I think this is one of those rare instances where the comparisons are actually accurate. This book is basically Mean Girls, but in the Regency era: there’s the group of popular rich kids, the cattiness, the drama, the parties, and the Normal main character stuck trying to navigate it all.

Does this mashup work? I don’t know. Yes and no. Though it was certainly fun to watch the characters getting up to all sorts of highly illicit (by the standards of the Regency era) antics, at a certain point it just felt like more of the same. Like oh what a surprise ! another scene where the characters are being shitty to each other while also getting drunk and doing drugs ! we definitely haven’t seen one of those scenes before ! 🙂 Lex Croucher attempts to infuse humour throughout their protagonist’s narration to lighten things up, and it’s not that that humour didn’t work at all, but it just ended up feeling like Croucher was trying too hard. Like I could recognize that a sentence or situation was supposed to be funny, and I could recognize that the author was in fact actively trying to make it funny, but it was just never actually funny to me. (Then again humour is very subjective so take this with a grain of salt I guess.)

I did enjoy some of the exchanges in this novel, especially between the main character and her love interest, but overall I felt like it was a bit paint-by-numbers. Not necessarily in the sense that its plot was super predictable (though it is mostly predictable), but in the sense that nothing in Reputation really surprised me in any way. (The audiobook, narrated by Bessie Carter, is great though! She does all the voices so well and acts the hell out of some of the more dramatic scenes in the book.)

Thanks to Macmillan Audio for providing me with an audiobook ARC of this via Netgalley!

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