Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Book Review: "Love and Other Words" by Christina Lauren


I'm not a fan of the term "chick lit," because I think it's often used to downgrade a book, to connote that it shouldn't be taken seriously or it's not as well-written as "real" novels. But the truth is, whether you call Christina Lauren's new book, Love and Other Words, "chick lit," "women's fiction," or whatever, I absolutely loved it—gender label be damned!!

Macy and Elliot were inseparable as teenagers. Elliot's family lived next door to the house her father built for the two of them to escape to on weekends and holidays, while mourning the death of her mother. Macy and Elliot's shared love of reading, their quiet, contemplative, even sensitive nature, drew them together quickly, and cemented a friendship that was the biggest thing in their lives.

But as they grew toward adulthood, their feelings blossomed. Elliot was no longer the awkward, gangly kid she used to know—he was becoming a man she couldn't get out of her mind, one with whom she wanted so much more than companionship, and trading favorite words. He felt the same thing about Macy, and hated the fact that he only was able to spend time with her on weekends and holidays, when he wanted to be with her always.

And on the night he finally declared his love for her, something they both felt so intensely, he wound up breaking her heart, leaving her a complete wreck. Macy never spoke to him again, never returned to the house, and left Elliot wondering how things could have changed so drastically, how he was going to live without the person he thought about every day. Macy, too, had to rebuild her life, and she coped by keeping everyone at arm's length, never letting anyone close enough to hurt her, never giving anyone a chance.

Eleven years later, Macy feels like she's pulled herself together. She's a pediatric critical care resident, and she's engaged to an older, well-established man with a young daughter. Maybe there's not a lot of passion, but the sex is great, and she feels, well, secure. Isn't that enough? It seems that way until she runs into Elliot one day at a coffee shop near her hospital.

"He's my person. He's always been my person. My best friend, my confidant, probably the love of my life. And I've spent the last eleven years being angry and self-righteous. But at the end of the day, he tore a hole in us, and fate ripped it wide open."

As Macy and Elliot try to catch up on the last 11 years, the intensity of their feelings for one another come rushing back instantly. But is she willing to throw away the security she's found for a chance to get hurt again? Would they even work as adults anyway, when so much within and between them has changed? And how can they get past what happened 11 years ago if she's not sure she can even talk about it, let alone deal with it?

I thought this book was excellent—every heartfelt, emotional, sexy, melodramatic second. Love and Other Words takes the story of best friends who become something more and then throws them into utter discord. You may have your suspicions about what happened but you can't understand what would necessitate not speaking to one another for so long, and building barriers around your life like Macy did.

I loved these characters, even when they were being selfish, petulant, or just plain ridiculous. There is just so much heart and emotion in this book, so much love, and I couldn't get enough. I would've devoured the entire book in one day if I wasn't in the middle of my busiest time at work. I know when I pick up my Kindle while I'm sitting at traffic lights so I can squeeze in a page or two, I'm hooked.

Christina Lauren, the authors (it's a pen name for two friends) of one of my favorite books from last year, Autoboyography (see my review), once again prove they're excellent storytellers who want you to feel and think and grow along with their characters. Don't worry about what genre this might fall in—just call it "great fiction," or even, "lit lit." (See what I did there?)

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