Sunday, May 19, 2019

Book Review: "The Friend Zone" by Abby Jimenez

You might be tempted to write Abby Jimenez's new book The Friend Zone off as fluffy "chick-lit," assuming it's not much different than the countless other books like it out there.

You'd be wrong. Sure, there is romance, humor, talk of soulmates and futures, but there is also an extra layer of emotional complexity in this book. It made me want to devour the book even quicker than I did, and now that I'm done, I can't believe I have to wait until 2020 for Jimenez's next book!!

Josh and Kristen's meet-cute doesn't quite follow the traditional pattern: Josh, a recent transplant from South Dakota to Los Angeles, actually rear-ends Kristen when she has to stop suddenly in traffic. Kristen isn't any damsel-in-distress either—she's covered in coffee from the fender-bender and isn't afraid to let Josh know what a crappy driver he is, using every bit of flowery language she has at her disposal.

When they realize a little while later that Josh will be the best man at Kristen's best friend's wedding, both reluctantly admit they'll enjoy the prospect of spending time together. There's no doubt they're attracted to one another, and Kristen is awaiting the return of her Marine boyfriend, who will be moving in with her anyway, so there's no risk to their friendship.

The problem is, Kristen can't get enough of Josh, and the feeling is definitely mutual. Having been raised with six older sisters, Josh is more sensitive to what a woman wants—he knows that she needs to eat before she gets "hangry," they have the same sense of humor, and he even loves her little dog, Stuntman Mike. And the truth is, Kristen isn't even sure that her boyfriend Tyler is what she wants anyway, and the closer it draws to his discharge from the military, the more she starts to panic.

For his part, Josh has fallen in love with everything about Kristen. He can tell she doesn't seem into her boyfriend's return, and he knows they have serious chemistry? So why does she continue to keep him at arm's length?

Kristen has a debilitating medical condition, and it appears the only answer is a procedure which will make having children impossible. Josh has said more than once how he can't imagine not having a huge family of kids. How could Kristen deprive him of that, force him to choose her and give up his dreams? She wants him to have the life he so desperately desires, but she won't tell him why she keeps pushing him away, even when it's obvious how strongly she feels for him.

What I loved so much about The Friend Zone is the complexity of its characters and their relationships. Even when the book took a surprisingly emotional turn, the characters remained utterly true to themselves and the story, and I became even more invested. Sure, Kristen's reluctance to share the truth with Josh gets really frustrating, but the way he handles it, and the way the other characters in the book do as well, felt realistic and not part of some glossy romantic fantasy.

This is definitely a book I'd love to see adapted for a movie or television series, because I loved this story. (Plus, I wouldn't mind seeing how some casting director envisions firemen/ex-Marines Josh and Brandon, as well as Kristen and Sloane. Especially the firemen, but whatever.) Jimenez's writing is funny and charming and hooked me from the get-go.

I've really been enjoying my forays into this genre over the last year. There are some really talented writers out there and while it's easy just to think "chick lit" is fluffy and meaningless, you might want to adjust that belief. And The Friend Zone might be one that can help convince you.

Forever provided me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!

This book will be published June 11, 2019.

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