A Sapphic Regency Romp: Pride and Prejudice and Pittsburgh by Rachael Lippincott

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As a current Pittsburgh resident, as soon as I saw that the Lesbrary had received a review copy of Pride and Prejudice and Pittsburgh by Rachael Lippincott, I knew that I needed to read it. A fun sapphic romance mixing regency and the steel city with added time travel? Sign me up. And it did not disappoint.

Pittsburgh native Audrey feels stuck. Her first choice of art school has waitlisted her. Her high school boyfriend has dumped her after trying to persuade her to abandon art as a career after he didn’t get accepted. And she feels stuck and unable to create anything new for the portfolio she needs to submit. When a regular at her family’s corner store offers her some cryptic encouragement, Audrey finds herself transported not only to the past but to England. In 1812, Lucy feels trapped. Her mother had wanted for Lucy to marry for the love she did not find herself, but with her gone, Lucy is at the mercy of her controlling father. He is forcing her into marriage with the rich but odious Mr. Caldwell. Isolated and increasingly depressed, Lucy greets the appearance of a girl wearing the strangest and most improper of clothing with interest and relief. Together, they resolve to figure out a way to return Audrey to her time.

The conflicts here are numerous and yet for the most part they’re romcom level problems. As Lucy spends time with Audrey, she wonders more and more how she can resign herself to a loveless marriage even more constricting than life under her father, but she doesn’t know what else she can do. Stranded in a society very different from her own, Audrey regains her inspiration in her art and confidence in herself as several eligible local bachelors show an interest in her. But Lucy is the person that fills her days and her sketchbook. How can she find love or inspiration in the rest of her life if she’s fated to leave Lucy behind? I bet we can all guess the answer, and like a good romance Pride and Prejudice and Pittsburgh’s charm is in the journey, not the solution.

What I liked best about this book is that it did not take its own plot device too seriously. In some stories, you want a detailed exploration of how the time traveler’s clothes or possessions make trouble, or it makes sense for the other characters to think they’re lying about time travel. And sometimes you want some mild shock about modesty and some honest delight about the magical box that plays music. Sometimes a girl can meet some bachelors that find her lack of local polish charming, as a treat. Sometimes time travel can be fun. And it contrasts so eloquently and emotionally with the bleakness of Lucy’s situation. At it’s heart this is about two girls finding connection despite all the outside events going on in their lives. Reading this felt like a return to watching the nonsense rom coms of my youth, but queer, and it was a lot of fun.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a light-hearted romp to ease your transition from summer to fall, Pride and Prejudice and Pittsburgh is an excellent choice. It’s got time travel, county balls, corner stores, and delightful queer awakening, all tied up with a happily ever after. Treat yourself to a little delight this fall and fall in love with time travel. And Pittsburgh.

The Loosely Medieval YA Romcom of My Dreams: Gwen and Art are Not in Love by Lex Croucher

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Gwen and Art are Not in Love by Lex Croucher is not an Arthurian retelling, nor is it particularly converned with historical accuracy. What it is instead is a queer YA romcom set in a Camelot that is slightly obsessed with King Arthur several hundred years after his death, starring a princess (Gwen) and a noble (Art) who have been engaged since they were children, and who also can’t stand each other. Rather than fall for each other, as the romcom structure would typically dictate, they instead grow closer in the aftermath of Gwen catching Art kissing a stable boy and then Art finding Gwen’s diary, wherein she fantasizes about the kingdom’s only female knight. From there, they decide to more or less act as each other’s wing(wo)men for the summer, resulting in what may be the sweetest, funniest, and all-around most entertaining book I have read this year.

Reading this book felt like reading fanfiction, and I mean that as the highest compliment. When I stopped reading published books in my free time and switched over to fanfiction for years because it was the only place I could find what I was looking for, this book right here is exactly what I wish I had. These characters felt like old friends right from the beginning, and I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much at a book. Like, the dialogue in this book was impeccable.

I can’t gush enough about how much fun I had reading this book or all of the things I loved about it because it really was pretty much everything, so instead I’m just going to note the two things that kept sticking out at me that made me appreciate this book even more:

For one, I loved the way this book challenged the idea of being “not like other girls,” because yeah, as a queer nerdy teenager, I definitely could have related to Gwen’s assumption that all of the other girls were shallow stereotypes gossiping about her when she’s not listening, and I also could have used a reminder that other teenager girls aren’t the enemy just because they’re more comfortable making friends than you are. I thought this book incorporated that really nicely, without it feeling heavy-handed.

Most importantly, I loved how much love was in this book. Between Gwen and Art’s blossoming friendship, their respective blossoming romances, and Gwen’s close friendship with her brother, there really is no shortage of love of all kinds, something that I think is especially important in queer YA. It was a joy to watch these kids fall in love, and then also be able to talk about it with their outside support systems, or help each other work through their feelings, or go let loose together at a party on their birthday.

My only note, if you will, is I did feel like the sapphic relationship got the least pagetime, predominantly because Art’s love interest is also Gwen’s brother, which means that while Gabe is a major character in both Art and Gwen’s chapters, Bridget is mostly only in Gwen’s. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this was a failing on this book’s part, because I truly do mean it when I say I loved every page of this book, but I did wish I got as much of Bridget as I did of Gwen, Art, and Gabe.

From the very first page, I thought this was legitimately one of the funniest books I have ever read, but it did not take long for this book to prove itself full of just as much heart, as well as characters I would protect with my life. If I could give my teenage self just one book, it would almost certainly be this one.

Sweet, Chaotic Bisexuals: Love at First Set by Jennifer Dugan

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“Queer chaos trumps moral fortitude, especially when making out is involved.”

For Lizzie, working at a gym isn’t just a job; it’s her home. For now, she’s only the check-in girl (and occasionally, the owner’s punching bag), but one day, she could manage her own. When her bestie (and emotional support himbo) and boss’s son James asks her to play plus-one at his sister’s wedding, she agrees, hoping to find a chance to talk to his parents about a promotion. One drunken pep-talk later and the bride-to-be, Cara, realizes she doesn’t want to get married after all. It doesn’t help that Lizzie is crushing on her hard—or that Cara decides to stay with her brother while getting her derailed life back together. Afraid his sister plans to set him up on a blind date, James urges Lizzie to keep her distracted. Can Lizzie girl the hell up and keep her crush under wraps?

Lizzie is a beautifully realistic mess and knows it. Growing up with an unreliable, emotionally-abusive mother taught Lizzie she could only rely on herself, while her economic status triggered some serious self-esteem issues. Though her self-reliance and independence are strengths, her unwillingness to trust others also becomes a weakness.

Jennifer Dugan heard the phrase “queer pining” and understood the assignment. Lizzie’s insta-crush on Cara spurs some hilarious self-talk that puts the “com” in this queer rom-com. The constant, silent, somewhat reluctant pining is intense, raw, and real, but her sass and sarcasm never let it get overly sappy. Though Lizzie can’t see it, Cara’s obvious crushing is equally intense, making these two lovesick, bisexual messes the perfect match.

Unfortunately, everything I loved in the first half of the book becomes exhausting by the second half. Lizzie allows both James and Cara to manipulate her into favors that benefit them too often. Her self-proclaimed cowardice spurs the story’s internal conflict a little too much. The self-deprecation that was once funny became painful enough to become cringy, too.

While I love a slow burn, Lizzie and Cara’s relationship is too focused on showing physical development, but not the emotional development. We don’t see the pillow talk or hidden moments between them that lead to them falling in love with one another. The external conflict—Cara’s mother—is written as a two-dimensional antagonist. Her motivation for keeping the women apart is status, but why? (Did she grow up in poverty, or feel shamed by a group with higher social status at one point in her life?)

Vague spoilers below.

My biggest pet peeve is a plot powered by miscommunication (in this case, a complete failure at communicating from the start), and this story relies on it all too much to reach an unsatisfying happy ending that’s tied up in a literal bow. The writing was so strong and held so much promise in the beginning, but I’m afraid the third-act break-up, blow-up dinner scene, ultimatum, and ending didn’t do it for me.

End of spoilers.

Recommended for anyone who loves pining and scheming of Shakespearean proportions. This sapphic rom-com will be a sweet if chaotic addition to your TBR.

 ✨ The Vibes ✨
👟 Sapphic Rom-Com
👟  Bi Visibility
👟  Gay Best Friend
👟  Economic Classes
👟  Shakespearean Miscommunication, Pining, and Scheming
👟  Self-Esteem Issues

“Don’t sit behind the gym counter of your life when you’re meant to be in front of it. “

A Bisexual Armenian American Self Discovery Story: Sorry, Bro by Taleen Voskuni

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Armenian culture and self discovery are primary themes in Sorry, Bro by Taleen Voskuni. These themes are the strengths of the book, especially when it comes to culturally sensitive issues and heavier topics like genocide, racism, homophobia within the Armenian community. On the other hand, Sorry, Bro also has one of the most extremely infuriating main characters I have ever encountered in a sapphic romance. It’s less of a romcom and more of a journey of self discovery, where our main character takes one step forward and three steps back. It reads a little like a YA book at times, despite having a main character in her late 20s, as Nareh’s development into adulthood feels like it went off track when her father died. She still lives in her childhood bedroom with her high school posters tacked to the wall and a curfew. Nareh is heavily invested in how people in her community and family perceive her, needing their praise and acceptance, even though she’s not really involved herself in the community and feels disconnected from it.  

One of the main issues for me comes at the beginning, when, not 48 hours after her boyfriend of almost five years proposes and she subsequently turns him down, Nareh announces she’s on the prowl for a new fella. No mourning period, no me-time, it’s just time to go to the Man Store and get something in a size handsome-with-a-sharp-jawline. Nareh is bisexual, but aside from her male friends, she doesn’t seem to really like the men that she thinks are “her type.” She approaches potentially dating them in a very detached way, not unlike her mother, who’s been making Nareh spreadsheets of eligible Armenian bachelors. This goes on for a couple of chapters longer than I had patience for, to be honest. A lot of these qualities make Nareh feel quite shallow. 

Nareh is solidly in the closet, afraid of the fallout from her community should she come out as bi, and also perhaps wary after making out with too many straight girls in college and getting burned. But no matter how hard she tries to focus on finding a Armenian husband, she keeps getting distracted by her new, very attractive friend Erebuni, who it turns out is *not* straight. Like the book, it takes a while to get to our secondary character. Erebuni is the polar opposite of Nareh—she’s confident, doesn’t care what people think of her, and has a tight knit group of Armenian friends. Unfortunately, she doesn’t get much time on the page, and if she does, it seems she is always surrounded by other people. Erebuni never really feels like a main character, more of a prop for Nareh. 

As a romance, Sorry, Bro has some room for improvement. But as a book about self-discovery and finding one’s place in the world in the context of culture, community, and societal pressure, it’s worth a read.  

A Wholesome and Messy Queer Romcom: Wild Things by Laura Kay

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Laura Kay could teach a masterclass on the low-key, wholesome, slightly messy queer rom com, as exemplified in her third novel, Wild Things. El is stuck in a rut, both personally and professionally. Still in her dead-end job at a London newspaper, she spends most of the workday making photocopies rather than researching stories, as the job had initially promised. Meanwhile, El’s roommate leaves passive-aggressive notes on the fridge while otherwise disregarding her existence. But worst of all, El harbors a gigantic, unrequited crush on Ray, her best friend of five years and also her coworker.

In an attempt to scoop herself out of said rut, El plots to do one “wild thing” each month for a year. In January, she drinks ten shots of tequila. In February, she gets a butterfly tattoo. In March, El experiments with MDMA. In April, she has a failed threesome. (You get the idea.) But when El, Ray, and their mutual friends Will and Jamie devise a plan to move to a fixer-upper farmhouse in the countryside, El finally begins to feel alive again. The catch: El must regulate her feelings for Ray now that they live (and work) in close proximity 24/7. Will she choose to protect their years-long friendship, or risk it all by spilling her feelings for Ray?

Wild Things is a friends-to-lovers romance, yes, but also a heartwarming exploration of found family. Kay breathes life into the book’s characters, all of whom are flawed and lovable and distinctly themselves. Ray, the effortlessly cool lesbian love interest, is spunky and enters every DIY farmhouse project with infectious enthusiasm. Will is the group’s token straight man, a sensitive soul leaning hard on his friends following a breakup with the woman who was supposed to have escaped to the countryside with him. Jamie is a Thai, biracial gay man who drags his friends to karaoke nights and forges a bond with the commune’s four chickens. It is impossible not to feel the love between this motley crew of friends, who simultaneously lift each other up and call each other out on their bullshit. Even minor characters (El’s queer mentee Rozália, the local townspeople, etc.) feel fully realized and essential to the plot, driving home the notion that family extends far beyond blood relations, that everyone has a place to belong. 

Recommended for fans of droll British humor, readers of In at the Deep End and Queenie, and watchers of Fleabag and Feel Good.

Content warnings: absent/distant parents, cheating (not related to main character)

Nat reviews How To Excavate a Heart by Jake Maia Arlow

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Sweet yet angsty. Coming of age and coming out stories. A meet cute that’s…not so cute. Jewish holiday rom com. All the big, tender feels of young love. Non-stop cackling, except when you take a break to have a good cry. A prominently featured corgi. These are a few of my favorite things about Jake Arlow’s How to Excavate a Heart.

College student Shani Levine is determined to spend the holidays alone doing a winter internship at the Smithsonian—that means she’ll be away from her family, her mom specifically, which she feels guilty about while also desperately feeling the need to get away. There are a lot of complicated feelings around this stage of life, and Arlow’s character portrayals feel very authentic—the main characters are both first year college students figuring out what it means to be independent, to manage this in-between phase of life, caught between home and their new freedoms. This is also where Arlow nails the post-teenage angst humor. 

We meet May in a rather abrupt manner—and this is not really a spoiler as it’s in the book’s synopsis and in the first chapter—with the front of Shani’s mom’s Subaru. May is also spending the holidays in DC with her dad, but not because she wants to be there. She’s having her own family issues, and being rudely greeted by the bumper of a car doesn’t exactly put her in the holiday spirit. May initially comes off a bit frosty, but of course we’ll eventually see those walls melted away. 

The book is told in first person from Shani’s perspective, so you really get into her mindset. As she works out her feelings and makes self discoveries, you’re along for the ride. While this book is a holiday romcom, it’s also just as much a coming of age story, and we see a lot of Shani trying to figure out how and when to talk about her “new” life with her mom, when she doesn’t quite know how to come to terms with it herself. This includes keeping her first real relationship a secret, along with her sexuality. 

(Spoilers and Trigger Warnings:) We kind of see this coming, like the Titanic about to hit the iceberg, as we see more snapshots of Shani’s first relationship. Each memory reveals more specific—or perhaps more accurate—details, as her relationship with May progresses. Our narrator is holding back so much in part because she’s just not had certain realizations herself about the abusive nature of her first relationship. Acknowledging these truths is a big turning point in the book, and it’s clear Shani can’t move forward with May until she’s come to terms with her own past. (End of Spoiler)

The supporting character cast gets major points, especially Beatrice (Aunt Bea) who is her own one woman comedy show, and Shani’s mentor at work who’s a few years older—the wise lesbian we all wish had been in our lives to dispense advice. And yes, the corgi (dogs absolutely count as characters). Overall, Arlow’s given us a sapphic holiday romcom that will excavate your own frozen little heart.

Trigger warnings: abuse, sexual assault

Danika reviews She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick

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Do you want to read a fun and absorbing new adult F/F romance written by a wife/wife author team? Of course you do. So you can probably stop reading the review now. Go ahead and grab it.

This follows two point of view characters: Alex and Molly. Alex is a flirt who doesn’t take anything too seriously, which is why her on-again off-again girlfriend, Natalie, doesn’t trust her while she’s touring. Alex has promised to make platonic friends and stop flirting with every queer girl she sees, it will be an uphill battle to convince Natalie.

Meanwhile, Molly has had a crush on Cora since they were in high school together. Now, they’re starting at the same university, but she still can’t seem to get up the courage to ask her out. Or talk to her at all. That’s where Alex comes in, who promises to teach Molly how to get the girl. At least, she will if Molly promises to serve as a platonic friend reference at the end of this.

They quickly rub each other the wrong way, especially when Cora swoons over Alex. They have diametrically opposed personalities and are constantly bickering over the best course of action.

This has aspects of a Cyrano story: Alex is trying to get Molly together with Cora, but their relationship keeps deepening. They begin to confide in each other, perhaps because this odd arrangement allows them to be more vulnerable. Alex talks about financially supporting her alcoholic mother and how she’s worried that she won’t be able to keep her safe now that she’s not living at home.

Meanwhile, Molly’s relationship with her mom has also changed: they used to be each other’s best friends, but Molly is trying to find some independence and resents her mother for not letting her go. Molly’s mom is also a Korean adoptee who internalized a lot of racism in her upbringing, which is hard for Molly to deal with as a mixed race person.

I actually wish we had a little bit more time with both of these subplots, because there are big, thorny topics that don’t have a lot of space to be explored in this story. We only get a handful of lines devoted to either Molly’s or Alex’s moms, and the wrap-up of those plotlines feels a little abrupt.

But of course, this is a romance, and that’s where our attention is. I felt so much while reading this like I was watching a teen romantic comedy movie, including all the banter. (And yes, we get the cute rollerskating date promised by the front cover.)

This was compulsively readable. I would pick it up meaning to just read a chapter and resurface several chapters later. It’s a cute love story with some charmingly oblivious main characters who somehow don’t notice that they’re falling for each other. This is being marketed as YA, but it follows Alex and Molly as they start college

My only other complaint about this one is that I felt like it ended early. I wanted just a little bit more time with this couple. (Semi-spoiler, but not really because this is a romance: it ends immediately after they get together). I mean, they’re teenagers, so I’m not expecting to see their wedding, but I would have liked a glimpse into their more established relationship.

If you like sapphic romcoms, I definitely recommend this one.

This review was adapted from my review on the April 5th episode of All the Books.

Kelleen reviews She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick

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You know how sometimes you’re watching a hit 90s romcom set in high school or college and you’re reveling in the delicious shenanigans of the leads and the dramatic irony of them not knowing that they are the leads in a romantic comedy and they’re about to fall in love despite their absolute refusal to acknowledge that they are fallible human beings and love will come for them and their one true love is standing right in front of them? And they go rollerblading and play Never Have I Ever and try their darnedest to futilely manipulate fate? And then you turn off the TV (or Netflix or whatever) and sit back and sigh and think “Man, that was delightful but I wish it had been sapphic”?

Well boy, do I have a book for you.

She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick is an ADORABLE interracial Cyrano-ish college-aged sapphic romance about two polar opposite college freshman who team up to help each other get the girl of their dreams only to discover that the girl of their dreams has been in front of them this whole time. It is such a cute, fun read.

I love Alex and Molly. I love both of them so much. They are opposites attract in the best way possible, both trying their hardest to navigate a world that they do not feel valuable in and finding value in themselves and each other. Alex is a thick-skinned white lesbian and Molly is a nervous Korean-American lesbian. In short, Molly is a mom-jeans lesbian and Alex is a ripped black skinny jeans lesbian. They are flawed and messy and just trying their best and that is the best kind of young sapphic romance.

This is intricately plotted, and the different POVs are distinct and vibrant. The writing is funny and contemporary and wholehearted. The whole book feels so hopeful to me.

This is being sold as a YA, but I’m not entirely sure why. There’s no sex on page, but also there it doesn’t feel like there needs to be for the story. However, there is alcohol and drug use on page and it deals with some pretty heavy subjects such as alcoholism and internalized racism. The college setting and the liminal adulthood of it all feels necessary to the blend of maturity and immaturity of the story. It is definitely grittier and more mature than I was expecting from the ADORABLE cover and the YA tag.

I highly highly recommend for both romance and YA readers alike.

Also it was written by a wife/wife team, and what is cuter and gayer than that?

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon&Schuster for the ARC. She Gets the Girl releases on April 5th, 2022.

Content warnings: Anti-Korean racism, food scarcity, alcoholism, car accidents, on-page drinking

You can read more of Kelleen’s reviews on her bookstagram (@booms.books) and on Goodreads.

Kelleen reviews Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake

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“Queer, feminist, angry, and beautiful.”

When I say I want sapphic romcoms, this is what I want. I want sapphic romcoms that pack an emotional punch. That present the diversity and the affinity of queer womanhood. That have queer women who call themselves queer with no explanation and bi women who have loved men. That have complex family dynamics that both are about queerness and absolutely are not. That feel like romance novels with romance tropes and everything that we love about romance and are at the same time fundamentally, intrinsically, profoundly, and lovingly queer. Romcoms that f*ck and also fall in love. Romcoms with real, wild emotions and feminism and humor on every page. Romcoms that were written for queer women about our own lives, to be enjoyed only secondarily by everyone else. When I say I want sapphic romcoms, I mean I want this book.

Delilah Green is a historical romance alpha hero wrapped up in tattoos and soft butch vibes and I am into it. Delilah is a photographer who’s hired to photograph her stepsister’s wedding, and reluctantly returns home to discover that her childhood crush and stepsister’s best friend is all grown up — and very queer. And Claire Sutherland is a single mom and bookstore manager who is just trying to live her best life and take care of her best friend in a retro polka dot dress and sexy librarian glasses.

The way that the love between Delilah and Claire develops is gentle and sexy and hilarious. In coming home to Bright Falls, Delilah must confront her strained relationship with her stepmother and stepsister and come to terms with the grief and feelings of rejection that she’s been running away from since she was a teenager. Falling in bed (and then in love) with her stepsister’s best friend doesn’t help matters, especially as Claire is actively trying to break up her best friend’s wedding to a terrible man. Fascinatingly, throughout this book Delilah and Claire are both allies and adversaries. They embody everything that the other is trying to avoid and yet must team up to save Astrid from herself and her fiancé. And the raging sexual tension between the two doesn’t help matters. The conflict in this book is just so good, the way they are pulled together and run apart.

This is a book about family, and how scary and slippery and beautiful family can be for queer folks. It’s about motherhood and sisterhood and womanhood and partnership. It’s about joy and it’s about grief and it’s about art and it’s about all of it all at once.

These heroines are strong and flawed and sexy and fantastic. They make bad choices and take big risks. They fall in love and try to resist falling in love. And they do it with humor and heart.

This book is the epitome of queer joy and we all deserve queer joy.

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley for this ARC.

Content warnings: death of a parent, toxic partner

You can read more of Kelleen’s reviews on her bookstagram (@booms.books) and on Goodreads.

Danika reviews She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen

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If you want a teen romcom in an F/F YA book, this is the read for you!

I’m getting caught up on 2021 reviews, and I listened to this several months ago and don’t remember a lot of details, but what more do I really need to say than that and also showing you that cover?

Scottie is struggling to get over her ex-girlfriend, Tally. They used to be on the basketball team together, but Tally transferred to a wealthier school to get on the better team. Now, she acts like she’s superior to Scottie and barely acknowledges her, even when they’re playing against each other. While Scottie is still mulling over that disastrous game, she backs up into Irene’s car. Irene is a cheerleader who has been Scottie’s nemesis (whether she knows it or not) when Irene called to have Scottie’s car towed at a party, apparently just to be a jerk.

Their moms decide that Scottie will drive Irene to school until her car is back from the shop: a solution neither of them is very happy about. Then Scottie decides that the best way to show up her ex is for Irene to pretend to date her–in return, she’ll empty her savings to pay for the damage on the car.

Yep, it’s enemies to lovers and fake dating! It is very much like a teen romcom movie: the two of them get to know each other over their music choices on the drive. They have miscommunication. They both open up about their insecurities. Scottie realizes that, despite being hung up on her toxic ex, maybe the girl she’s been looking for has been right in front of her this whole time. There’s also the “only one bed” trope. They even discuss teen romcom movies!

I listened to this as an audiobook, and it was a quick, fun listening experience! It’s cute, and the ending is cathartic and sweet.