ONE PLUS ONE, BY JOJO MOYES
This one was the opposite of The Fourteenth Goldfish. Well, actually, I didn't actively try not to like it, but I was pretty much convinced that I wouldn't like it when I started reading it. My cousin gave it to me as a kind of a joke, and I thought it would be classic "chick-lit", in the pejorative sense.
That should teach me to judge a book by its cover...
Synopsis: Jess is a single mother of two living in the estates in the south of England. Her little girl, Tanzie, is a maths genius. Her boy, Nicky (actually the son of her ex-husband with a heroine addict), is a Goth teenager. The three of them do all they can to make ends meet, until Tanzie has the opportunity to go to a private school and has to participate on a Maths Olympiad to try and get the money they need. Along with their giant dog, Norman, they accidentally enlist the help of Ed, something of a technological mogul who is on the verge of losing everything, to get them to Scotland in time for the Olympiad, and Jess and Ed end up falling in love.
Overall enjoyment: I liked it A LOT. Really. Much more than I was expecting, and almost against my will. It was a lot different than I thought it would be, but in a good sense.
Plot: Classic boy-meets-girl, really, but superbly presented. She even used the old trope of "oh no! we have no choice but to sleep on the same bed!" (and I immediately thought of caravanslost *waves*), but it's extremely well-constructed and you can't help but keep reading. Which, of course, only proves that it doesn't matter how original your ideas are, as long as you do it well. Also, the romance is not the only thing that matters; it's more of a background to the growth of all the characters. The only reservation I have is that Jess and Ed seemed to grow too much in love way too fast near the end. Maybe it would have felt more real if they weren't so head-over-heels with each other, but that's only to show how real all the rest of it felt.
Characters: They feel so real I had a hard time believing I was reading fiction. Their struggles were easy to relate to, and there wasn't one thing that made me cry "bullshit!" in my head. I had a bit of trouble with Ed being so thoroughly dis-likable at first, but the others made me keep reading, and he got better near the end.
World/setting: It mostly makes no difference to the story. There's very little description of places, and that makes the story more relatable, like it could have happened anywhere.
Writing style: They say that the best artists make their work look easy. The book is definitely easy to read. Most of the time I barely noticed the writing, so engrossed I was with the story. There were also some really funny and heartwarming parts.
Representation: Almost nonexistent. As far as I could tell, everyone is white, cis, straight and able-bodied. Jess's family is poor, but they're also conventionally attractive. Oh, well... I guess you can't have everything.
Political correctness: Despite the lack of representation, Jess's struggle with money is very well written. It is never romanticized or condescending, it's an all-too-real daily battle. And she constantly calls Ed out on his privilege of never having to worry about money. Passes Bechdel and Mako Mori. Ed is disgustingly entitled and misogynistic at the start of the book, though, and he doesn't really get better in the end. He gets more likable, sure, but none of those problems of his are actually addressed, so I assume he would still be entitled and casually misogynistic, he only gets less cowardly and more attuned to his own and other people's feelings. I did like how she made it very clear that Jess got back on her feet on her own, instead of being "saved" by Ed, though.
I actually think this book would be better categorized into "contemporary fiction" than "straight-up romance and chick-lit". Compared to Making Faces, it's a masterpiece of insight into the human soul.
But then, that is totes chick-lit, isn't it?
Up next: Boddice Rippers, by Anastasia Day