Wait – maybe ‘New Adult’ isn’t so terrible after all?

17883712Isn’t She Lovely by Lauren Layne
Flirt, October 28, 2013 (Contemporary Romance, New Adult)

Rating: I’d go there again!

Isn’t She Lovely was my second tentative exploration into the new adult genre. Anyone who has talked books with me knows that I hate this genre with a burning passion. It’s such a grey zone and I don’t like the way that it’s used as a label for everything now. It’s like you slap ‘new adult’ on something and it’s supposed to be a best seller. There are a lot of novels that are labeled new adult and I think it not used by what I would consider a ‘new adult.’ Many of the novels that I come across in new adult seem like you should really just call them contemporary romance, since the characters that inhabit those novels tend to have the mannerisms and skill sets of thirty-somethings. But enough of my ranting about this genre, because as my latest read has shown me, everything new adult isn’t that bad.  Isn’t She Lovely showed me that this “genre” is one that I can actually get behind if it’s done right.

Stephanie Kendrick is a college student working through a summer film class. She wants to avoid going home to her father and step-mother, so she makes sure that she can stay in the city. The problem is that her housing plans have fallen through and she’s stuck living with her ex-boyfriend, who she caught cheating on her (sounds like fun, right?). To add the icing on the cake, she’s partnered with a upper-class society guy, Ethan Price for her film class. Like Stephanie, Ethan is also avoiding home and his responsibilities for this summer, and has decided to take the film class as a way to escape. He doesn’t count on being saddled with a grumpy, goth girl that he finds pretty hot.

While neither are happy about working with one another, they slowly find some common ground with their screenplay. Eventually, Ethan gets inspiration for their screenplay, and as an added bonus it could also help his private life and get his parents off his back, who are trying to force a reconciliation with his ex-girlfriend. Ethan’s idea is to write a modern day Pygmalion in a college setting, and what better way to do this than for Ethan and Stephanie to act it out themselves? With this misguided plan in place, Stephanie moves in with Ethan and agrees to play his new girlfriend for the summer, including undergoing a makeover that transforms her from goth-girl to debutante. Of course they fall for one another, but neither know how to navigate from a fake relationship to a real one.

Like I said at the beginning of this review, Isn’t She Lovely completely took me by surprise. I’m not much for contemporary romance and new adult generally makes me want to hurl, but I decided to give this one a chance, and I was so pleasantly surprise. To me, Isn’t She Lovely is what new adult should be. It’s the college years, the first real forays into independence and it’s not always pretty, and it’s generally filled with tons of awkward moments. I liked the fact that for the most part, Ethan and Stephanie were both good kids. Yes, they each had their own troubles, but were essentially on the straight and narrow. This is not the case for most of the new adult I see advertised, and I think this is irritating, because for the most part, I think most people grouped in the new adult age bracket are like Stephanie and Ethan, essentially good people trying to figure it out. How many tortured, tattooed, cage-fighters did you have on your campus? Personally, I can’t think of any.

I also liked the fact that Ethan wasn’t an asshole. Again, there are so many new adult books out there that seem to have every romantic relationship with usually the guy treating the gal horribly. I don’t get that trend! I don’t want to read about some guy treating a woman like crap and then decided he loves her so he’ll stop. I think that’s setting unrealistic expectations. But, that’s my opinion, and I’m aware that this kind of new adult is wildly popular. Anyways, I liked Ethan as a character because he was mostly a nice guy. He liked school, he was looking forward to working in the family business, and at the end of the day he respected Stephanie. Don’t get me wrong, the guy had his asinine moments, but he realized what he was doing and owned up to, and I think that’s why I ended up liking this book so much. Ethan knew he made a wrong move and went about fixing it. Hello, self-awareness, and thank-you for being there!

As for Stephanie, she was obviously a troubled young woman, and when you find out what she’s been through you can understand why. I wasn’t as taken with her character as I was with Ethan, but I liked her journey towards self-discovery. She was more than a goth girl and she had to figure out what she really wanted out of life.

Ultimately, I think what really appealed to me was the path that both Ethan and Stephanie went on throughout the novel. Neither character stayed the same and they both learned about each other and changed because of the others influence. I liked this progression and emphasis on self-discovery because if this doesn’t sum up the 20’s experience (ie. the new adult era) than I don’t know what does. I feel like Isn’t She Lovely has changed my whole outlook on a sub-genre. If this author writes more new adult, I feel like they will be worth checking out.

*No similar reads this time round – I haven’t read enough new adult to make recommendations in the genre, and what I have read to date, I wouldn’t recommend. But here’s hoping that at some point, I’ll have a list of new adult that I like.

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