Monday, July 10, 2017

Neanderthal Seeks Human (Penny Reid)

Neanderthal Seeks Human: A Smart Romance
(The Knitting in the City series, Volume 1)
Penny Reid
Fiction, Comedy/Romance
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Janie's just had the worst day of her adult life. First, she broke up with her boyfriend - the only boyfriend she's ever had - after finding out he'd cheated on her. Then she lost her job. And the bathroom stall was even out of toilet paper. But perhaps the worst part of it is how she won't be able to sneak peeks at her favorite lobby security guard, whom she and her friends have dubbed Sir Handsome McHotpants.
Or so she thinks...
It turns out Sir Handsome has a name: Quinn. He also has a line on a new job, a far better one than she lost. Her friends in the knitting club insist the man must be flirting with her. But she knows better; Janie's just too awkward, prone to spouting random trivia instead of meaningful conversation, to attract anyone remotely normal, let alone someone on his end of the dating pool. She's like a Neanderthal trying to blend in with humans, always a step out of sync. Is Quinn her shot to have it all, or is he really too good to be true?

REVIEW: As contemporary "chick-lit" romances go, this one hits its marks with a fair bit of style and wit. Unfortunately, it never rises above the formula. Janie's a curvy knockout who is inexplicably convinced she's unattractive, largely due to issues with intimacy caused by an unhappy childhood (involving a runaway mother and one particularly crazy criminal sister, Jem, who turns up to mess with Janie's life just as she's on the brink of happiness.) She's actually fairly smart, but spends a fair bit of the book being deliberately obtuse; when even I, as clueless a human ever to have double-X chromosomes, recognizes a man flirting, it's downright aggravating to watch the supposedly intelligent main character keep brushing it off simply to further the story. Her ex-boyfriend's a cad, naturally, and a controlling cad at that... but, in some ways, it's a lateral move to Quinn. He, also, takes over much of her life. Even her best friend Elizabeth sees herself as Janie's keeper as much as a friend. At one point, Janie becomes aware that everyone's essentially coddling her - but, skirting spoilers, not much really comes of this revelation, and it's brushed away as a non-issue. While Janie's narrative voice has some fun moments, I grew frustrated with how she was constantly protected (and constantly deliberately ignoring things that were painfully obvious; really, she was too smart to be that stupid.) As for the knitting club, I'm not quite sure why it was a knitting club, save a creative use of needles and a yarn ball in the third act; Janie doesn't knit, and the girls aren't in the story enough to be more than vague attributes attached to names. Mostly, they exist to rally around Janie when she's down and squeal over romance and sexual conquests like something from a TV show. I guess I'd hoped for a little more originality all around, and a main character who would rise a little higher than the genre standards she was stuck with.

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