I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to Pro and Con a book more than this one, at least in recent memory!
Pro: the writing is really terrific! The book flows so smoothly, the events and timeline make sense and the prose is both modern and pretty. You feel like you’re really in Emily’s head as she navigates her new life in Willow Creek, Maryland. Which, unfortunately, leads to the first
Con: Emily is kind of a ninny. I get it, she’s 24 and just got out of her first serious relationship with a guy who was, unfortunately, a complete asshole, but that should only mean that she’s gun-shy about romantic relationships, not every relationship. I literally had no idea why she was being crazy about her sister April not charging her rent, when her entire reason for being in Willow Creek was to help her niece Caitlin and April after a horrific car crash temporarily immobilized the latter. Given the cost of home health care + driver services, April should be paying her to stay with them! But the presence of April herself is another
Pro: How delightfully the family relationships are portrayed outside of Emily’s strange head. April and Caitlin are both terrific and realistic (disclaimer: I myself am a bit of an April, a reluctant joiner who prefers city life,) as are the friends Emily makes on moving to Willow Creek. Even as an urban-loving suburbanite, I loved the portrayal of small town life as well as its charming inhabitants. Chris and Mitch and Stacey are all super fun, lovely people, in stark contrast to my main
Con: Simon. Ugggggggggh. Using an emotional trauma from three years ago as an excuse to be a fucking douchebag is classic manipulator behavior. For example, getting mad that Emily picked a Renaissance Faire name that is easy for her to remember to answer to is the most counterproductive nonsense I’ve ever heard: if he really cared about Faire, he’d be fucking grateful she chose a name that helps her stay in character instead of being pissy that she wasn’t “trying hard enough.” I don’t care that he’s not as bad as Emily’s ex because that is an unimpressively low bar to clear. And I haaaaated his relationship with Emily because neither of them could have a conversation worth shit. I sorta got why that was so in Emily’s case (see: Con #1) but the last time I had those kinds of incredibly terrible relationship talks with people defaulting to paranoia and insecurity was when I was 19 and in my first serious relationship, which you’d think Emily and Simon would have matured past by now. But that leads to my last
Pro: People are actually this dumb and awful in real life, so yay, more realism! I mean, it’s not a huge character flaw that Emily and Simon have a completely bizarre and insultingly ungrateful opinion of his parents giving him their house, and Emily’s flair for organization is something I truly connect with, as part of me being a reluctant joiner is that I usually wind up in charge of everything, which is exhausting. But none of that made me like either Emily or Simon very much, tho I’m glad they can go mildly tax each other with their self-obsessed, immature and ultimately realistic quirks.
I actually wasn’t going to read more of this series until I discovered two things. First, I read the included excerpt from Well Played, the immediate sequel, and I was absolutely taken with Jen DeLuca’s writing there. The voice is so impressively distinct from Emily’s that I have high hopes Stacey will be a completely different but still fully realized heroine. The second thing is that the third book will be about APRIL AND MITCH!!!! Given that I spent almost the entire back end of Well Met shipping those two in my head based off of one brief interaction, I’m so flustered and happy that Ms DeLuca feels they deserve an entire book to themselves too! While WM was a decent baseline/starter for the series, I’m really hoping, if not quietly confident that, it will just keep getting better and better with the next books. Because APRIL AND MITCH!!!