As I was starting KJ’s new novel, I joked that her books were always good, and easy to review. Ugh. I was absolutely right about the good part but the easy to review? Not so much. This book messed with my head. It’s not a difficult book, it’s not dark, it’s not problematic. It’s very human. And that’s what got to me. Again.
So, what is this very human book about ? Emily is a successful architect with her own firm and the best team. She’s also an overplanner and she has her own reasons for that. They’re totally valid reasons but the overplanning and the rigidity that goes with it make her life a bit complicated when it comes to relationships and interactions with other less-planning people. Then, with the intervention of a higher power, Skye comes into Emily’s life. And everything changes.
For years, my first reaction whenever someone suggested a change of plans was “no”. It still is but now that I’m aware of it, I don’t usually say it aloud. I blame it on dyspraxia: when everything new implies shrewd calculation, changing plans on a whim doesn’t come easily. As I was telling friends recently, I can do new and I can do unplanned but not both at the same time. While planning things makes me feel safe, it can also be exhausting. As strange as this will sound, lockdown brought relief in that regard. When we first went into lockdown last year, a weight fell off my shoulders. Suddenly, no planning was necessary anymore. No planning was possible, even. In all the turmoil that is the world, despite the pandemic and all it implies, I welcomed the quiet. Silver linings and all that.
So yeah, I see a lot of myself in Emily. Or is it my former self? Who knows, we’re all works in progress. Anyway, once again, I’m studying myself (should I blame my therapist for this?) instead of focusing on the book. The book is the star of the review yet I can’t help it if it resonates. KJ knows a thing or two about mental health and it shows.
Back to the star. The star of the book isn’t Emily’s constant planning, it isn’t Skye’s efforts to rein in her own spontaneous self. It’s the romance, the self-evident love story between two adorable and stunning characters who, like every character KJ creates, deserve the best. Not because they’re perfect, because they aren’t. They’re kind and unfair and stubborn and overall wonderfully real and good. They’re also stronger together. They’re both each other’s right person, the person who will help you be the best version of yourself. The person who makes you feel safe, safe enough to be who you are.
Like with every KJ book, there are many layers to this one. You can read it for the romance and enjoy it fully. You can read it for the insight on mental health and enjoy it fully. You can read it for the dysfunctional families, for employees who are essentially friends, for the beauty of Ikebana. You can read it for the writing and the humour and the sexy scenes. There’s nothing simple about this story and these characters and yet they bring simple joy.