The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me by Laura Tait & Jimmy Rice (review copy) - Everyone remembers their first love.
Holly certainly remembers Alex. But she decided ten years ago that love wasn't about mix tapes and seizing the moment - though she's not exactly sure it's about secret dates with your boss, either.
But what if the feelings never really went away?
Alex wants to make every moment of his new job count. It's a fresh start in a big city, and he's almost certain that moving to London has nothing to do with Holly. Almost.
How do you know if it was meant to be... or never meant to happen at all? From the blurb.
After reading Attachments and Landline by Rainbow Rowell, I decided I wanted to read more adult romance. I used to read quite a lot when I was younger, namely Freya North's novel, but somehow developed started to dismiss the romance/chicklit genre. Nothing sounded good. But Rowell changed my mind, and though I hunted for romance that appealed, I still couldn't find much. Then I saw several adverts for The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice on Goodreads, an advert that asked a question about falling in love with your best friend. Sold! Plus with that awesome, nongeneric romance cover, I just had to read it! And it was SO good!
Holly and Alex were best friends at school, each one secretly in love with the other, but due to a misunderstanding, lost touch when they went to uni. Eleven years has now passed, and when Alex moves to London for a new teaching job, they end up getting back in touch. Holly is no longer the carefree, impulsive girl she once was, but a PA who loves organisation in a secret relationship with her boss. Alex is different too, no longer the self-concious, almost-dorky teenager, but a sophisticated seeming man who wears smart suits and is actually teaching English! Despite the differences, the two fall back into their easy friendship, and as time goes on, they quickly become best mates all over again. They remind each other of who they used to be, and with the easy, comfortable familiarity, they're also reminded of what they felt for each other at 18. But things are so different now, there's no way they could ever be more than friends, right?
This book is so good! It's not just a romance, but a romcom, and I was smiling away to myself more times than I can count. I recently read YA novel Lobsters by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison (review to come), and The Best Thing feels a lot like Lobsters' big sister. Not only is The Best Thing told in alternating view points for each chapter, although the stories are completely different, there's a similarity with the destinct voices, the crossed wires and lack of communication. And the humour of The Best Thing is also a grown up version of that in Lobsters. And with the few odd flashback chapters to when Holly and Alex were 18, the characters from both books could have known each other. If you like either book, you'll probably enjoy the other.
I was rooting for Holly and Alex the whole way through. They're both such likable, humourous characters! There was a lot of me wanting to slap my forehead in exasperation as you see what each person's perspective was of an evening hanging out together and how they both misjudged where the other was coming from. I know some people dislike books where the characters just aren't honest about what they're feeling and won't talk to each other, but I find with this book, it really adds to the will they/won't they tension. With the flashbacks, you see what happened before, and although Holly and Alex may be 11 years older, some things just don't change, and you're devastated to find that old mistakes might be repeated. The last line of the blurb, "How do you know if it was meant to be... or never meant to happen at all?", really works for the book, because I was never really sure how the book was going to end. Will they fall in love again? And if they do, will they say anything? Or will they realise that what they feel is just nostalgia for the past, not something that means anything now? I had no idea! Obviously, I knew what I wanted to happen, but couldn't guess at how the cards would fall.
Although the romcom side of things is the main focus of the book, The Best Thing is also about second chances. At different stages in the book, both Alex and Holly realise they're not fulling the dreams they had when they were 18. Working at the school in the quiet town of Mothston, Yorkshire, Alex doesn't feel like he's making a difference to anyone's lives, and feels that going to work at a bigger school in London will help him achieve that. But it seems teenagers don't really care about falling in love with Shakespeare, or having a teacher who's their for the troubled kids. He's a fish out of water, and feels he's failing as a teacher. But this is his chance to make an affect on his students, and he'll keep trying. Holly used tobe freespirited with dreams of travelling the world and having an array of experiences, but finds herself in a 9-5 office job every day. Alex reminds her of what her dreams once were, and she slowly finds the desire to do those things once again.
Ignoring the fact that feelings are involved (especially as I didn't know how it would end!), The Best Thing is an awesome reminder of how wonderful friendship is, how extraordinary it is to have those friends you can completely be yourself with, who love you faults and all. It's a book that reminds you of your own amazing friendships, and has you feeling grateful you have those people in your life.
The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me is a really great romcom, and I'm so eager to read more by both Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice!
Thank you to Transworld Publishers for the review copy.
Published: 3rd July 2014
Publisher: Transworld Publishers
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