Monday, February 12, 2018

Just Friends by Dyan Sheldon, 2015

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From the writer of Confessions of A Teenage Drama Queen and My Worst Best Friend comes this hugely entertaining teen read about falling for the wrong person. The first time Josh sets eyes on Jena he's hooked. He can't stop thinking about her; looking for her wherever he is; hoping to turn a corner and find her there. The problem is she's completely out of his league as his friends never tire of telling him, so Josh decides he will settle on simply being Jena's friend. But the more time he spends with her the more infatuated he becomes, despite the fact Jena only turns to him when she's had a fight with her on-again off-again boyfriend. Finally realizing he can't go on pretending he only wants to be her friend, Josh vows to tell Jena how he feels on Valentine's Day.
(288 pages)

Meh. Too many love triangles/squares for my taste. Sometimes I really love unrequited love stories, when they're well done, but here they're just cringeworthy and pretty dumb. I wanted to reach into the book and smack Josh for being such an idiot: he let Jena constantly take advantage of him, and treated his own friends like dirt in order to be a "good friend" too her (with secret aspirations for more). I don't really like the idea of becoming a girl's best friend to try to become her boyfriend, while letting her think you aren't romantically interested in her, because it just seems emotionally manipulative and dishonest.

I mean, it's one thing to be good friends while keeping the possibility of becoming more someday in the back of your brain; but Josh very explicitly decides that he wants to be romantically tied to Jena, but repeatedly lets her believe otherwise when she brings that very topic up. That's when I think it crosses the line and becomes stupid and unfair.

The characters were fairly well-written, though rather one-dimensional at times (each person basically had one or two traits/interests that defined who they were in the story), and there were a few too many of them–I wound up getting some of the more minor friends confused.

The language is also not ideal; I can't remember specifically what words were used (since I don't have my copy of the book here with me at uni), but I do know that I noticed it was bad in parts. That's not a huge deal for older readers, and it's realistic because the characters are in high school, but that's something to keep in mind for younger readers.

All in all, I was kept entertained by Just Friends but I wasn't wowed by it–rather, I was very frustrated/embarrassed for the characters in parts. I don't really recommend it highly, but I won't actively warn you off it either if you still think it sounds interesting. If you do decide to read it, let us know in the comments what you think of it!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher through a LibraryThing giveaway.

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