I love a story told from the male POV. Maybe it’s because–SPOILER ALERT–I’m not a dude, or just because a man’s mind operates much differently than a chick’s? Either way, I’m always a fan. Now, what makes that even more intriguing … when it’s not a chick writing the guy’s POV, but rather, a GUY writing a GUY’s POV. Who’d have thought of such an idea? Thou Shalt Not had quite a bit of hype to live up to–I was worried some performance anxiety might even come into play. It’s not very often that Tarryn Fisher recommends books … especially so highly. When she does, most readers tend to listen up and take note. Overall, this book didn’t disappoint. The biggest plus, or turn-on, if you will, for me? IT WAS REALISTIC. It was how I think about 97% of the world operates. THANK YOU, SWEET BABY JESUS! It was just some characters, teachers, and a bartender (and yes, a famous athlete, but mildly), who were in their twenties, living normal lives. Nothing crazy or over the top about it.
Luke Harper is a high school English teacher. He’s suffered his fair share of loss for being in his late twenties, and he’s not really interested in finding the love of his life. He’s got a friends-with-benefits situation going on with a sorta ex, Holly, and for the most part, that works for him. I loved his random tangents he would go on–and just the thought processes his mind worked through. Not only were they sometimes absurd, they were also hilarious. But it added to the reality of it all. It’s what made this story work so well.
Then one day, in walks substitute teacher, April Batista, and all bets are off. Not only is she smokin’ hot, nerdy about lit like him, but she’s also very married (to a hot-head baseball player, ten years her senior) with two young children. Luke and April hit it off right away–bonding over their mutual love of English and proximity of their classrooms. Of course, for him, he can’t help but wonder what it’d be like to get her in the sack. All the while, he’s still got this ‘whatever is going on’ with Holly on the side. He can feel the change in Holly, but he can’t stop thinking about April. The build-up with Luke and April’s relationship was well done. It was exactly how I’d imagine an affair between co-workers going down in the day and age. Especially one that starts off innocently enough with some mildly flirtatious text messages.
In the beginning of the story, where the flashbacks with Carrie took place, I didn’t expect to have it rip me open like it did. But I felt very sad for both of them, even found myself crying at one point. I got married young, as well (not right out of HS, but college, no less), and could relate to the feelings of wondering what’ll happen for the ENTIRE REST OF YOUR LIVES! But to lose that … devastation. Oh, and I have to mention, since my dad (and most of my family, minus me) is a DIE-HARD Cubs fan … so this had me laughing my ass off.
In fact, I could relate to a lot of things Luke brought up–I often found myself re-reading passages, thinking, ‘huh, do I have a dude brain?’ because I couldn’t believe just how much hit home (unintentional baseball reference?) for me. For instance, this next quote! Seriously weird. I DON’T EAT CEREAL UNLESS IT’S LIKE 10 O’CLOCK AT NIGHT AND I’M WATCHING TV OR READING OR WORKING OR WHATEVER!
Or this! I think this craziness all the time.
And lastly, because, hit. the. nail. on. the. head. This is me. All the damn time.
The writing was great. The story pulled me in, kept me intrigued, and progressed well, and the characters were well-developed–again, a huge plus for me … they were honest, real, flawed human beings. But they were like my peers. And for that, I give a thumbs up …or fist bump? In terms of any complaints I had, there were a few instances where things felt a little repetitive and probably could’ve been cut, and also sometimes the tenses were a little all over the place. Normally, it doesn’t bug me too much, but certain times it bounced too much, and it became more noticeable in those areas. Again, nothing major, but worth noting for me.
You can imagine (and if you can’t, you suck at deduction) the gist of what happens … but there’s more to it. Personally, I was a fan of Holly all the way. I could tell she loved Luke and wanted more, but was waiting for him to decide what he wanted to do with his life. That’s a stand-up chick there. There was another bit of something that was briefly introduced, so I’ll be interested if that becomes another book idea for Rossum … or if was just something to make cause assumptions in readers’ brains. The ending is this crazy mixture of what the hell and happily ever after. There’s closure. But there’s not. It was strangely satisfying. And I’m still not sure what to make of it. I like a little mystery, so it works for me. For now.
25 RANDOM FACTS ABOUT JJ ROSSUM
THIS OR THAT
JJ Rossum traveled the world as a child, and called many places “home”. Currently, home is Portland, Oregon, where he is at work on other novels that were hatched while people watching during many airport layovers.