Review: The Romantic Agenda by Claire Kann (Spoiler-Alert)
** spoiler alert **
'I don't think I'm particularly hard to love.' There's a wet warmth building behind her eyes, an ache, burning through her throat and jaw. 'But sometimes I feel like no one will ever want me. Not forever. No one will ever see me beyond how they can use me. No one will ever want me because of the way I am. I'm weird and needy and dark-skinned and asexual. I guess I convinced myself that if it wasn't you, it would never be anyone.' 10 gleaming, shimmering stars. Claire Kann descended from the book heavens and dropped a sacred tome right at my feet. Joy is one of my favorite book characters ever. Possibly the most relatable I've ever read. Everything down to her anxiety and sense of humor and way she expressed herself. Just everything. The structure of this book was also not at all what I was expecting. And I loved it. The set-up here is truly unique. Joy has been in love with her best friend Malcolm for a decade. But when he asks her to go on a trip with two other friends, she decides to fake date one of them to make him jealous. Here's the thing though. Fox might be a better fit than Malcolm. I truly loved how complicated the dynamics were in here. I loved the conversations surrounding the importance of platonic relationships but also how they weave in and out of romantic ones. Joy and Malcolm's bond was indescribable, and seeing the author toy with that in great depth was fascinating. They had to learn that even though they love each other endlessly, it's not in a way that will work for both of them in the long-term. Maybe at some point it was, but that point has passed. And you can't magically get it back. 'Honestly, I think twenty-year-old me is always going to be waiting for you. My dream girl. My Cinderella. But I'm not twenty anymore.' At the beginning of the book, though I loved Malcolm and his bond with Joy, I was worried that they would end up together and reinforce Joy's unhealthy obsession with him. It would be sad to see all her internalized doubt about herself come true. So I was very happy that was not the direction this book chose to go in. That being said, now we can talk about the elephant in the room. Or should I say the Fox? (Joy would be proud of that one). 'I realized your mind races just as fast as mine does, except you're loud about it. You don't hide it. You're not ashamed or frustrated by it. You embrace it.' Fox is such an icon. A grumpy, reclusive icon. Where do I get one. But seriously, I was not expecting to love him so much, especially considering I went into this book thinking Malcolm was the love interest. When Joy and Fox started fake dating I was like... hold on now, these two have something different. Not that Malcolm isn't these things, but straight out of the gate Fox is so considerate and understanding and honest even in the face of Joy's blunt babbling. He's patient and non-judgmental and genuinely concerned with Joy's wellbeing and interests and desires. I loved that he was a little harder to crack into, especially when Joy was a book spread wide open, pages blowing in the wind. It made their dynamic more entertaining, but also showed their compassion for one another because they compromised in how they expressed themselves. I feel like I could ramble on about this book forever, and maybe upon reread I will ramble on further. But for now, I'll cut myself off and leave you with what I found to be probably one of the most stunning quotes (though my copy is indeed highlighted and scribbled in cover to cover). Truth be told, it’s always been like that between Malcolm, his partners, and Joy. It starts out fine, but before long, they hate her for no other reason than Malcolm loves her more than they think she deserves. Joy isn’t his family. She isn’t some ex he’s never gotten over. She’s just a friend. Just. A just who shouldn’t be important. A just who should be discarded. A just who should disappear. Joy fought for Malcolm, refusing to drift away, standing by him, until he realized she would always be there. Until he believed it. And so far, she had succeeded where they all failed. The greatest love of his life was, as they put it, just a friend.