Excuse Me, Have You Seen My Nostalgia?

Fix You - Carrie Elks


”It never ends does it? Just when you think the hardest part is over, something else comes up to take its place.”

If there’s one thing I’m grateful of this book is that it has cured me of my inability to skim. And I’ll probably have to insta-rec this book to anyone with a similar problem because that last 25%, or everything that happens after the introduction of Matty, will put the fear of God in your heart as you watch yourself waste away precious minutes in your life you will never get back. So in behalf of my lifespan, which inevitably gets a little bit shorter with every new adult book that tries my patience, and my sanity, which increasingly becomes questionable with every 1-star read I push myself to finishing and not shelf as DNF… thank you.

Fix You isn’t the worst book I’ve ever read. Never mind that the title only strengthens my belief that Coldplay is being recognized as a religion by a certain group of people or the fact that this book hardly delivers any of what it promises in the blurb (why is there a broken record in the cover? I need a parent to explain this to me). No, I could even see the effort exerted by the author to deliver something different: there was no insta-love, there was a lot of pointlessness but there was no pointless love triangle, the method of storytelling was hardly original but it has some ambition… it’s just that it ends at that and wallows in its entirety; wallows in all that bland ambition (tour).

The book opens in 2012, with 29-year old Hanna Vincent waiting in Richard Larsen’s New York office. We get a sense that they have a history together but they’ve been apart for some time. Their separation doesn’t appear to be under friendly terms, yet with Hanna’s graphic and diligent observation of Richard’s biceps and hips and Richard’s dark gaze on Hanna’s moistened lips, you know they’ll eventually be banging each other on a poor unsuspecting coffee table down the line. Especially since Hanna drops the bomb that “they had a baby.”

What follows traces the course of their relationship starting with Hanna’s mother catering the Larsen’s Y2K party in London in 1999. Each chapter then jumps from one, non-specific date to another, ranging from a span of a year to a day, showcasing moments in their lives, together, apart, then together again, then apart again. We see their paths cross and uncross repeatedly as they survive through cheating lovers, family deaths through events, big and small, and accidents, the injurious and the pregnant kinds… all the way to that conversation between Richard and Hanna in his office at the beginning of the book. 

On an impulse my first thought with the storytelling was Do we really need to wax nostalgic about the year 2000 and every year thereafter? Does this book’s appeal soar exponentially by making Richard ALMOST out-Zuckerberg Mark Zuckerberg had 9/11 didn’t happen? Or when they reference the Justin Timberlake-Janet Jackson superbowl fiasco in a casual conversation in 2004? Or Foot and Mouth Disease? Or the Subprime Mortgage Crisis? Does the story improve by somewhat incorporating these things in the story?

Not even the copious Harry Potter namedropping could blind me into ignoring the subpar, choppy and disjointed delivery of the story. I suppose I was expecting that the date-chapter gimmick would give me a proper idea of how Richard and Hanna evolve as they mature. Unfortunately, since both characters end up in each other’s orbit in these chapters one way or another, Hanna and Richard’s depth became co-dependent with each other. The moments when they made choices that were supposed to contribute to the evolution of their personalities fade into the background with the chapter ending abruptly, followed by a different period with a flimsy explanation as to what transpired in the interim.

For example, there was one chapter that dealt with Hanna being depressed over the death of her mother which ultimately led her into leaving London, the Larsens and Richard to search her soul in… Sydney (is Sydney the soul-searching hotspot nowadays?). The chapter ends with a heated argument with Richard that ultimately led with an apology and a door closing. The next chapter jumps a year after and Richard is talking to Daniel (his brother) because he wants to travel himself. Then the chapter after, Hanna attends Richard’s sister’s party as a surprise.

The Sydney incident was addressed as such:

Hanna closed her eyes and thought of her time in Sydney. At first she had been lost; realising the misery she was running away from had followed her across the world. It had been a stark wake-up call, and one which hit her hard. But, bit by bit, she managed to climb her way out of the pit of despair. It hadn’t been easy or quick, and she had fallen more times than she cared to remember, but she eventually made it out into the bright light of day.

Pardon the French, but what the NON-SPECIFIC fuck was that?! Perhaps there’s an unwritten rule somewhere where theres a sex scene quota doctrine that needs to be achieved in contemporary romance but I strongly feel against sacrificing much substantial scenes as this to address the wrong assumptions about contemporary romance readers. Scenes that shed light and proper depth to a character’s personality. Especially in stories like these with endless permutation of reconciliation and separation. It can get tedious, I should at least know AND LIKE these protagonists to give a shit what becomes of them.

Or at least, minimum requirement, just a little bit of chemistry together.

Okay and maybe some honesty at face value.

For a book with a broken record cover adopting a widely popular song title as its own and the promise of a “quirky music-loving heroine” from the blurb, I’m thoroughly disappointed with how little a role music played in the story. Hanna’s supposed to be a Lester Bangs-type personality (snort) with friendly ties to a rockstar... and that’s about as musical as this got. It did figure sometimes in the background: a mix-tape there, a song there but that’s about it.Thankfully, I had very little expectations with Richard, the “handsome and driven” hero promised in the blurb. I’ve been around this ride before and any book that introduces the hero as such:

His face, Lord his face. It was all jaw (not sure how this is attractive, but okay) and plump lips, straight nose and mossy green eyes. His smooth forehead was framed by an artfully styled mop of light-brown hair. He looked like every clean-cut Manhattan boy she’d ever had the misfortune to come in contact with.

I’m 99% sure this is the kind of hero that would NOT interest me. Until now I’m wondering what exactly was Richard supposed to make me feel. Such deep and detailed introspection on all that jaw and none for his ideals, his philosophy and ambitions. 

The rambling, aimless nature of Hanna and Richard’s story was further clunked down by secondary characters that served no purpose but to hold parties to, celebrate birthdays and wedding with so both our protagonists would have an excuse to see each other again. There were just too many of them to keep track of: Hanna and Richard’s parents have new families each with half-sister and brothers…. it truly rivals the cast of some epic high fantasy novels out there, without the purpose of each. What was the point of Daniel? Or Tom? Or Ruby really? 

And as if fatigued the clunking cast, the dragging and messy storyline and the cardboard characters, something about the point beyond the 70% mark, when the story stops reminiscing and goes forward in supposed real time, makes me feel the author just gave up on even trying. There was no conflict whatsoever beyond that point. Actually even all throughout, the conflict of separation was created by Richard and Hanna themselves, but at a certain point, the pointlessness just took the stage. It was scene after scene of Hanna introducing Matty to Ruby. Then to Richard. Then introducing him to Richard’s parents. Then to her own parents. Then she gets married. the sluggishness was just bananas! It’s like talking to someone when all you wanted to do was leave but you can’t because you’ve already listened to her thus far, what’s another minute? Or a hundred? Or heck, what’s a little more drama via a poor man’s version of Colleen Hoover’s folded paper stars from Slammed?

To some degree, I do recognise my fault. I really should stop looking for books to fill the gaping How to Kill A Rockstar hole in my heart. Should you be tempted to pick this one up on the strength of that hankering and the promise of the blurb…

ARC provided by the author thru Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Quotes may not appear on the final edition.