Squirrels As A Metaphor In Romance: Nope.

I Want It That Way - Ann Aguirre


Not all love stories end happily. Sometimes they just end.

I’m a little confused right now so bear with me as I try to process this book. 

This is my first Ann Aguirre book. I’ve first heard of her Razorland series and while that seems to be widely loved by my friends, it’s not named after a Backstreet Boys song so… New Adult it is and hello Ann Aguirre, it’s nice to meet you. 

On the one hand, this book managed to avoid a lot of the tropes and pitfalls I’ve come to hate about New Adult Contemporary. The romance was between neighbours Nadia, an aspiring teacher, and Ty, the young father to her student, four year-old Sam. Their issue is that Ty refuses to engage in any form of commitment because of his predicament and Nadia settles for a Friends With Benefits type of relationship with him, with “half a loaf being better than none” at all. 

While the plot and premise was rife with potential cliche land mines insta-love (though admittedly there was insta-attraction which I’m not quite as averse to), the return of Sam’s deserter mother, multiple love triangle and cheating opportunities with Max, The Big Misunderstanding, Aguirre pulls a surprise by presenting her characters’ maturity in situations that have been ruined and recycled in so very few, uncreative ways elsewhere in this genre. I mostly liked how Nadia was portrayed and the smallest details about her father was quite impressive because I found him relatable real to mine. 

On the other hand this story was just so unbelievably boring. From the moment Ty and Nadia engaged in their non-relationship, it felt chapters and chapters of non-events, a series of scenes that contributed very little to the overall plot and development of either protagonists. It was like: 

Chapter 8: Nadia and her roommates go to a club.
Chapter 9: Nadia and her roommates go watch Project Runway but figured it was too boring and went to the movies instead. 
Chapter 14: Nadia bakes cookies. 
Chapter 17: Nadia and Ty stays in Ty’s apartment the whole weekend having sex.
Chapter 19: Halloween party.
Chapter 21: Nadia and Ty go to a ski lodge and have sex doggie-style.

It felt like their story was stuck in this black hole where things are happening but nothing is actually happening, and it was only around the 90% mark when the story resumed some semblance of motion and direction. 

The minor storylines on this one were Nadia’s family, Sam and Nadia’s time together at the Learning Center (I am not quite convinced Sam is as adorable as this book seems to believe him to be, honestly) and her best friend Lauren’s on-going drama which I suppose sets the scene up for the next book. I quite liked the conflict in Lauren’s character (a little reminiscent of the heroine’s depth from Catch a Falling Star) but I’m reluctant to jump back in to this series with Aguirre’s vernacular preferences. It swung wildly from quirky fun, 

”They stole our pie? Now I’m mad. And pie less. But mostly mad.”

to gag-worthy treacly strange

More kisses. I hoarded them like a squirrel chasing nuts around the yard.

to OTT drama-llama

Ridiculously, I touched a figertip to my phone, as if Ty lived in there because some evil wizard has cast a spell and locked him away from me like a genie in a lamp. But nothing happened apart from the solitary tear trickling down my cheek. I didn't like feeling this way, but I had no idea how to stop.

The sex scenes and dialogue were awkwardly unerotic and Ty’s declarations felt like eye-roll inducing pick-up lines. He truly was a difficult hero to fall for and I couldn’t fully understand Nadia attraction towards him outside him being a young father and a red-head. I wanted a little more complexity for this character, a worthy match to Nadia’s maturity and not someone who seems to be pulling a fast one on an unsuspecting, lovelorn girl.

”I just feel you, that’s all. If you’re anywhere nearby, I know it. I can always tell when you’re looking at me, too.”

Romance should make me want to fall for the guy and root for a HEA, not feel like he’s trying to con the heroine into some elaborate plot. Though I won’t deny, this would have been a brilliant thriller had Ty actually peeled Lauren’s face off in the end what with his borderline creepy obsession over her face.

When I read Aguirre’s dedication to Leigh Bardugo at the beginning of this book, I was almost certain I would fall for this cleverly titled book (capitalising on the collective kitschy 90’s music nostalgia of it’s reader base was nothing short of marketing genius). And while I appreciate the effort to stand apart from this overly crowded genre, I’m finding everyone else is striving to do exactly that these days. And this book, with its forgettable characters and dull, boring story, will unfortunately be lost among the very crowd it seems to strive to rise above.

Review Copy courtesy of the publishers. Quotes taken from an uncorrected proof.