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The No-Show by Beth O'Leary


I'll break this review into two pieces, because the ending is so unexpected, I can't give a large chunk of my opinion of the book without giving away the twist that you really don't want to know ahead of time. I super love Beth O'Leary's characters: they are such relatable characters with normal jobs, normal lives, etc. This book follows three women who seem to be dating the same man and you're not clear why he would do that exactly. It feels very strange that he would be like that, and the more you get to know him, the odder it feels. I will stop there - from here forward, it's going to be all spoilers, and for real, you do not want to know ahead of time what the twist is.

So after about two-thirds of the way into the book, you start to feel like something is really not lining up. I was incredibly surprised by the twist, really taken aback by it. I expected there to be a good explanation for what he is doing, because the whole time, the main hero character just does not seem like the type to be dating three women at once. One thing I will say in retrospect: the whole time, throughout the book, I found myself sort of drawn to Jane as a character, drawn to Miranda and AJ as a couple, and even as characters themselves, but not so much drawn to Siobhan. Given the twist in the book, it feels like that was a mercy, a way to remedy the fact that this was a really difficult topic to fit under the heading of "light romcom." But I felt a little...discomfited by this, since she's the motivated, career-oriented character, and it felt a little like she pushed to be not likable because of her anxiety, her priorities, and her struggles.

On a side note, I am appalled that this book falls under light romcom: the way that the blurb is written on the back of the book, the way the cover of the book is designed, the way this is marketed as a fluffy read... Granted, it has a Happily Ever After ending for all but one character, I suppose, but at the same time, several characters deal with heavy mental health struggles and there is a traumatic death which is pivotal to the entire plot.

Relatedly, typically I am a huge proponent and defender of trigger warnings. But in this particular case, this is incredibly tricky. I'm not sure how you could add trigger warnings to this book and have it not give away the story. This is the rare exception in which I was kind of okay without the trigger warning. That said, it might be helpful to have one in the back, because there is a lot in here. There is harassment, there is emotional abuse, there is death, there is trauma, there are various different kinds of mental health struggles... Again, also beautifully written, relatable characters, and I enjoyed the book, but none of this falls under light romcom. It is ultimately a romantic storyline, but I would label it straight-up fiction. (Whether romantic books should be marketed and shelved outside of fiction is another topic altogether which I will not start here, but suffice it to say, I truly think that this book is mis-genre'd.) Of all the books I've recently read, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was probably the closest resemblance to this one. When I think light romcom, I think Hook Line & Sinker.

One small, specific issue I had with the plot: I am not sure that AJ dating Abigail was necessary. Having Miranda and AJ constantly missing each other seemed a little overkill after everything else that goes on in the book. They are so cute together and so well-matched. The conversation that Joseph Carter, Miranda, and AJ have in Joseph's mom's kitchen is absolutely hilarious. I enjoyed that as kind of a backdrop to when he finally lets go and he starts to figure out his next steps.

I also found that the mental health pieces of the story were dealt with very well. The friendships that Beth O'Leary has in her books, the way in which friends look out for one another, and that everyone has at least a person who watches over them, is always lovely to see. Her characters develop similarly to the characters in Mhairi McFarlane's books, and I love her books as well. There was someone there to catch each person when they fell - it didn't immediately just switch to "and then they found a therapist and then they found happiness" or "and then they found medication and got better." The idea that part of the struggle is finding someone to whom you can talk about this and where you feel safe to work through it all felt extremely realistic.

Finally, I love that at the ending the author pulled in the concept of lockdown, creating a bubble, and people being stuck in the house. It's one of the rare books where the timeline is set up exactly so. Again, though, wish this had been marketed as fiction and not as romcom. There was nothing comedy about it, even though I loved the story, loved writing, and loved the characters. Recommend it, but go into this knowing that this is a tough read and you will cry. Worth it, but heavy.

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