Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating, by Christina Lauren

>> Saturday, October 20, 2018

TITLE: Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating
AUTHOR: Christina Lauren

PAGES: 304

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romance

Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them...right?
This book made me happy. Plotwise, it's a simply story about two people who become good friends, try to set each other up on double dates, and then each realises the person they want to spend time with is the other. Simple, and nothing new. What makes it a delight are the characters, particularly the heroine.

Hazel is a character I never would have guessed I would love so much. She is chaos personified. Or rather, chaos follows her. She has the sense of fun of a child (which is why she's so amazing at her job as a teacher for 8-9-year-olds, who share her sense of humour) and puts her all into the things she loves and thinks are fun, even if they aren't what responsible adults are supposed to be into. She's always getting into insane scrapes and saying just the wrong thing.

This has meant that her love life hasn't really taken off. Guys who are charmed by her quirkiness at first soon get tired of it and expect her to act like everyone else. "Would it kill you to be normal for a little while?" is something she has heard often.

Hazel met Josh Im at university. She thought he was really cool, but between the fact that she proceeded to completely humiliate herself in front of him several times (the email she sent him while high on painkillers after dental surgery was a thing of beauty -I giggled for about 10 minutes after reading it) and that she thought he was completely out of her league, he was never a romantic prospect for her. She really wanted to be friends, though.

Hazel gets her wishes when she runs into Josh several years later. Turns out Josh is the brother of one of Hazel's friends, and once she's met him again, she hounds him into becoming her friend. It's adorable. And then one of the friends things they do is to set each other up with people they think may suit. Some of the potential dates are nice, some are horrible, but always, Josh and Hazel enjoy each other's company more than anyone else's.

So, Hazel. Now, I'm someone who loves order and tidiness and peace and quiet. Reading about Hazel should have stressed me out. But it didn't! I adored her. I wouldn't want her in my house for more than a couple of hours, but I loved her to pieces. Writing her must have been a bit of a balancing act. Thinking about other characters who are portrayed as chaotic, I think they often come across as inconsiderate, careless about the consequences of their actions. Hazel never does. She just has joie de vivre in spades and sometimes gets so enthusiastic about something she loves that her judgement is slightly impaired, that's all.

I didn't just love her, but felt incredibly protective of her. There's a point when we see first-hand what it's like for her when someone starts trying to shame her into acting "normal", and I wanted to rip the guy's throat out for hurting her and making Hazel feel bad. That's one of the reasons why I loved Josh so much as well. He gets her and doesn't want to change her. If she's happy, he doesn't care if the people start tutting disapproval.

I suppose Josh is not the most deeply-drawn character ever. As a character, he serves mostly as a foil to Hazel, and his characterisation seems to revolve mostly about how he feels about her and reacts to her hurricane of chaos. I didn't care. I thought this still worked beautifully as a romance.

I'll say though, that I loved seeing an Asian character portrayed as beautiful and desirable (still way too uncommon, for all that this should be the norm), and I liked the little bits of Korean culture that the authors included. This may be slightly spoilery, but I was very interested in how Josh's relationship with his parents was portrayed. It's expected that they will move in with their son when they get old, and I liked that we get neither a "filial obligation, of course it's good" nor a "in-laws living with a couple, of course it's bad". When they move in with Josh and Hazel, it's because this is the right choice for these particular people.

Anyway, this was a lovely book. It was funny and sexy and romantic and made me feel happy. What more could I ask for?



Darlynne 22 October 2018 at 20:09  

A book that makes you giggle is almost a mental health requirement these days. My library has this one, so thank you.

Rosario 23 October 2018 at 04:25  

I hope it makes you giggle as well :)

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