Just Like Magic

by Sarah Hogle

Bettie used to be a popular and successful internet influencer but has fallen on hard times. She is squatting in a dead woman’s abandoned ramshackle house near her rich and famous family’s home in Colorado. She bemoans that the woman only had a 24” TV, but will only drink Evian water because she “is not a plebe.” She is shallow, materialistic, and steals her neighbors’ Wifi signal and their electricity. Due to her poor decision-making and bad advice, she is a laughingstock on social media and flat broke to boot. Or I should say she was a laughingstock. Nowadays “Even my unpopularity isn’t popular anymore.” Most people think she is dead or in rehab when they think about her, which is never.

It’s Christmas and Bettie is dreading the family get-together where she will have to pretend to still be wealthy and successful. And what is she going to do for Christmas presents? One night, while drunk, she conjures up Hal, who is “The Holiday Spirit” personified by (somehow) playing Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You” backwards on vinyl. Hal is nice and pure, “a glowing unicorn untainted by all that is crass and vulgar.” His mission is to restore Bettie’s Christmas spirit by granting her every wish as long as, among other caveats, it is not damaging to history or cause harm to others. He is also very attractive. So far so good. I like a good redemption story and an unconventional hero.

Unfortunately, things started to go awry pretty quickly and I gave up at about the 25% mark. I skimmed through to the end. I made it past the Water Buffalo she wished into an enemy’s 4th floor Chelsea apartment building. And Hal explaining that the “number one most forbidden wish” would be to bring back the McRib when it isn’t in season. I think I started to realize I was probably going to DNF this when Bettie and Hal teleport to her grandparents’ “small gothic castle” her sinuses are filled with ice-cold eggnog and the song “Video Killed the Radio Star” becomes stuck in her head. These are the two side effects of teleportation, you see. I tried to give it another chance, but the incessant zaniness was exhausting. I can deal with wacky and eccentric in small doses but not unremittingly. It was contrived and disingenuous.

Sarah Hogle has an appealing narrative voice, which kept me reading her You Deserve Each Other despite my initial contempt for the heroine. But this one did not redeem itself although thankfully***spoiler alert*** the heroine did. Kooky is not always funny or interesting and, for me, it got old fast.

Thank-You to Net Galley and PENGUIN GROUP Putnam for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. Sorry.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

March 21, 2022

You Deserve Each Other

By Sarah Hogle

“You’re implying that I’m not presentable in public unless I have a full face of makeup on.”
“No. I absolutely did not imply that.”
“I suppose I should take three hours to curl my hair, too, right?” I make my voice tremble. I am the victim of horrendous misdeeds. “Because I’m not pretty enough the way I am? I suppose you’re embarrassed to bring me around your family unless I conform to society’s impossible beauty standards for females?”
His eyes narrow. “You’re right. Your hair’s an embarrassment in its natural state and your face is so anti–female beauty that if you go out like that, I’d insist on you walking backward and ten feet away from me. I want you to go upstairs right now and paint yourself unrecognizable.” He arches his eyebrows. “Did I do that right? Are those the words you’d like to put in my mouth?”
My chin drops.

**DNF at almost halfway through. I’m am going to pause on this one until I can get it from the library on E-Book. The narrator was good, and I liked Naomi’s snarky humor. But I really could not take any more of how unreasonable, petty, mean, and silly she was. I started off liking and sympathizing with her, but the more I learned about her, the less I liked her. I couldn’t remember what Nick did that was so terrible. It’s true he didn’t stand up to his heinous mother, but she could have tried to help him with that. But she was too busy being wimpy herself when faced with her. Also, the whole premise of the book was flawed and didn’t make sense. I need to reread the first part to try and understand her hatred of Nick and skip ahead a bit to see if it gets any better. And you can’t do that with an audiobook.

***update July 18th, 2020*** I finished this book on kindle. It got much better a little past where I quit it last month. Naomi and Nick finally started to work together and appreciate each other and teamed up against his heinous mother. Their confrontations with her were epic if over the top. Deborah is truly one of the worst mothers of all time: the quintessential villain you love to hate. Unfortunately, she kind of disappeared with over a hundred pages to go and took a lot of purpose and air out of the plot. There was some closure needed there. Also, Naomi and Nick became a little more likable as some information was shared which made them more understandable. All in all a pretty funny chick-lit novel, but nothing more substantial than that.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

July 18, 2020