"Who knew that pretending you're not falling for someone would be so much more difficult than pretending that you are?"
Does school start in a week? Were you fired? Are you in the middle of exams about to collapse? Did your boy/girlfriend break up with you? Are you just having a bad week like me? This book is for you.
I joke not when I say Lauren Layne is the Queen of Feel-Good Books. Short, funny and sweet, that's how I'd describe her works of fiction. Yes, they're all cliches, but they don't try to hide it. I mean, just take Isn't She Lovely. It outright tells you it is Pygmalion and all it adaptations with a twist. Not only it doesn't pretend to be otherwise, it also is a well-done take on the story. And amazing for New Adult standards, let me tell you.
Maybe the reason why this doesn't fall into the usual NA trope is because it's not really it. I mean, that's the target, the age fits. However, the whole thing has a YA feel to it AND I LOVED IT. One of my GD friends said this is the result of what would happen if Avril Lavigne and Taylor Swift got together and wrote a book, and maybe she's right. But that's not a bad thing.
So, in its full Pygmalion adaptation glory, Isn't She Lovely is a lot like Pretty Woman. Except, of course, Stephanie is a goth and Ethan is his daddy's son. And his daddy lives in Park Avenue aka he's older-than-dirt money. They're both trying to escape their homes for different reasons and decide to take a summer film class with an Oscar-winning screenwriter. The class consists of a project in which the students have to take a common film narrative and, much like this book, give it a personal twist. Stephanie and Ethan are, obviously, randomly paired together and they choose—surprise surprise—PYGMALION! But a college version because supposedly there's a lack of adaptations in that age gap. And they're college students. And this is New Adult.
Ethan suggests they base the script in real life because he told his parents he had a new girlfriend so his mother would stop trying to match him with his ex. One would think Stephanie would never agree to play his new boo, but she's living with her own ex and his new girlfriend, who happens to be the chick he cheated on her with. Ethan offers the second room in his apartment rent-free for the rest of the summer in exchange of her playing his snobbish girlfriend for one month—equating four family outings. The problem is that she is a goth. Yeah, dark hair, black clothes, lots of piercings, a tattoo, combat boots and leathers. And let's not even talk about the bad attitude and unstoppable sarcasm. But Stephanie used to be your usual next door girl, so even though she's uncomfortable she knows exactly what she's doing. And so it begins.
Ethan and Stephanie are both fifty shades of traumatized (I didn't even see the pun until I proofread it, I swear). I guess that she in some ways had it worse, but I liked his character better. Basically, Stephanie's mother died the same day her boyfriend put a roofie on her drink and she woke up naked in his bed. She's not sure if she was raped or not, but the experience was traumatic anyhow. Six months after all this, her father married another woman who looks a whole lot like Stephanie's mother. She feels betrayed and leaves home for college, where people leave her alone because we dark, indie art loving people are loners. Until she meets Ethan, plays his little charade, and falls hard for him.
The reason why I enjoyed reading about Ethan better is that he felt more realistic. Alright, it is messed up. Within the same hour, Ethan sees his girlfriend Olivia hooking up with his best friend Michael and his "happily" married mom kissing Michael's dad and his dad's best friend and business partner. Completely messed up. But the way things unfolded was neither right nor wrong, it was life. Ethan was so comfortable and familiar with Olivia, whom he grew up and was since forever with, that he didn't even realize that she had feelings for Michael. Because he's honestly not all that hurt that he got cheated on, he felt betrayed by his best friend.
The book portrayals perfectly how well-fitted and perfect Olivia is for Ethan, how content they could be together. What he has with Stephanie is messy and more often complicated than not. If Ethan had never caught Olivia with Michael, there's a big change they'd have ended up together and very much like Ethan's parents, good enough but never fulfilled.
On the other hand, Ethan and Stephanie's relationship will never be easy. They like different things, have different expectations and come from different places. I guess none of that would matter if they saw a future together, but we're not sure of that. And HEA or not, we're still not sure by the end of the book.
Possibly, the only thing I didn't like about this book was the lack not only of epilogue but of, you know, things working. I'm not asking you to fast-forward 10 years and tell me if they got married and had children. All I wanted was at the very least one scene of them together, doing something casual. I felt robbed. The whole book consists of them getting together, but we never actually see that. A lot of authors do this, and it always bothers me. I went through all the heartache, I WANT THE FRUITS.
Overall, this was a quick read I enjoyed very much. While there were a lot of cliches, I didn't mind them. The usual rage-inducing things that appear in almost every NA weren't there.No slut-shaming. No rape-y, obsessed ML. No brainless FL. No black and white where they try to convince us that the abusive hero is not obsidian. There's a plot. There's character development. There's a nice message. This is fluff at its best.