Skip to main content

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon: Romance Review

 The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Overview: Shay Goldstein was born to be on public radio. She used to pretend to host a radio show with her dad when she was a little kid, and she was crushed when he passed away. Now that she's getting ready for her first hosting gig, Shay feels like she's making him proud. Well... mostly proud. He always loved the truth that radio brought out and her new show is built on a little white lie- the idea that she used to date her co-host Dominic Yun. Though they bicker like exes, they never actually dated (though they might be currently?). As the popularity of the show takes off, all of Shay's dreams are coming true, and she might actually have found her dream guy too. And then everything falls apart. But it's a romance, so I think we all know how this ends. Overall: 5

Perfect for: enemies to lovers fans 

Characters: 5 I love Shay and Dominic and their show producer, Ruthie. They're all just great. Shay is super relatable. She's always been nervous about change, and she's nervous about adulthood, even though she's almost a decade into it. Most of the time, she feels like she's just waiting around for a real adult to come explain everything to her. Even her house feels like an adulting front. She's only ever worked at the station, and she's sometimes insecure about that as she approaches 30. I was nervous about trying adult books for the first time because I wasn't sure how I'd be able to relate to an actual adult (though it's not like I really relate to juniors in high school directly anyway?), but I felt like Shay and I could've been friends. For a lot of the time I read YA, I was reading up, learning about high school and college through those books, and this felt like a comforting return to that future glimpse that I haven't experienced in a while. 

Dominic makes the perfect love interest. He's quite proud of his master's degree and confident in his abilities straight out of grad school, but he's endearing from the start. You can see the glimmers of a good love interest. He turns out to be sweet, sensitive, attentive, and actually perfect. I mean, he's flawed like everyone else, but in the right ways. Dominic is always so good to Shay, even when he can't always do exactly the right thing, and that's what I want in a romance. I'm tired of the "bad boy" trope. Being nice is awesome. 

There's a couple close secondary characters that add variety to the story. Ruthie produces the show with Shay, and she becomes a supportive friend when Shay needs to talk to someone new. There's also Ameena and TJ. They're not as developed as some of the other secondary characters, but they represent longterm friendship for Shay, and as they consider moving away, Shay has to navigate another hurtle of adulthood. We briefly meet Dominic's family, but the focus is mainly on Shay's. Shay struggles with her mom getting remarried, less because she's moving on from her dad, and more because she thought she'd be next to have a wedding. Her mom's wedding planning makes Shay feel increasingly behind in life, even though she loves her future step-dad Phil and how good he is for her mom. Finally, at the station, there's Kent, the station manager. He's clearly sexist and has some major problems he hides under the veil of being "nice". Shay often feels weird about his comments or how he only ever asks the women present to take notes or how he immediately defers to Dominic when they're all in a meeting. It becomes increasingly apparent over the course of the book, and it's helpful to see the way Shay navigates that. 

Plot: 5 I didn't want to put this book down. I was surprised, actually, to find out how much romance and fan fiction have in common. They hit similar beats and prize similar elements of the story that aren't prioritized as often in literary fiction or even YA. It has the same fun, indulgent feeling as you relish the quiet glances when you know they're meant to be. It's pretty amazing how gripping this book is considering you know they're going to end up together in the end. I have to give all romance authors a million rounds of applause for creating stories worth reading with an ending that's fundamentally "spoiled". I was mostly riveted by the course that the show took because it was built on a lie that was bound to come undone. That element kept me constantly on edge as they navigated the show growing bigger than they could really contain. 

Writing: 5 The only reason I even thought to pick this book up is because I've loved all of Rachel's YA books. As intimidated as I was to jump an age group, I knew at the very least I already love the way Rachel tells stories. I'll probably explore the genre purely from my YA favorites branching out for now. I'm pretty sure I love this one maybe even more than some of her YA books. I truly have fallen for Shay and Dominic, and the public radio setting is extremely intriguing because I already love audio based storytelling and podcasts. Rachel blends the romance elements perfectly with the work subplot and blends in plenty of personal background to fill out their worlds and make them totally realized human beings. I feel like authors sometimes forget to develop the main character and love interest outside of their world together, but Rachel makes sure we completely know them as people. 

This book just made me incredibly happy. It forced me to make times for books again in a way that I haven't since the semester started again. And for everyone out there who is hesitant about making the leap out of YA, I'd say The Ex Talk is the perfect place to start.

More From This Author...

You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone Review

Our Year of Maybe Review

Today, Tonight, Tomorrow Review

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

YA You Need To Read: April 2021

It's already April! School has been super super hectic, and I'm starting my old job as a bookseller again, so I haven't had much time for reading lately (ironic, I know), but I did want to talk about some books coming out in April that I can't wait to read (one day) that might inspire you to pick them up. I particularly can't wait for My Epic Spring Break Up! It's been on my list for a while now (I mean, look at that cover), but I also found some new books that hadn't been on my radar while browsing around the internet that I wanted to bring to your attention.  Let me know in the comments what April books you can't wait for!  Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Kahn  April 6th Zara has lived in Corpus Christi, Texas for a while. She's always dealt with the Islamophobia that's rampant in her high school, but when the star football player gets suspended, Zara becomes the target of a racist attack by the rest of the team that puts her and her family'

Once Upon a Quinceañera

Once Upon a Quinceañera   by Monica Gomez-Hera Overview: Carmen hasn't graduated high school, even though it's the summer after senior year. When her senior project fell through, Carmen has to scramble to complete the project over the summer. That means no college (not that she applied) and no future plans beyond becoming a Dream (floating around in a Belle costume at children's parties) with her best friend Waverley. So maybe it's not the summer Carmen wanted, but it's fine. At least until her ex-boyfriend who ruined everything, Mauro, also shows up on the team and then they get assigned to work her nemesis and younger cousin's quinceañera, which becomes the big event of the summer. Nothing ever quite goes to plan for Carmen, does it? Overall: 4 Characters: 4 I enjoyed hanging out with Carmen for a while. She's super witty and cynical in a way that I appreciate. I also loved reading about a character who's just out of high school and doesn't have a

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi: YA Book Review

  Yolk  by Mary H.K. Choi Overview: Jayne is in fashion school in NYC. Well, she's enrolled. It's debatable how often she actually attends. June has a fancy job in finance, or that's what everyone thinks. But when June gets cancer, the estranged sisters are pulled together because June needs Jayne's identity to get treatment. By pretending to be her sister to get the life-saving procedure, June is forced to come clean and pull Jayne back into her orbit. Though their relationship stays rocky, they're suddenly glued together, forced to admit that their respective glamorous lives are actually filled with roaches and trauma and missteps. Overall: 5+++ This book made me happy cry (that's never happened while reading) and sad cry. Characters: 5 The book is told from Jayne's perspective in an extremely close first person. This book has plot. Things happen in the way that life happens, but it's mostly just characters getting split open and probed for all their w

Olivia Rodrigo'a SOUR As YA Books: Track By Track

This list turned out to be much harder to make than I anticipated when I came up with the idea last week. I set out to match songs to SOUR because what goes better with an album written by a 17/18 year old than YA books, but it turns out that YA books are just too hopeful for this album. Unlike many of these songs, I couldn't find books where the characters ended the book totally despondent and broken up. It took a bit of brainstorming, but I think I found a book to match the essence of each SOUR track. Le me know in the comments which songs on SOUR are your favorite. Mine are "brutal", "favorite crime", "deja vu", and "jealousy, jealousy".  1. "brutal" : War and Speech   by Don Zolidis War and Speech just radiates the same badass, discontented with teenage life energy as "brutal". This was the first book that popped into my mind when I thought about making this post. Just look at the cover. Sydney's life has been fa

Halsey's I Would Leave Me If I Could Poetry Review

  I Would Leave Me If I Could  by Halsey  I've started this review a couple times and scrapped all of them. I've written hundreds of reviews before, and this is the first time I have absolutely no clue how to review a book. It's not just because it's poetry. And it's not because I don't have thoughts on every single poem. I've read the book twice and scrubbed a million notes around her words and highlighted every poem on my second read through. I have so many favorites, and my heart feels like it's going to burst after finishing each poem. Halsey exceeded every expectation I had set to the high bar of her music. I almost feel like this book is too good for my review to remotely do it justice, so I don't even know where to begin.  This book is extremely vulnerable. Halsey has never held back on telling the ugly truth in her lyrics, but the poetry takes it so much farther. She has space to tell the entire story, fewer constraints than what will fit in

Writing Morally Gray Characters: A Guest Post by Laurie Devore, Author of A Better Bad Idea

Laurie Devore is stopping by the blog today to talk about her new book from Imprint, A Better Bad Idea , which is out now! This mystery/thriller/romance fusion is Laurie's third book, and it's a new twist on her usual contemporary YA stories. For this guest post, Laurie talks about crafting morally gray characters that your readers will still feel attached to and cheer on. Here's her best writing tips:  I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of what people will do when they’re pushed to their brink. While my new novel, A BETTER BAD IDEA, may seem like a departure in some ways from my previous novels, I actually think their DNA is quite similar. The stakes are higher, but as ever, this book is about girls making unimaginable choices because of their circumstances, whether self-inflicted or not.   I’m constantly thinking about what it means to write morally gray characters, and I think the main takeaway from me is that I’m just much more interested in what people do and w

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston: NA Book Review

  One Last Stop  by Casey McQuiston Get Your Copy! Overview: August moved to New York for yet another fresh start and hopefully to finish out college (finally). In her attempt to find a place, she stumbles into an apartment full of interesting people who will quickly become her best friends. They fold her seamlessly into their lives. And then, on the subway, August meets a girl who will change her life forever. As time goes on, August finds out that Subway Girl, or Jane, is stuck on the Q metro line by some kind of energetic force. With the Q shutting down for maintenance by the end of the summer, August and her friends have to band together to get Jane unstuck, even if that means bouncing her back to 1977 where she came from and never seeing her again. Overall: 4 Characters: 5 I genuinely loved everyone in this book, and they gave me such warm, fuzzy, and hopeful feelings. The book would be New Adult if that was a category that publishing actually used (please can we make this more of

Swimming Lessons By Lili Reinhart Poetry Review

  Swimming Lessons  by Lili Reinhart  Overall: 5 This is the first poetry book I've ever read in its entirety outside of Shel Silverstein, so I've checked off one of my reading goals for the year with this one. I've now read a graphic novel and a book of poetry. I've been anticipating Swimming Lessons  so long that I can't believe it's actually in my hands. I've been a fan of Lili since Riverdale, and I've continued to be a fan of hers even when the show got a bit too ridiculous for me to keep watching every week. I've been excited for the chance to get to see something completely created a controlled by Lili.  I'm not sure what I expected from Swimming Lessons . I think I had almost no idea what it would be like or the topics it would cover. After the first couple poems, I was completely hooked. In the intro, Lili prefaces the collection by noting that poetry has always given her solace in knowing other people felt the same specific emotions tha

Is YA For Me?

I've seen a lot of different conversations taking place on Twitter that all come back to a central theme. The YA space is controlled by adults. For the most part, they are the ones with the purchasing power, they have jobs in the industry, they are in a better position to amplify their voices about how they feel about different books and the category as a whole. I've been thinking about these conversations as a whole, and it really does come back to the intended audience not owning the space and what that means for the category and the conversations around it. As a teen who's heavily involved in the YA community, I sometimes feel awkward reading all the different, slightly varied takes from adults. Some make blanket statements for themselves and some work with teens and try to be a conduit to add them to the conversation. Very rarely do I come across a real teen who gets an amplified voice in the conversation (definitely go check out Vicky Who Reads on Twitter because,

Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn: YA Book Review

  Never Saw You Coming  by Erin Hahn  Preorder - Out September 7th- Preorder Campaign  From Nicola's Books Overview: Meg is done with living by her parents' rules. Or parent? Nothing makes sense after she finds out that the dad she's known all of her life actually isn't her biological dad, and her biological dad is actually dead. But his grandmother and his brother are living in the UP, and Meg intends to meet them before it's too late. With high school behind her, Meg makes the leap of faith towards a tiny town she's never been to. She quickly folds herself into the community, finding her blood family and her found family, while also facing the stigmas and internalized sexism she's learned through her mom and her church over the years. This is the ultimate coming of age story. Overall: 5+++ Characters: 5 Meg and Micah, the two POV characters are now also my two favorite people. In the companion novel of sorts, More Than Maybe , we meet Meg as Vada's hom