Crushing by Genevieve Novak: book review
Overview: Marnie has spent her entire adulthood in one longterm relationship or another. But, right as she's approaching thirty, her current boyfriend Eddie breaks up with her, ending a decade long streak of monogamy with a couple different men as Marnie swears off serious commitment. At least for the time being. This period of growth and self reflection is mostly facilitated by signing up for lots of expensive classes and glomming onto her new roommate and her sister to be the activity directors of her life. Soon, she finds herself in a messy situationship and some rocky friendships that threaten what's supposed to be a carefree, fun time of healing. Marnie has to realize it's a lot harder than she might have thought to face the world on her own. Overall: 3
Characters: 3 The characters in this book fell pretty flat for me. They felt more like archetypes than fully fleshed out people, and the supporting cast really felt orchestrated to help teach Marnie various life lessons that were spelled out extremely bluntly at the end. There's a lot of telling in this novel and very little actual illustration of who these people are in any amount of nuance or layers which is frustrating. Marcie comes across fairly shallow, and not like she starts the novel this way and learns and grows from it but it's just intrinsic to her personality. While she's happy to spell out the various lessons she's learned along the way for the reader, she falls flat in seeming at all changed by these realizations in a deeper way. Everything is a bit too forced in this novel, and that extends to everyone in it.
Plot: 3 This is the root of the problem with this book. Marnie gets out of a bad relationship, swears off commitment, and then immediately lands herself in another all consuming romantic relationship. Except, this one doesn't violate her rules about prioritizing herself and dating around because the guy is already dating someone else, and while she's happy to engage in an emotional affair, they're both hesitant to embark on a full-on physical one. This is no better!
In a book that's built around learning self love and getting past a toxic pattern with guys, it felt totally unsatisfying to see her repeat a pattern we were so throughly introduced to at the start of the book. I felt like the rushed ending where Marnie reaches all her grand conclusions should've been where the book started and had the ending steps fill 300 pages instead. Feeling like the book started in the wrong spot for what it wanted to do aside, it was also just extremely repetitive with the same spirals happening in each relationship (with friends, siblings, and love interests) over and over without seemingly leading anywhere. The entire book just felt a bit disjointed and lost in what it wanted to accomplish.
Writing: 3 One really interesting thing to note is that this is the first fiction book I've read in the almost 4 years since the pandemic started that references COVID and masking in any way. It was really fascinating to read a book that is actually set in real life, and I commend Novak for not shying away from that even though it was jarring at first.
Her style is fun and light for the most part. It definitely felt like it was trying to give off millennial cool girl vibes, and all the pop culture references and very of-the-moment nods were a fun change of pace from so many books that try to exist in a void of timelessness. It suited to story to just go for it. It's probably her voice and its bubbly energy that got me to stick through the book. There is also a nice bit of heart in Marnie's career realizations and the bonds she forms with her co-workers that I liked. I just wish that this had truly been a story of putting yourself before an obsession with romantic relationship and getting to know yourself as an adult. It had a lot of promise in this arena before taking a disappointingly hard turn away.
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