The Premise: After years in a stagnating relationship, Abigail Wood broke up with her boyfriend. Now she’s single for the first time in forever, and she has no idea how to act when it comes to men and dates. After a first date where all she could do was ask questions like she was interviewing someone, Abigail rehashes the experience with her new flatmate Robert (best friend of her sister’s fiancé), who tells her how to act the next time (“cool and detached”). With a different girl every other day, Robert is an expert at being single and sought after, so Abigail takes Robert’s advice as gospel and becomes much more confident at the dating game. As a bonus, Robert is a great buddy. But as their relationship develops and their circles of friends overlap, she meets one of Robert’s best friends and her newly learned confidence begins to unravel.
Read an excerpt of A Girl Like You in Amazon Look Inside
My Thoughts: Like The Dating Detox, A Girl Like You is a book that’s about dating and the worries it brings: first dates, first impressions, and awkwardness. Abigail is in that situation after dumping her long term boyfriend. It was a brave decision, but now she’s clueless in the face of singledom. Having her flatmate Robert tell her what to do is a godsend. He has advice for any given situation, and it works! Abigail is soon walking into bars and thanks to Robert’s strategies, walking out with phone numbers. If she gets into a pickle, Robert is a phone call away to get her out of it.
Abigail had lost some friends in her breakup, but she has a core group of her sister Sophie, and her best friends Plum and Henry. With Robert giving Abigail advice and best friends with Sophie’s fiancé, he is soon part of their circle too. It’s a small but loyal group, often socializing and commiserating about their love lives (or lack thereof). And I’ve got to say, Gemma Burgess shines when it comes to writing scenes that illustrate the social lives of these young Londoners. There’s plenty of bar hopping and parties, and one significant weekend in the French countryside, but what I loved the most was the easy banter of long familiar friends. It’s clear that Abigail and her buddies have had years together, and these side characters with distinct personalities and their own relationship problems and shared past histories that are relayed as the book went on.
Now about Robert and Abigail and their unlikely friendship. While Abigail is a nice girl who just needs a dose of confidence in her life, Robert is almost her opposite. While she’s rather sweet (with a dose of sarcastic), he’s a little on the broodier side, with a reputation for being somewhat of a loner. While she’s a dating newbie, he’s a total player. Robert says of his love life, “I’m totally honest that I am not looking for, uh, anything, and I end it within a month. I mean, that doesn’t make me a bad guy, does it?” His many relationships don’t make him a bad guy, and he isn’t an obvious jerk to women in this book (he’s basically charming), but that Robert has broken a few hearts put him in a gray character area. If you can’t overlook that he is a playboy, it may be a problem, but when it comes to Abigail, and this story is told from her point of view (in the first person), Robert is always there for her. They are both completely themselves with each other, and like a proper friend, he never judges, even when Abigail calls frantically from the bedroom of a embarrassing one night stand. I was worried about him when I was introduced to him in this story, but he went against my expectations in the best possible way.
I liked that rather than the ‘rules’ of dating being the focus of the story, the story was more about the growth of Abigail and Robert’s friendship over time. Robert begins genuinely wanting to help Abigail build up her self-assurance, and his help is the catalyst for this story.
‘What’s mine? Achilles’ heel, I mean?’
‘Lack of confidence,’ says Robert instantly. Ouch.
‘I have confidence,’ I protested feebly. (This, of course, isn’t the correct response when someone accuses you of lacking confidence. The correct response is a derisive ‘blow me’.) ‘Dating is just out of my comfort zone.’
‘Well, you also often look preoccupied, like you’re arguing with yourself. It gives you a fuck-off aura.’
‘Suck my aura,’ I say sulkily.
‘It’s not my fault,’ I say, after a pause. ‘You need experience to be confident at anything. Driving. Putting on make up. Flipping pancakes. I have no experience at being single. How could I possibly be confident at it?’
‘We’re working on that,’ he says. ‘You’re next.’
The playboy and friend becoming something more story lines can become predictable, but A Girl Like You manages to make those tropes its own. It didn’t go the obvious route with a jealous scene or a glib moral about taking advice from a playboy, this story plays it a bit smarter than that. The story spans over a year’s worth of friendship and that in that time, the character’s actions tell us more than what they say. I liked that they were nuanced and that I learned about these two friends as they were getting to know each other. I liked the insights from things like Robert’s embarrassing past and Abigail’s unsatisfying career. I felt like there were shades of Sarra Manning in this story in that it delves more into the heads of the main characters. A Girl Like You didn’t make me quite as wrung out as Manning’s books have, but there is some gritty emotion in there, like Abigail’s desperation when she enters a relationship where she doesn’t feel like she’s in control. When Abigail unravels, it is raw, but so necessary. I think she has to experience something that’s not quite right in order to find the real thing.
A warning: if you read the prologue it may make you worry about the ending and possibly jump to the wrong conclusion. Wait it out. Do not flip to the end, no matter how much you want to.
A bonus for those who don’t like explicit sex scenes: this book always fades to black for those bits.
Overall: A Girl Like You has a protagonist who is trying to figure out dating after being in a perpetual relationship, a core group of loyal friends, and a playboy who is more dependable than you’d think. I really liked it. It was a chick lit/contemporary romance that had the right balance of fun (in the form of an active social life), and depth (in the form of character and relationship development), and I loved the interactions throughout the book. Gemma Burgess is going onto the autobuy list now.
I’m looking forward to her new New Adult series, Union Street, set in a Brooklyn brownstone with a cast of young women.
Buy: Amazon UK | Awesome Books | The Book Depository | Fishpond World
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