People are hard on Jennifer Weiner. I’m probably too hard on Jennifer Weiner. She speaks up for her genre, those books that the literati cast aside as chick-lit. She speaks out against guys like Jonathan Franzen, who have buffooned up into odd caricatures of themselves. She’s like a lone woman speaking out against a vast structure of how literature works today. I play on both teams, I love both sides of this argument. I’m a fan of chick-lit, but I also love some books for plot and others for language and see it as a fact, not as discrimination. But props to Weiner, I think her discussions bring her more into focus in my world, which is great marketing.
All this Weiner-debate got me Weiner-curious, and I decided to pick up her latest release, Who Do You Love. Who Do You Love takes sweetness to Cotton Candy Crème Frappucino level, as Rachel Blum and Andy Landis come together and tear apart what feels like a billion times throughout their childhood, teen years, and then adulthood. They first lay googly love-eyes upon each other, in the now chic fashion of Fault in our Stars, in the ER as children. Rachel, a frequent hospital resident due to a heart condition, strays from her ward at night. Andy, a bit of a shy and neglected ruffian, broke his arm and (scary!) arrives at the ER with no parental escort.
When they reunite on a trip for Habitat for Humanity in high school, love blooms. First love. Tummy butterfly love. They seem perfect together, but life gets in the way (doesn’t it always?). Love tracks these two through life like gum on a sneaker. They always fall back into each other’s arms. Feelings for Rachel follow Andy as he trains for the Olympics, being a gifted runner since he sprinted on his paper routes. Feelings for Andy nag Rachel during awful blind dates with other men. This is a “Will they, or won’t they?” book. A “How many times will they try?” book. And a, “Really, how plausible is this?” book.
But that’s okay. Weiner doesn’t mind taking the love story full nacho cheesy, and it is delicious. (I have no idea why all my metaphors for a sappy love story are food and beverage related. But I can’t stop.) If you are a slightly bitter person seeking fine literature and emotional depth, then pick up A Little Life and stop reading this review already. There’s nothing wrong with that! But if you love love, you will love Who Do You Love. It will remind you of your awkward first loves, your horrible break-ups, and (maybe) make you hopeful for the love-ly miracles still to come. There’s something a little bit magic about an unapologetic romance laying it on thick, playing all your emotional chords like a sad, beautiful symphony. Prepare to laugh, to feel the tears welling up, to get angry, and then be exhausted that this couple is still fighting or not talking or with other people. Prepare to feel all of this, and then go back in for more.