DON'T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME
Ho-lee-shit, y'all. This book. THIS BOOK. Why haven't you read it yet?
Don't You Forget About Me deceives you into thinking it's a contemporary romance. You go in thinking you're going to read about two characters who missed their chance and reconnect years later, except one doesn't remember the other. You think it'll be cute and funny and lovey. And it is these things–it's funny, and there is love and cuteness in bits and pieces, it is a second chance romance– but it also hits hard in places you least expect. Is this the best book I've read in years? It very well might be. Right now, it feels likes it.
I want to be upfront: there's a trigger warning for this book. It deals with sexual assault, eating disorders, family trauma, grief, just to name a few. As someone who needs these trigger warnings, I'm so glad I read this book. It was everything we never read about. It was everything we need in books these days and forever. But if you're looking for a book that's going to make you swoon, if you're looking for a healthy does of romance and cuteness, this isn't the book for you.
Thirty year-old Georgina's life hasn't gone exactly as planned. She shares an apartment with a roommate who leaves passive aggressive notes, she's not the prized writer she thought she'd be, her family has very little faith or belief in her, and she's had bad job after bad job, a series of misfortunate employment events. To make matters worse after she's sacked from another shitty job, she catches her boyfriend rutting his assistant. Just when she thinks things are looking up with a new gig as a barmaid for a refurbished pub, she finds out it's co-owned by the boy she once loved, the one who made her feel like she was more than enough, the one she never forgot. But he doesn't seem to remember her. Or does he?
I loved this book for so many reasons and I'm going to tell you more than a few. Georgina is thirty– and if you're a single, thirty year-old woman working in a job you'd rather quit, you know what society is thinking about you. You know what it's like to have family members want to set you up so you can have 2.5 kids with a rich husband or force you into a desk job that's "socially more acceptable" than being a waitress. You know what it's like to struggle with your present when you thought it would be so different. If you've ever been though something terrible, you know how hard you can be on yourself. And honestly, if you're not a thirty year-old, single woman, it doesn't matter– you've probably felt the way Georgina has or still do. I do, in some cases. That's what I loved the most about Georgina and this book: Georgina is every woman at some point. What made me love it more was the way Mhairi McFarlane doesn't skip around the hard truths: that some men don't give a shit about what a woman wants, that some men are fucking manipulative and will do horrible things to "win," that family members can absolutely make you feel like shit for not living up their ideals, however antiquated. That no one should be allowed to get away with things, not when they're your family, and not when they're another sex. It's not right. There's injustice being done. "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."
This book makes significant political and social commentary on the wars that are waged on women. "An athletic ability to find the positive– the sort that's drilled into girls especially: be grateful, smile!–isn't always a good thing. Sometimes you should ask yourself why you're having to." And Georgina, as a true heroine, she pulls herself up. She recognizes where she's going wrong, starts to adjust her course in life, stands up for herself when it's really fucking hard, and she speaks the truth even when it's not what people want to hear, even when it's not easy. That's true strength. That's a badass heroine.
One gripe. One small, teeny tiny gripe, and that's it. This book is marketed as romance and it's got the elements, and because of that, I wanted to more details in the backstory between her and Lucas. I wanted that romantic foundation to be stronger, so that I could feel her pain more acutely in her loss of love. The backstory– the origin story, if you will–felt glossed over, too quick to really convey the significance of their love. I needed a bit more detail, a bit more build up in the relationship between Georgina and Lucas, for it to land harder. To care more about their second chance opportunity.
This book will hit you in the feels. Don't pick it up because you want romance, pick it up because you want to read something utterly spectacular.