The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
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Content Warning: View Spoiler » Infertility, Emotional Cheating « Hide Spoiler
Genres: Contemporary Romance
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Reading Challenges: Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Rowena's 2019 New to Me Challenge
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Fall in love with this hilarious and heartwarming romantic comedy that USA Today bestselling author LJ Shen calls "an absolute treat." SheReads' "Most Anticipated Romance Books of 2019
Kristen Petersen doesn't do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don't get her. She's also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.
Planning her best friend's wedding is bittersweet for Kristen -- especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He's funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he'd be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it's harder and harder to keep him at arm's length.
The Friend Zone will have you laughing one moment and grabbing for tissues the next as it tackles the realities of infertility and loss with wit, heart, and a lot of sass.
"Harnessing sass, heartfelt struggle, and unapologetic sexuality, Jimenez's debut is as hysterical as it is tear-jerking.... Jimenez manages to fulfill all expectations for a romantic comedy while refusing to sacrifice nuance. Biting wit and laugh-out-loud moments take priority, but the novel remains subtle in its sentimentality and sneaks up on the reader with unanticipated depth." --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Kristen’s best friend, Sloan, is marrying the man of her dreams, Brandon. Brandon’s best friend and best man, Josh, is new in town and Kristen and Josh are forced together a lot while they help with wedding preparations, and Josh acts as a stand in carpenter for Kristen’s business after hers quits unexpectedly. They hit it off pretty early on and they have chemistry in spades, but Kristen has a boyfriend…plus, she’s hiding a pretty big secret from Josh. He’s made it clear on several occasions that he wants a ton of kids, but she’s infertile. She suffers from fibroids in her uterus that are making her absolutely miserable. In fact, she’s having a partial hysterectomy in a matter of weeks.
Holly: The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez is one of my most anticipated books of 2019. It first came on my radar earlier this year when the cover caught my attention. The blurb intrigued me and, since I’m trying to branch out in my reading this year, I added it to my TBB pile. Then early reviews popped up and I got really excited. This book sounded like everything I needed in my life.
Rowena: This book was on my radar too because it sounded like a good time and I’m all about the friends to lover trope. I liked the cover too so I thought, yeah, this book looks like it’ll be a fun read so I agreed to buddy review this with Holly once the book came out.
Holly: Sadly, it was not. In fact, it made me so angry I ended up with an eye twitch.
Rowena: Like Holly, this book pissed me off the more that I read. Like, this book made me ragey. I’m still feeling rage when I think about this book. sigh
Holly: There’s a lot for me to unpack with this book. First, I absolutely adored Josh. He was so down-to-earth and secure in himself I couldn’t help but fall for him. His loyalty to his friends, his desire to make Kristen happy, his overall personality – I loved it all.
I loved Kristen at first, too. She’s brash, unapologetic about it and, in general, so comfortable with herself you know she’ll give it to you straight every time. Until she doesn’t, that is. Early in the book she tells Josh:
“There’s something you should know about me, Josh. I say what I think. I don’t have a coy bone in my body. Yes, you’re sexy. Enjoy the compliment because you won’t always like what I say to you, and I won’t care one way or the other if you do or don’t.”
Based on this, and many other things she says and does, I thought Kristen was a straight shooter. So why, then, did she spend the entirety of the book playing games with Josh? She strung him along, flirted, kissed him, slept with him, then ghosted him for weeks…only to reel him back in. She swore it was for his own good, but what she did was toy with him constantly. She never opened up to him about her problems or had a true, adult conversation with him about where she was at. She just kept telling him “This is just sex! Don’t get attached.” Even after it was clear he was attached, she’d weaken, sleep with him, then shut down.
Had she not been described as a drama-free unicorn for the majority of the book, maybe I would have felt differently about her actions throughout. But her hot and cold act, her immaturity when it came to having real conversations about shit, and the way she emotionally cheated on her boyfriend didn’t scream “Drama Free” to me. I loved her wit and sarcasm; how loyal she was to her best friend and how quick she was to take care of the people in her life. But she contradicted all of that by acting like a 12-year-old when it came to Josh.
Rowena: Yessssss, to all of that. She annoyed the shit out of me but in the early days of the book, I really enjoyed her. I loved her attitude and the way that she told Josh the truth when they were truly just friends. When Josh was working in her garage, building the little doggy stuff, their friendship was pretty awesome. I loved their banter, I loved that she was a shitty cook and Josh hated her cooking but ate everything she put in front of him because what else could he do? Sure, I thought Kristen was kind of weird for trying to look unsexy so that she wasn’t tempted by Josh even though emotionally, she was already hella tempted but it wasn’t until they started becoming more than friends that she really started to piss me off.
Holly: I want to address her looking unsexy so she wouldn’t be tempted by Josh for a minute. She was in a fully committed relationship with a man for over two years. In a matter of weeks he was coming home and they were going to live together. He knew about her infertility issues and he was okay with it because he didn’t want kids. He was deployed with the military, so they weren’t able to talk every single day, but they did talk rather frequently. Kristen claims she’s fully in, that she’s not a cheater. But FROM THE BEGINNING, she had to “remove temptation”? I did not get that at all. Being around someone attractive should not tempt you to cheat if you’re committed to someone. That seriously pissed me off.
Rowena: Same. She may not have gotten physical with Josh but she was emotionally cheating on Tyler the entire time she was there with Josh, especially when she stopped taking Tyler’s calls at the end to spend as much time as possible with Josh before Tyler came home. I thought that was super stupid.
One of the fastest ways for me to fall out of love with a character, or even, a story, is when one character decides for another character that they know best and keeps secrets for their own good. Kristen does this to Josh and every single time that she missed an opportunity to come clean about everything with Josh, my blood pressure would rise. It took way too long for Kristen to come clean and with every page that she didn’t, every time that she played with Josh’s emotions, I cared for her less and less. Even in the end when all is revealed and the happy ending comes along, I still didn’t fully forgive Kristen for all that she put Josh through. I didn’t understand it and I hated that Kristen thought she could make decisions for Josh like it was her place. Ugh.
Holly: You’re absolutely right, she did make decisions for Josh. She decided what she thought was best for him and just went on her merry way. I understand that she didn’t want to be treated differently because of her health issues. I get that she didn’t want to take the chance that Josh would reject her. I also understand she was dealing with a lot of stuff from her childhood, because she was never good enough for her mother. But it wasn’t enough to make what she did okay. She should have been upfront with Josh and let him make decisions for himself.
Rowena: She had legit reasons for keeping her situation under wraps…at first but all of that shit went right out the window when she started playing those ridiculous games with Josh and her reason of, “It’s for his own good” made me want to smack some damn sense into her. She just kept right on making stupid decision after stupid decision and I hated that Josh kind of just goes with it all. Her ex shows up in town and she leaves for hours with him, leaving Josh at her house and then comes back and when Josh asks about it, she’s all, “You really want to talk about my boyfriend?” Not her ex-boyfriend but her boyfriend like she didn’t spend the night in bed banging the shit out of Josh before the ex shows up. Like Josh really is just a fuck buddy.
Holly: Stringing two guys along, lying, treating the person she loved most in the world like shit and making him feel unloved….I just couldn’t with her.
Rowena: And then after the ex, who she knows she’s not in love with anymore proposes to her, the bitch had the audacity to say, “Maybe”. The bitch has already come to terms with the fact that she is madly in love with Josh but she tells the ex, “Maybe” and the hot and cold shit just kept coming up and even in the end, I still wanted to punch this bitch in the mouth. Goodness, I just…AHHH.
Holly: OMG girl, when she told Josh that she said “maybe” to Tyler’s proposal, I thought my head was going to explode. YOU DID WHAT?!? She full on admitted she was in love with Josh. Josh straight up admitted he had feelings for her. She was ACTIVELY FUCKING JOSH ON A REGULAR BASIS. But Tyler comes home and proposes and she says “maybe”?!?!?. OMFG the rage.
To make matters worse, halfway through the book Brandon, Josh’s best friend, was in a terrible motorcycle accident and eventually dies after months of being in the hospital. I have no idea why that was even included. It served no purpose other than to add additional conflict. It didn’t bring the MCs closer together, it didn’t do anything but add additional trauma to an already traumatic story.
Rowena: Yes. Just…yes about Brandon. I completely agree with everything you said regarding that whole matter because I felt it too. I finished this book in the early hours of the morning and I couldn’t go to sleep because of it. I was super ragey over this whole thing because IT WASN’T NECESSARY! I’m getting ragey about it again so let me step away and calm my ass down.
Holly: And that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is this…
The story is ultimately about Kristen learning to love herself and to accept she’s worthy of love even though she can’t have children. For all my frustration and anger over her actions with Josh, it really touched me. My heart broke for her, because it came down to her health vs her dreams. When she finally accepts that she is worthy of love, and can be with Josh, I truly felt that inside my heart. I was all in with her.
But then there’s a miracle fucking pregnancy at the end. So, all the work the author did convincing me that Kristen was okay as she was, that she didn’t need to give Josh kids to make him love her? Went right out the fucking window. I just can’t. I was so angry when I finished the book I was shaking. Because that’s so wrong. What was the point of the book, then? And what message is the author sending out to other infertile women? If they just wait long enough, they too will get pregnant? So.Much.No.
Rowena: I was too mad at the stupid games that Kristen played with Josh’s heart for me to fully forgive her when everything was said and done. Too many things made me so angry and when I came to the end, I was still so rip-roaring mad that I couldn’t even talk about it. I sat there and I stewed over everything and I’m still not really able to talk about how much I hated this book. Everything was too little, too late and on top of the whole Brandon thing, and then the miracle pregnancy, I just…nope. This book gets a giant nope from me.
Grade: 1 out of 5.
Holly: It gets a giant nope from me, too. I really loved Josh, Brandon and Sloan, but Kristen killed all my good feels for them. All my happy feelings are as dead as Brandon.
Rating: 1 out of 5
Holly: 1 out of 5
Rowena: 1 out of 5