My First Ever One Star Read (Discussing a Problematic Adult Romance Book)
For the most part, I reserve this blog for YA content. However, this year I’ve been exploring the world of the adult romance genre. One of my favorite adult romances I've read this year was The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez. I felt the relationship in that novel was so much less toxic than others I’d read previously. The main couple had insane chemistry and were respectful of each other.
So, because I loved that book enough to give it 5 stars, I decided to check out Jimenez's debut novel (which is a companion novel to Playlist). This novel, The Friend Zone, is about Kristen and Josh. The couple meet because they are the maid of honor and best man in their respective best friends' wedding. They develop a fast friendship with each other after Kristen hires Josh to work for her business and the two eventually begin a will they-won’t they romance.
While I wasn’t enamored with either of these characters in Playlist, I found myself actually rooting for them to get together in the early stages of The Friend Zone. Then, things took a sharp downhill dive. The Friend Zone is the only book (not just adult romance but of all genres) that I’ve ever rated a singular star. I found this book and the message it sends to women to be reprehensible.
In the novel, Josh actively pursues Kristen who is reluctant to be with him for two very valid reasons. The first is that she already has a boyfriend who is serving overseas. The second is that he wants a large family of specifically biological children and she has a painful medical condition which makes a successful pregnancy unlikely. In this blog, I'm going to highlight some problematic scenes from the novel and discuss them briefly.
1. Josh puts down other women to build Kristen up.
While it’s perfectly fine for Josh to compliment Kristen, he shouldn’t need to do so by comparing her to other women. I found his character to be quite misogynistic. He was constantly remarking how all women but Kristen are full of drama, among other insults.
2. Kristen explicitly asks Josh to leave after they have sex for the first time and he refuses/Josh joins her in the shower without her permission and refuses to get out when she expressly asks him to.
Josh constantly violates Kristen’s boundaries. In these scenes, he demonstrates a blatant disrespect for her. By this point he’s aware that she is attracted to him but she still doesn’t want a romantic (just sexual) relationship. He knows this and yet still tries to use these disgusting, manipulative tactics to “change her mind” rather than accepting what he agreed to.
3. Kristen expresses her discomfort with sitting on Josh's lap in a tow truck after their car breaks down and he disregards it.
If you genuinely care about someone, as Josh claims to care for Kristen, then you take their feelings into account. While I acknowledge that her riding in his lap was the easiest solution rather than one of them having to find an alternative ride home, the way he carelessly dismissed her concerns was cold and not at all reflective of someone who one should consider a potential partner.
4. Josh carries Kristen over his back out of a bar after she refuses to date him.
This scene, to me, again showed Josh’s lack of regard for Kristen’s thoughts and feelings. He does to her what a parent would to a whiny toddler who is throwing a tantrum in public. This is both humiliating and disrespectful.
5. Josh enters Kristen's house after they’ve stopped speaking to drop off information about surrogacy and adoption.
After Kristen reveals to Josh about her infertility issues they do not speak for about a month. Because Josh was, for a time, working out of Kristen’s household, he still has keys to her house. Because he cannot accept “no,” he enters her house while she isn’t home (and therefore without her permission) to, once again, try and manipulate her into dating him. This is extremely creepy and, once again, a crossing of what should be clear boundaries.
There are even more examples I could point to, but I think those 5 should more than suffice. Throughout the entire novel Josh treats Kristen as though she is his possession rather his friend and someone he sees as a potential partner. The worst part is Jimenez wrote Kristen to constantly be thinking about how in love she is with Josh, often remarking what a good husband and father he’d make. None of the qualities Josh demonstrated make him so. If anything, they make him a toxic, controlling, abusive partner.
“No” means no, context not required. I hate that this novel frames such a problematic character as a romantic boyfriend/husband that women should aspire to have. Ladies, if you meet a man in real life who has even one of these red flags run far, FAR away.
Please, please I beg of you do NOT read this book. The only reason I didn't DNF it was because I wanted to write this blog.
Now, if you're interested in the adult romance genre I don't want this blog to turn you off to it. I have read some very well written romances which feature much healthier relationships. A few recommendations are listed right below!
Adult Romance Recommendations:
1. Beach Read by Emily Henry (rated 5 stars)
2. Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters (rated 4.75 stars)
3. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (rated 4.75 stars)
4. The Bride Test by Helen Hoang (rated 4.75 stars)