Review: When Joss Met Matt by Ellie Cahill

Review: When Joss Met Matt by Ellie CahillWhen Joss Met Matt by Ellie Cahill
Published by Ballantine on February 24, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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one-star

Ellie Cahill is poised to coin the term “sorbet sex” with her charming twist on the age-old ‘friends-with-benefits’ story.

Dating can be fun, but it can leave a nasty taste in your mouth. For Joss, ever since her longtime boyfriend cheated on her, she doesn’t want her last memory of a guy to be that jerk. Enter her college friend, Matt. They come up with a theory: after a bad break-up, a person needs to cleanse the palate with a little sorbet sex. Lovers for a night, but always back to being friends in the morning. The two can handle it because they have a contract: rules they wrote, rules they follow and rules they can sometimes bend. The arrangement works: everyone needs a little sorbet now and again … until it starts to be the only thing you want. And then Joss breaks the one rule they never wrote down: don’t fall in love.

I was SO convinced that When Joss Met Matt would be the new adult book of new adult books. This one was destined to be my all-time favorite one. I mean, Ellie Cahill is Liz Czukas, master of banter and the incredibly amazing ship from Ask Again Later. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t ever get excited for any book, because that seems to lead to epic disappointment, as is the case here. When Joss Met Matt is inspired by the movie When Harry Met Sally, as it took me a disgustingly long time to realize. The thing is that I love When Harry Met Sally, but I also have issues with its message. The problem is that, in this case, I don’t end up shipping Matt and Joss enough that I can overlook my issues with the message.

For the first quarter to third of the book, I was doing okay. I really liked it, and was thinking it would be a 3.5 to 4 star book all things remaining consistent, but there was totally room for the book to catch me up in the shippy banter and make me fall in love along with them. Obviously, that did not end up happening. As time passed, I found myself going from liking Joss to actively disliking her.

I really do love the novel’s premise. Joss and Matt are college friends who decide to partake in sorbet sex, meaning that, when one of the them goes through a break up or a particularly bad sexual encounter and the other is single, they engage in some good casual sex as a palate cleanser. Meanwhile, they remain excellent friends, even assisting one another in their romantic endeavors. Eventually, their feelings shift due to a change in circumstances. Happiness and sex-positivity all around, right?

I wish. My big frustration is that, as sex-positive as the premise sounds to me, I very much do not get that message from the novel. As far as the sorbet sex goes, every single person that isn’t them says that it’s a completely unhealthy practice. They are deeply judged for doing this by everyone Joss trusts enough to tell. Her friend Nellie even accuses “that he was using [her] girl,” which deeply enrages me, especially since Joss doesn’t argue with her. Personally, I don’t think they were using each other, but if they were, then it was mutual. In fact, Joss was the one first looking for a casual sex partner, though Matt supplied the name and more lasting concept. Joss was a very eager participant, and Nellie’s uncontested line takes all of her agency away.

In fact, I think the sorbet sex relationship was perfectly healthy for a number of years. They had a set of rules for it, and those seemed to stand them in good stead. Only once they started breaking the rules did the change of feelings come and start making the sorbet sex really unhealthy. Like When Harry Met Sally, though, where the ultimate message ends up underlying Billy Crystal’s assertion that men and women can’t be friends, When Joss Met Matt seems to suggest that men and women cannot have sorbet sex without mushy feelings getting in the way. Everyone in the novel completely disregards the years where it worked just fine.

When Joss Met Matt also comes down against fetishes. There’s a scene where Joss decides to have sex with this guy T.J., and he asks her to punch him in the crotch because that’s what turns him on. Joss runs out saying that “it’s a lot weird!” and, when he says that it’s not that uncommon, she tells him it is uncommon. Basically, she makes him feel like a piece of shit freak and runs away from him. I’m not saying that I would want to finish that encounter either, but he didn’t try to hurt her in any way, and he’s probably going to have a complex about this for years.

Getting kinky is not the only thing Joss disapproves of, though. She also judges Matt for his casual sex encounters with others, referring to him regularly as a “man slut,” even though he makes it clear that he doesn’t like being called that. Joss casually slut shames throughout the book, with the exception being herself, of course (though she does call her college self a kissing slut, but no reference is made to the fact that she has a very active sex life too—it’s clear she just finds kissing slut funny).

Too much sex obviously isn’t cool, so how does Joss feel about virgins? Not favorable! There’s a scene when Joss and Matt are in college, and he’s dating an eighteen-year-old (he’s just a couple years older, no worries). The girl admits, in confidence, to Joss that she’s a virgin and is waiting for “the right guy.” Joss immediately runs from this girl to Matt and forces him to dump her (with the threat of telling the girl about sorbet sex if he doesn’t), telling him that “she thinks you might be The One.” That’s a huge fucking assumption. The “right guy” might just be someone she feels comfortable enough to have sex with and does not necessarily mean she’s picking out their children’s names. Was her answer to what she’s waiting for supposed to be “the wrong guy” or “any guy”? Ew.

You might be thinking that I’m being too harsh. They were in college when the virgin-shaming happened. Joss is mostly joking when she slut-shames probably. Joss was just freaked out when the guy asked her to punch him in the junk. The thing is, though, that the book is set when Joss and Matt are in their mid-twenties, and she’s remembering all their sexual encounters from their seven years of friendship. She’s older and reflecting on these past events, but there’s no regret at all. She still hasn’t come to any realizations that any of this perhaps was not a good thing to do. She still thinks T.J. is a disgusting freak and that it was okay to force Matt to dump a girl who happened to be a virgin.

Aside from all of that, When Joss Met Matt is one of those books where the romantic tension comes from the fact that they will not fucking talk to each other. They both like each other, but they are unwilling to be honest about their feelings and, when Matt says something, Joss willfully misunderstands it. He tells her that he can’t sorbet sex anymore, because when he meets an awesome woman, like this girl Tara for example, he just wants to date and dump her so that he can have sex with Joss. What she hears is that he hates her and loves Tara. Are you fucking kidding me? Yeah, people aren’t honest about their feelings in real life also, but I find this trope really frustrating in novels when it’s literally the only conflict.

By the end, I very much didn’t ship Joss and Matt, especially since Matt refuses to talk to her when she finally decides to be honest, going so far as to escape to the top of a tall building since she’s terrified of being more than a couple stories up. Way to be a jerk, Matt. I get that going to the observation tower of a skyscraper hearkens back to romantic films like Sleepless in Seattle, but it’s not romantic when one of them is about to pass out from fear. Also, apparently a phobia of heights can be completely conquered by kissing.

The one aspect of When Joss Met Matt I loved was Dewey. Joss has an amazing orange tabby, who’s incredibly talkative and sometimes spiteful. Oh cats. I love them so much. Any scene with Dewey in it is a good scene.

I really wanted to love this book. It hurts me a lot to have to say that it made me angry and that I get more upset the more time I spend thinking about it. I will still read anything that Liz Czukas writes, even as Ellie Cahill, because the chance of another Ask Again Later is worth the risk of another When Joss Met Matt.

Favorite Quote:

“You have to take responsibility for your own happiness. Tell him. Make it happen. And if it doesn’t work, then you’re allowed to come back to me and cry, okay?”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif when harry met sally angel of death
Joss looks like a nice person but is actually not.

6 responses to “Review: When Joss Met Matt by Ellie Cahill”

  1. Meg says:

    I can’t remember if I told you this but for the longest time (pretty much right up until people started reading this book) I assumed it was a gay romance (Joss = Joss Whedon = Joss is a dude’s name). I’d completely ignored the synopsis and cover and so when everyone started talking about a girl I was like who, what, huh? STILL NOT OVER IT.

    Anyway, whomp whomp. I’m sorry this one didn’t work out for you but based on your reasoning, fuck this book. Like seriously, fuck this book. Fetish shaming? Not cool. Slut shaming? Not cool. Virgin shaming? Not cool. THE IDEA THAT GUYS AND GIRLS CAN’T BE FRIENDS NEEDS TO CRAWL IN A HOLE AND DIE. I CAN BE FRIENDS WITH ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE AND NEVER WANT TO SLEEP WITH THEM, IT’S NOT THAT BIZARRE.

    Petition for emphatically not sex positive books to stop masquerading as sex positive books because that’s fucked up and not helping.

    I’m also so over the whole manufactured drama because of a lack of communication thing. It’s frustrating and unproductive and honestly, feels kind of lazy. I mean sure, okay, that happens a lot in real life but it’s annoying in real life too.

    High five to getting through it, it sounds like an enraging trainwreck.
    Meg recently posted…Review: Jackaby by William RitterMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      TBH, I read the whole book and I’m STILL not over it. Also, I somehow doubt the other characters would have been all “sorbet sex is a terrible idea” if it was two dudes, since men can totally have sex without emotion and women are bundles of feelings. *rolls eyes*

      Yeahhhhh, I also forgot to mention the scene where Joss thinks about raping a frat guy at the beginning. I think it’s supposed to be funny, because HA HA the tables have turned, but not funny. I REALLY hate the men and women can’t be friends. I went to a wedding with a male friend once, and someone who didn’t know us asked if we were a couple. He immediately went “NO.” The girl went “awwww” like she felt bad for me. And I was like “UMMMM, neither of us want to date; we’re good friends; kindly fuck off.”

      Lack of communication IS annoying in real life, and I get that it happens. However, it’s lazy in fiction when the WHOLE DAMN PLOT is based around it. I like when they come up for like a chapter and then the characters talk like LOOK COMMUNICATION IS GREAT.

      That sounds about right. It wasn’t hard to get through, but I was seeing red for a lot of it.

  2. Brigid says:

    I do not think you were being too harsh. The thing that angered me more than anything was the attempted sexual assault. Male or female, that is never ever an okay thing to consider doing to someone. It’s even worse that she joked about it later on. I agree about Joss. While there were things I liked about her, I really disliked how stupid she was in terms of dating and sex. Also, did you feel like there wasn’t much of a plot beyond the establishment of the sorbet sex? Because I did. Just me?
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    • Christina Franke says:

      Yeah, I forgot to mention that part, but it’s also hugely problematic. Pretty much everything with regards to sex rubbed me the wrong way in this book, which is a damn shame because I thought I would love it. I do agree on there not being much of a plot. It’s flashbacks of their sexual encounters mostly. The actual plot is just whether either of them will be honest about their feelings. They both like each other, so the only reason there’s a plot is the lack of communication.

  3. Whitley says:

    “Oh, no, this virgin thinks you might be The One! Dump her, quick!”
    Wait, so, even if you take that assumption and ignore all the possible meanings of ‘the right guy’, does that mean that Joss broke up a relationship because…it was going *well*?

    “She’s just too fucking happy, okay? Happy people need to be crushed!”

    • Christina Franke says:

      I read this about a month ago now, but I think the relationship was pretty new at that point, but he didn’t really WANT to dump her. She talked/bullied him into it. Very weird situation.

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