Book Talk: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Talk: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina LaurenJosh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery on September 4, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them...right?

With this, I finish my epic binge of Christina Lauren books. I’ve now read all of their contemporary novels (aka everything but the two YA paranormal books which do not interest me in the least). I really didn’t expect to like Beautiful Bastard, but I loved it so much I proceeded to read all their adult novels and novellas in just over one month (I started July 5 and finished August 6.) The good news is that they publish a couple books a year, so the wait for more shouldn’t be too interminable. Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating is a fun romantic comedy, sort of New Girl on steroids, until the very much not me ending.

Christina Lauren are so good at romance novels. Like, so good. I’ve shipped all the couples to varying degrees. Some I shipped mildly, but a number of them I ship with deep ferocity. Josh and Hazel fall somewhere on the less shippy end, but just understand that even that end is pretty good.

Hazel’s POV is easily the most unique out of all of the Lauren books I’ve read. There’s no other heroine remotely like her, and that’s not because all of Lauren’s characters fit the same sort of archetypes, because they really don’t. Hazel’s just one of a kind. I’m predicting mixed reactions to this book, since I have the feeling that in the real world as in the book some people may find her a bit hard to take.

To picture Hazel, imagine Jess from New Girl. Remember the first few episodes when they really dialed up the manic pixie? I mean, they never take it a way, but Jess is demonstrably more over-the-top in the first few episodes (something that really struck me on a rewatch). Hazel’s like that, only she has no shame and often gets drunk enough to take her top off. But, like Jess, she teaches elementary kids. (Side note: I love that Hazel’s legitimately an awesome third grade teacher because she totally gets the kids, and they don’t judge her like adults do.)

I feel like this book is a commentary on the MPDG trope, because Hazel’s basically glitter given human form. This could very easily be an obnoxious POV to spend time in, but I bonded with Hazel pretty much immediately. She’s a lot for sure, but she’s so genuine. Like, you get the sense that this is just how Hazel is; it’s not for attention or because she’s damaged.

Then, once you start to really like Hazel, you have to deal with the heartbreak of the way people treat her, and also the even more intense pain of knowing that you would likely do the same. That’s going to make me think for sure. See, Hazel drives people crazy and she embarrasses them. Even with a strong sense of self, thanks to the acceptance of her kooky mother, Hazel really doesn’t know if anyone could ever love her for real, because men in the past loved her wildness until they didn’t and wanted her to settle down and be normal. Oof, my heart.

The plot’s pretty rom com adorable for the most part. Hazel met Josh and college where she proceeded to embarrass herself in front of him over and over. When they reconnect because (serendipity) her best friend his is his sister (she didn’t know because married name), she determines to be his best friend, knowing there’s no way a put-together, perfect guy like Josh would ever date a hot mess like Hazel.

It’s sweet how the fact that Hazel’s deemed herself unworthy makes her able to truly be herself and feel comfortable around Josh, but it’s also heartbreaking that she writes herself off that way. They become good friends when hurricane Hazel stays at his place when she’s forced out of her apartment by a maintenance issue. Initially, he’s overwhelmed and a bit horrified, but she’s so thoughtful in helping him deal with a bad breakup. They become friends for real, and it’s super sweet. The high point for me is probably the series of blind double dates they go on, which are comedic gold. Somehow they accidentally end up pretty much just talking to each other but that means nothing obvs.

Also, I just love Josh. He’s very much not the typical romance guy; he’s in touch with his feelings, and he doesn’t do casual sex. A guy who actually loves commitment! And Hazel’s been the queen of casual sex. Aside from references to his cheating ex as a “skank,” the book’s really sex positive. It’s also funny how true it is when Josh thinks about how there’s this innocence to Hazel, because on the surface there’s not but I seriously think it all comes back to how genuine and honest she is.

The ending was not my thing, but, if it were, I would have loved this book whole-heartedly. I do think it’s well done for what it is, but I would have been happier with a different resolution. View Spoiler »

Given that this story did a super not-Christina thing, I’m amazed how much I still like it. Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating is exuberant and charming.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

One response to “Book Talk: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren”

  1. Okay I’m horrible and always click the spoiler tags but the Not Christina thing isn’t a thing that bothers me so YAY I will definitely read this haha!! I’ve noticed that about Jess on New Girl too; she’s more over the top and Nick & Winston are less weird in the beginning. It’s clear in general I need to read more Christina Lauren books!

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