The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

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.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi WaxmanThe Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
Published by Berkley on July 9, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Humor
Pages: 333
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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The author of Other People's Houses and The Garden of Small Beginnings delivers a quirky and charming novel chronicling the life of confirmed introvert Nina Hill as she does her best to fly under everyone's radar.

Meet Nina Hill: A young woman supremely confident in her own...shell.

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They're all--or mostly all--excited to meet her! She'll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It's a disaster! And as if that wasn't enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn't he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It's time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn't convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It's going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

God, I love this cover. These covers give me life. Like, I know I’ve talked about this ad nauseum in my I’ve Got You Covered posts, but it bears reiterating how amazing the cover art work being done at Berkley is. Also, it bears mentioning, particularly since this is a review, that it’s not just the cover art that’s good. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill‘s a very atypical sort of romance, and I’d urge you to think of it more as a contemporary novel because stylistically it really doesn’t fit the romance novel genre. BUT omg it’s so cute and funny and quirky and unique, and I loved it so much.

Now obviously, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill was specifically designed to draw in readers. Surely we avid readers will relate to a bookish heroine. Honestly, though, I’ve been burned in the past by books about readers. Most of the time, it feels like either the heroine is a tragic stereotype of a bookish nerd (thinks she literally is in a novel and is waiting for Darcy specifically and also cannot function due to awkward) or she’s described as a reader but only ever reads like one book. There are exceptions, of course, like Cath from Fangirl, but often these books raise my expectations only to dash them against the rocks.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill did not do that to me. Nina’s relatable in a lot of ways, but she’s also not some narrow stereotype of a reader, so there are things about her that differ from my own type of bookishness. Nina’s a bit socially awkward, yes, but she also actively seeks out society; she’s in a trivia team that plays regularly and runs eighty billion book clubs, among other things. She does love being alone, but she also really loves people and spends time socializing most days even outside of work. Nina reads most every genre, which is another thing I found relatable, because not all readers do, and I would so love to join her weekly book club.

As I mentioned, stylistically, this book does not read like a romance novel, which is what I was expecting. Typically, romance novels are in third person if they’re historical or first person if they’re contemporary; sometimes the reverse happens, but I usually find myself wishing it hadn’t. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill isn’t just in third person; it’s in third person omniscient, meaning that the narrator knows what’s going on in more than just the POV character’s (Nina’s) head. That threw me for the first chapter or two, but then I settled in and really enjoyed the voice.

In fact, there’s something about the wry humor of the voice that had me thinking about Pushing Daisies and imagining Jim Dale as the narrator of Nina’s life. This only enhanced my reading experience, so I very much recommend casting him as your mental narrator.

In a lot of ways, I think this book is generally going to be either a massive hit or a bit of a miss with readers. It’s very quirky, with a plot that’s rather difficult to believe, and which only barely comes together at the end of the book. References come at you fast and, as is the danger with references, if you don’t know them, much of the humor will be lost. For example, there are a lot of references to Friends, both stealthy and obvious, one of which actually made me cackle as I read. Basically all of the humor was specifically up my alley, and I was familiar with most of the things being referenced, minus a couple of classics and children’s books, so this worked for me perfectly.

Nina finds out near the start of the book that her father (who she long-presumed her mother did not know the identity of) actually lived in the same city as her (LA) all her life. She finds out when his lawyer contacts her to attend the reading of his will. Nina, who was raised primarily by a lovely nanny while her world-traveling photographer mother circled the globe, also learns she’s acquired a gigantic family of half-siblings and nephews and nieces and grandnephews/nieces. This throws her for a loop, and, while this isn’t in any way an original plot construct, it plays out charmingly, mostly because her whole family is jam-packed with personality and because basically nothing happens in a dramatic way. It’s all very understated and humorous.

Meanwhile, Nina’s been realizing that maybe her enemy from a rival trivia team is actually pretty hot? And maybe she wants to date his face a little? The romance between Nina and Tom is adorably awkward, particularly with everyone overtly shipping them at all times. Her struggle to accept the fact that Tom is not a reader is one I find deeply relatable, because you want to be able to share that joy with your partner but they wouldn’t have the same experience. This story line also ties in to Nina’s struggles with anxiety, and, despite the book being a humorous one, there’s real mental health work being done here.

I loved this book so much. In fact, I immediately bought myself a print copy of it (I read an egalley), which is sitting beside me as I write this. I hope Waxman does spin-off stories set in this same family. Lydia and Lisa, maybe??? HINT HINT NUDGE NUDGE.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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