It's Not You It's Me
Charlotte “Charlie” Notting has had a rough couple of years. One day, out of the blue she gets a vacation package to the Oktoberfest from her aunt and looks forward to getting away from it all. On the plane ride to Europe the safety videotape falls out of the player and onto her head, and Charlie ends up spending the flight in first class, where she runs into Jas, the guy who stole her heart two years ago and ended things (in the bedroom) with the fatal words, “It’s not you – it’s me.” Charlie has never quite recovered from the humiliation, and the knowledge that mild-mannered Jas went on to become the pop culture phenomenon Zamiel, Australia’s answer to Marilyn Manson, complete with small animal-chomping, bisexual, and Satanist persona, only more confusing.
Jas doesn’t seem very changed, however. He and Charlie spent the plane ride chatting, catching up, and avoiding talking about that fateful night. When the plane lands, and it appears that Jas has no real destination in mind, Charlie invites him to join her tour group. Jas accepts, and they’re off – to the land of flowing beer and buxom waitresses in tight dirndls. It’s not until halfway through the trip that both of them realize that they’re not being honest with each other. Secrets are being kept, and they might explain everything that once went wrong between Jas and Charlie…
Though I’m not much of a fan of road romances, this one was fun. The Oktoberfest angle was entertaining as was the tour group’s guide, Shane, a Fine Arts major from Australia masquerading as a “Beer…Chicks… More Beer” kind of Aussie in order to adequately cope with the Beer-drinking Society group onboard the bus. There is a scene in a karoake bar that is very well done – full of some very nice sexual tension and drunken hilarity – although readers unfamiliar with the lyrics of Add It Up by the Violent Femmes might not get every nuance of Jas’s declaration.
Jas and Charlie make a good couple. They were friends first, but they deal well with each other and are supportive of each other’s goals. The main conflict in their relationship comes from miscommunication, and it’s clear that if they could get that out of the way, they would be great together. A smidge more passion from them might have been nice, however (after some smoochy build up of sexual tension, the love scenes happen off stage). And a little more of Jas’s perspective would have added more of a sense of romantic completion. This is Chick Lit, though, and the emphasis is definitely on Charlie. Everything is told from her point of view, in the first person.
What’s strange about Rushby’s use of the first person here, though, is that instead of creating intimacy between Charlie and the reader, Rushby keeps secrets. Late in the book, the reason behind some of Charlie’s strange behavior is revealed, but what’s not clear is why the reader couldn’t have been in on the secret from the beginning. It’s not something the reader can’t know or part of a suspense subplot that requires the reader to keep guessing. It’s a pretty important detail about Charlie that adds dimension to her character, and in hiding it so long, Rushby has to go about explaining it in clunky detail just when the focus should be on the emotional resolution between Jas and Charlie.
Also, Jas seems a strange sort of person to take up a career as a supposed Satanist animal-chomping evil rock god. He’s quite passive, really. Sweet, thoughtful, kind, considerate of old ladies, and enough of a good friend to Charlie to keep calling after a big brush off – he just doesn’t fit his career. That he has problems with his choices is understandable, but not how he got into the position in the first place.
It’s Not You It’s Me was a good book to read on a rainy weekend. I like stories about romances between friends and books about people who get it right the second time around, so it was a good match for my tastes. The book was strongest in the first two-thirds and lost a little steam toward the end, but overall it was a satisfying read and I can recommend it.