Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating
The writing duo known as Christina Lauren follows up their blockbuster Roomies with Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, the story of two twentysomethings who vow not to fall in love.
Frazzled elementary school teacher and once upon a time wild child Hazel Camille Bradford’s life is a mess of animals and social awkwardness. In fact, the first time she met Josh Im, she threw up on his shoes after declaring he was the hottest guy she’d ever seen. He is her blueprint for perfect – and she desperately wanted to become friends with him – but in the seven years since graduation, Hazel has lost track of Josh and his perfect bod.
One night, Hazel decides to cut loose and go to a barbecue. It turns out Emily Goldrich, her colleague at the school, is Josh’s little sister. Hazel declares that it’s time she and Josh be best friends and Josh is tugged along in her wake. Josh is dealing with a difficult relationship with his girlfriend, the materialistic and shallow Tabby, and when he figures out she’s been cheating on him, he finds himself spending more time with Hazel. Deeming themselves terminally un-datable due to their personality quirks, they decide to double date in tandem. An unexpected encounter leads to more, but when Hazel finds someone who might be interested in creating a life with her, will she ignore her attraction to Josh and go for it?
AAR staffers Lisa Fernandes and Kristen Donnelly were seriously unimpressed by Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, and are here to share their views on the novel.
Lisa: This one was a major disappointment for me; I’d expected something light and frolicsome, but it was so light it was insubstantial. The characters were annoying as heck.
Kristen: I kept wondering what was happening as I read. I usually adore this writing pair, but this was a swing and a miss for me.
Lisa: Whelp! I just couldn’t bond with Hazel at all; her lack of a filter was not nearly as charming as the authors thought it was. In fact she was so mannered and so affectated, so childlike, that it was almost beyond reason. She was a quirk, not a human being. Did you like her better?
Kristen: Do you remember when New Girl was débuting on Fox and Fox kept trying to make ‘adorkable’ happen? That’s what Hazel reminded me of. I agree with you that she was a quirk, not a human. Like, she was this bundle of things designed to make us understand that They Are Different People! Look How Different!
Lisa: Meanwhile Josh was kind of just… there. Hazel keeps talking about his wry sense of humor, but I really didn’t catch anything that would indicate that he was dryly funny. He was a nice guy with a nice body and a couple of interests, but he didn’t feel like a real person at all either.
Kristen: Also, beyond the fact that Hazel was a bit of a walking sideshow, I could not understand what he saw in her.
Lisa: Yes! It felt like he kind of fell in love with her because the plot required it, not because they had any real rapport or romance between them. And I found chunks of the narrative, especially Hazel’s narrative, to be really info-dumpy. There was no way to impart Hazel’s daddy issues into the narrative carefully, true, but wow the way the authors did it just didn’t work for me. How about you?
Kristen: I can see why you’d say that – I think they info-dump a lot in their writing, so that didn’t stand out to me. It’s also one of the downsides of the first person PoV. I mean, you’re totally right, but I have no idea how else they’d do it in the particular way they constructed Hazel. If they wanted her to be self-aware to the point where that knowledge wouldn’t be awkwardly communicated, they would have had to build her differently.
Lisa: What about the romance? Did you think it worked? Was I alone in cringing over them? Was the last minute turn toward tender and serious the book tried to make as weird for you as it was for me?
Kristen: YES. And so last minute! Why did I spend all that time with the mess if you were only going to give me one chapter and an epilogue of the pair of them working through the mess? I just did not see why these people are together.
Lisa: That’s the thing about Josh and Hazel; they shared some similar things, they were decent friends, the sex was okay, but there was just no connective tissue – nothing that convinced me they loved one another. Also: can we just address something quickly. Hazel’s casual racism. Wow. I absolutely CRINGED when the term “shyster” was applied to Dave Goldrich and then the awkward stuff with Josh and Emily’s parents; what the hell was their editor thinking?!
Kristen: There was a lot of mess in this, for sure. By the time the more egregious stuff happened, I had already noped out of this book, so I’m sure I even missed some wee details. This is another issue with first person PoV – the only way the book can move people away from microagressions of racism or sexism is to have the characters tell us they learned and are now behaving differently. Since in this work it’s all normalized, I can imagine the editor thinking ‘oh, that’s how these people would be’ and passing it off. And while that may be true, it’s hard for me to root for a hero and heroine who behave this way towards others.
Lisa: What about the supporting characters? Was there anyone you liked?
Kristen: Not particularly, no. Another potential casualty of the structure – I only got Josh and Hazel’s views on them. What about you?
Lisa: They were all so, so terribly bland to me. I sometimes liked Josh’s sister, when she wasn’t blindly rooting for Josh and Hazel in her weird, weird way.
Lisa: What’s your final grade? I hated the main characters, and between those slurs and the unfunny lightweight quality of the book, I’m going with an F. A huge comedown from Roomies, which at least had characters I didn’t 100 percent hate.
Kristen: HUGE letdown. I’m going with C- because I can see how there are people who will love this book, but I will never be among them, nor will I ever recommend it.