Rock Bottom Girl
Grade : C

Rock Bottom Girl is a quick-witted romantic comedy that falls over its own feet in several aspects. Sometimes a little over-the-top and mannered, the characters struggle with serious cases of emotional arrested development that keep this one from soaring to a high grade. It’s one of those small-town romances that makes you want to flee to New York posthaste in a lot of ways, but the characters’ brio keeps you grounded.

Marley Cicero has finally hit rock bottom. At thirty-eight, she’s been downsized out of her job, lost her life savings after investing her money in a failed start-up, and dumped by her boyfriend. Forced to move back into her parent’s house in Culpepper, Pennsylvania – and worse yet, her old room – everyone around her seems to be doing much better than she is. There’s her parents, still happily married and now retired and filing their time with golfing, sex, and turning their spare calligraphy studio into a B&B. There’s her happy sister, Zinnia, who is kind, model-gorgeous and seems to have a great, exciting life. Then Marley’s mother bursts in and announces that the gym teacher and girls’ soccer coach at the local high school is quitting to move town with her wife, leaving an opening for the athletic former soccer star Marley. But the last thing she wants to do is take a job at the high school where she gained infamy due to an attempt at getting revenge on her high school bully went wrong, causing her to be permanently banned from all school functions forever. This has left her with a reputation that still dogs her every step. Too bad her mother accepted the job on her behalf.

Now Marley is coaching a squad of misfit girls who hate each other and are so bad on the field that they’re the worst team in the region. The best athletes in her Slap Shot-like crowd of misfits are the Hostetter twins, who happen to be the children of Amie Jo, the mean girl bully of Marley’s youth, and Travis, the ex-quarterback. As if things weren’t sticky enough, she finds herself forced to sign a morality clause at work.

Enter Jake Weston, an ex-bad boy turned track coach whose hope of a college athletics career was ruined by Marley’s exposé of her bullies, who promises to pose as Marley’s boyfriend and smooth things over at work. In turn, she will teach him how to date well. Unfortunately fake dating turns to real feelings, and since Marley is planning on moving on this is bad news. Or is it?

Rock Bottom Girl is a funny little comedy, with Marley making a good narrator, which is why this isn’t a D-level read. But everyone in the book is stuck in arrested development, and sometimes that childishness can get between the reader and a good time.

Marley alternates between being relatable and being a mess of a person; so stubborn she gives herself heat stroke, and so obsessed with diet culture nonsense like ‘earning’ her food through athletic work that her disordered eating may disturb anyone who’s been through something similar. She has a healthy sense of humor about herself but also can feel like a downer of a person. I did like her relationship with Libby, one of her star players, whose personal life she becomes enmeshed in.

Jake is romantic and smart and charming, but also tough and stubborn and a pain in the butt and a grungy bachelor stereotype who never cleans. His dog is adorable as heck. But he also has some rather frattish qualities that grate.

Jake and Marley’s relationship is fraught both by the looming past and their own personal insecurities. There’s also a whole sequence where Jake refers to Marley as a dumbass in front of her students while slapping her to get her to come around after she exhausts herself into a heat stroke. Which also happens to be their first encounter in the book. This, understandably, will not be for everyone. But they have spice, wit, chemistry and personality after that unfortunate beginning.

The atmosphere of the book can be claustrophobic in an uncharming way. The whole town is regressive in the way Marley is never allowed to grow up beyond what happened to her at homecoming 1998, and everyone is obsessed with the dumb high school drama happening in the past and present. Amie Jo is torturously underwritten and she and Marley have that typical mean-girl-loves-pink-and-is-girly/heroine-likes sneakers-and-black kind of antichemistry. What I really wanted was to spend time with Marley’s best friend for life, Vicky, and her wonderful parents.

Another lowlight? Someone needs to take a weed whacker to this one and probably eliminate Jake’s PoV altogether since it doesn’t add much to the book at all.

Rock Bottom Girl is a bit of a mixed bag, but its heroine is entertaining even when she’s losing.

Reviewed by Lisa Fernandes
Grade : C

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : February 16, 2023

Publication Date: 03/2019

Recent Comments …

  1. Same here. Excellent mystery, read in one go (as much as possible). The book was very much about relationships, not…

Lisa Fernandes

Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier
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