Second First Impressions
Grade : D

Sigh.

My first (reading) impression of this book was that it was worse than the last Sally Thorne book, 99% Mine, a book I gave a C grade to only because I so liked the best friend that I couldn't bring myself to give it a D. Thus, after reading about 25% of Second First Impressions, I put it down and decided I'd come back to it when--maybe?--its annoyingly quirky characters and overly twee heroine didn't irritate the hell out of me.

A month or so later, I gave the book another try and... nope.

This time, I managed to make it to the 75% mark and then, well, I just quit. The best thing I can say about this book is that it is not for me and I'm just happy that all those readers who love a painfully sweet, twee heroine with the real world sense of Michael Scott to fall in love with a man-child who's supposed to be charmingly asinine but is really a dullard finally have a love story they can treasure.

I didn't finish this book--I'm about to turn 60 and knowing I have only a quarter or so of life left to me made me feel that time could be better spent doing anything else watching Taylor Swift videos and deciding, definitively, which is her best. (It's this one.)

Here's what I can tell you about it based on the first three quarters. Ruthie, age 25,  lives in a town in someplace that one would be hard pressed to believe in know where it is.  She is the acting office manager of the Providence Retirement Villa whose inhabitants are each so specifically nutty you'd think the place only admitted extras from a poorly received Wes Anderson film. Ruthie is single, prissy prim, and the sort of person who allows her temp, whom she's known all of three weeks, to commandeer her love life. You see, Ruthie's experience with men is, with the exception of a disastrous prom date that ended in shame, nominal.

Thus, when Teddy, the book's immature--think a five year old whose talent for charm is outweighed by his self-absorption, something I forgive in small children but dislike in adults--hero roars up on his motorcycle, Ruthie is smitten immediately because... he reminds her of her Teddy Bear.

I actually have a stuffed bear from my childhood called Teddy in my room right now. They both have a lot of experience sitting on girls’ beds. Bright-eyed, adorable creations made for hugging and finding in your sheets in the morning. The spark in Teddy’s eyes intensifies; he’s biting his lip, holding the laugh in. I brush some hair away from my face; my cheek is hot.

What's the hold up, you ask? Why can't Teddy and Ruthie fall in love and run off and make lots of Build-a-Bears? The two are so cliched perfect for each other. Teddy's a bad boy with a heart of gold. Ruthie is a beautiful--on the inside AND outside of course--young woman who just doesn't know how soppy precious she is. Ruthie needs to be saved and Teddy, for no reason I can fathom, wants to be the man who rescues her from her oh so dull life. Surely, there's a decent, if unremarkable, romance there.

No.

Thorne, whose first novel The Hating Game is one of the great contemporary romances of the past decade, seems to have lost her sense of humor, passion, pacing, and plot here. Teddy's and Ruthie's romance is so glacially dull it could work as a soporific for those who struggle to fall asleep. The two, both unappealing stereotypes, have little chemistry and their banter made me wince. Instead of story, there are endless pages of Ruthie ruminating on what should she do with her boring life. Instead of sparkling dialogue, Ruthie and those in her world natter.

Here's Ruthie and Teddy discussing a tortoise.

A golden bonnet tortoise is making its way over to us. I see some red on it, then relax when it’s not blood. It’s Sharpie. “Hey. Look. It’s Number One. Teddy, it’s my first tortoise.”

He’s smiling up at me from my lap. “You never forget a face? This girl is so cute,” he adds to himself.

I lean sideways and pick up the tortoise. He’s a healthy boy now, big as a paperback, kicking and protesting his midair situation with vigor. I look down at Teddy and try to suppress my smile at his rapt expression. “I’m just going to have a moment here with this tortoise, which might be weird, but who knows when I’ll see him again.”

“Have your moment.”

I say to the gimlet-eyed creature, “Number One, when I first picked you up, I didn’t know a thing. But you made me realize that I can still help without being a vet. You gave me hope. You were the one who changed everything for me and I hope we meet again someday. Let me just . . .” I put the tortoise back down on the blanket, take a few photos of him, and then rummage through my bag. Using my headphone cord, I measure across the shell and mark it with a hair clip. “I can record his size in his chart.”

Just kill me now.

To be fair, I didn't finish this book and it's possible that the last quarter is so magnificent that the first deeply disappointing 275 pages were worth it. I'll never know. I've got Taylor Swift videos to rewatch. (This one makes me smile every time.)

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent retailer

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Reviewed by Dabney Grinnan
Grade : D

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : April 14, 2021

Publication Date: 04/2021

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Dabney Grinnan

Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day. Publisher at AAR.
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