The Flip Side
The Flip Side, the début novel by James Bailey, had me flipping back and forth while thinking about this review. There are many great moments in the story, but there are also things that made me crazy. In the end though, I think most readers who enjoy light British rom-coms will enjoy The Flip Side.
It’s New Year’s Eve and Josh has purchased the Proposal Package on the London Eye. But things quickly so south for Josh when his girlfriend responds: “Marriage, Josh? Really? I said I wanted you to take me on the London Eye, not for you to propose to me on it.” Sadly for Josh, this girlfriend owns the flat they’ve been living in and her father owns the hotel he works in, so Josh is now homeless, jobless, and girlfriend-less.
As an extra insult, Josh’s parents had already planned a big engagement party for the next day. Instead of cancelling the party, they sharpie over “Engagement” making it read “Happy Homecoming” instead. Poor Josh gets to open ‘How to Plan a Wedding’ books with notes tucked inside reading “Better luck next time!”. Josh sneaks off to watch a movie with his grandfather and when they decide to toss a coin to choose the movie, Josh comes up with an idea – why not toss a coin to make the decisions in his life?
Josh’s friends think he’s crazy to put his life into the hands of chance, but Josh feels like the coin might actually do a better job at making these choices than he’s been doing. So, whenever a choice presents itself, Josh tosses the coin and follows its guidance. This works fairly well for the small things, but when Josh meets a girl and is trying to decide if he should pursue her, potentially all over the world, will the coin offer the direction he needs, or will he leave the coin behind and stand by his own decisions?
The premise of The Flip Side is really fun and there are some hilarious scenes with Josh’s parents and friends. His mom is a new-age hippie and his dad is an extreme tightwad (he bought new furniture for the Engagement-turned-Homecoming party that he’ll return the next day). The banter with Josh’s friends is clever and there are some truly hilarious scenes when he is trying to get to Paris to find his new girl.
But there are also some cringe-worthy scenes – like Josh taking another girl on a date when he only has enough money for one meal. It was painful to watch him make his date order only water, pretend it’s his birthday to get a discount, ask the waitress to skip dessert and still have to borrow money from his date. Josh is not eighteen or even twenty-four…he’s twenty-eight. And this was a problem for me – his character comes off way younger than twenty-eight so some of his actions and decisions seem too immature. I found myself thinking ‘come on Josh!’ a few too many times. But this may be because I am a parent to multiple twenty-somethings!
The Flip Side has a cute romance but there isn’t a lot of it. It takes quite a while for Josh and his new girl to find each other again after a serendipitous meeting at the National Gallery in London, where they were separated before they could exchange names or numbers. I think I would have enjoyed the book more if we could have got to the chase, so to speak, earlier. This is mainly a story of Josh figuring out that maybe happiness comes from taking more chances in life. And when shown in that light, Josh becomes a more loveable character. The Flip Side didn’t hit it out of the ballpark for me but I think it will find its audience. It’s a book that will appeal to readers who like light, funny, situational comedies and who can forgive a hero for being a little immature at times.