The Make-Up Test
Grade : D+

The Makeup Test has an unfortunate one-two punch under its belt: its unlikable characters do unlikable things. A lot. Howe’s breezy writing keeps the reader engaged, but with these characters that’s not necessarily a pleasant thing.

Allison Avery is finally on her way. A freshwoman at Claymore University, she finds herself overwhelmed by the size and breadth of the world she’s been plunged into. A PhD student of medieval literature, she realises she’s too straitlaced for her classmates and she idolizes her renowned advisor. Bogged down by a heavy classwork load and self-conscious about her size, she’s aware that her long-term best friend is drifting off into her own world, leaving Allison alone to face university life. Then she walks into a party, and to her horror he’s standing there.

He happens to be her ex and former rival at Brown University during her undergraduate years, Colin Benjamin. They were together two years before, but a rough breakup has left them enemies, and she’s horrified to learn he’s in her PhD class. A rivalry breaks out between them, and it only intensifies when their professor informs them that the entire first semester will determine who will serve as her mentee. Colin and Allison ought to be rivals – and they are – sort of. Unfortunately they find themselves getting closer and closer as time goes on, which throws a monkey wrench into their competition.

Books with unpleasant characters are one thing, but lord – everyone in this book is awful. Allison is childish, petty and unpleasant. Colin is taunting and intellectually insecure on top of being terrible at establishing his theories and thesis. They are ‘quirky’ in that annoyingly self-conscious way that screams commercialized nerdiness; they play strip scrabble for heaven’s sake, and Colin wears a cardigan all the time, even when he’s naked, and cries during horror movies.

Their relationship is unhealthy and filled with wild moments of miscommunication that are tainted by their mutual inability to ‘human’. I almost slammed the book closed without finishing it – a rarity for me – due to a completely unforgivable thing Colin does – which I will not spoil here – during the final quarter of the book. I won’t get into a subplot involving Allison’s emotionally abusive father and how that resolves (rage-inducingly poorly).

The less said about The Makeup Test the better. There are much better romances about college academics falling in love out there, but this isn’t one of them.

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Reviewed by Lisa Fernandes

Grade: D+

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : September 24, 2022

Publication Date: 09/2022

Review Tags: Plus size heroine

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Lisa Fernandes

Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at, follow her on Twitter at or contribute to her Patreon at or her Ko-Fi at
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