As you can see from last week’s Week in Books (and the week before as well to be honest) I read a lot of books while I was away. But in the end the choice for this week’s Book of the Week was easy – there was one standout that I’m still thinking about and have already recommended to a bunch of people.
Don’t You Forget About Me is the new novel from Mhairi McFarlane. Your heroine is Georgina, who we meet as she gets fired from The Worst Italian in Sheffield and then goes home to find The Worst Boyfriend in the World in bed with someone else. Is the universe out to get her? When she gets a one-off job at a newly refurbished pub and then gets a fulltime job offer from there it seems like she might be about to turn a corner. But her new boss turns out to be her sixth form crush-slash-secret-boyfriend which is a whole new disaster in the making. Or it would be if Lucas remembered her, which he doesn’t – and which is crushing in its own way. Because you never forget your first love do you? Still at least it means that Georgina can keep working for him, just as long as she keeps her mouth shut and Lucas never finds out who she is. Except that that gets harder and harder to do because there’s still something between them – and there’s no way Lucas isn’t going to work it out in the end is there?
I loved this. In fact it was hard for Him Indoors to persuade me to go sightseeing with him one morning because I was 100 pages from the end and needed to know what happened to everyone. This is just delightful. Georgina is such an engaging heroine, Lucas is brilliant, I wanted to punch Georgina’s family at times – especially her stepdad -and I spent some considerable time thinking of extravagant punishments for Robin the Bad Boyfriend (but his actual comeuppance is very satisfying). And on top of that the book is so, so funny. It was in fact exactly what I have been looking for and what I have been finding so hard to find at the moment. It’s a romantic comedy but it has a serious side as well. There are Reasons why Georgina is still working jobs her family consider pointless and dead end. And there’s a reason why she picked such a terrible boyfriend. And they’re proper, life changing reasons, but there’s such a light touch about it that it all works beautifully together.
This also captured some of my memories of my sixth form experience so perfectly that it nearly took my breath away. I’m a couple of years older than Georgina is meant to be but Mhairi McFarlane has captured that feeling of not being able to do the right thing no matter what you do when faced with the popular kids, that everything is life and death and that the path of your life can be changed by one wrong decision. I always mistrust people who say that their schooldays were the best of their lives, because mine were terrifying and scary and I wouldn’t go back there for all the tea in china – especially not now social media is a thing.
I know that chick lit is a problematic term – and I have as many issues with it as everyone else. But if you read “chick lit” back in the early 00s and find it hard to capture that same feeling from books now – then try this. I read a lot of books (as you know) but I really struggle to find funny, romantic books with happy endings that aren’t all humour through humiliation (not my thing) or finding happiness again (or in the end) after dead husbands or life threatening illnesses (or terminal diagnoses). Something with something more to it than *just* a romance but where you’re not going to have your heart broken before you get to a sort of happy ending. But This Is It. It is fun and funny and it all works out in the end – but not because A Perfect Man has made it better – but because Georgina has figured out who she is and how to start fixing her life herself.
I know that sounds gushy and a bit OTT, but I can’t tell you how relieved I was to start reading this and just sink into it and enjoy letting it all happen. I’ve read so many books recently where I either can’t see how it can all possibly work out all right in the end (or even satisfactorily) or been braced for something bad to happen, that it was a joy to realise that I was in safe hands and could just relax and read. And my tears at the end were happy ones.
I’ve read two of Mhairi McFarlane’s previous books – but there’s been a big old gap since I read the last one so I had forgotten how much I like her writing. I now need to go back and figure out why I haven’t read the other two and remedy that as soon as possible. Knowing me and the state of my to-read pile, I’ll probably have at least one of them sitting on the kindle already…
My copy of Don’t You Forget About Me came from NetGalley, but it is out now on Kindle and Kobo and the paperback comes out at the start of March. I’ll try and remember to remind you – and I’m sure it’ll be in all the usual placed – but you could always pre-order it now. I’m just saying. I don’t think you’ll regret it. And if you’ve got any recommendations for other books you think might scratch the same itch for me, let me know in the comments.