Which is: my favorite Gillian Welch song. And that's saying a lot. I have a Gillian Welch station on Pandora. (Trivia fact: She's one of the few artists I can listen to while I write.)
From curls that were captured in a lime-green paisley scarf to the blouse that looked like it came from her mother’s high school senior portrait, Lucy was the antithesis of traditional glamour. She was unrefined. A fully loaded weapon, ready to shout through decorum and convention. And she was his Hail Mary. (from Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones, p.48)
This is not a book review. (It is, however, a giveaway! Keep reading for deets.)
Honest-to-goodness book reviews are written by critical thinkers. These girls do killer book reviews. The Green Bean Teen Queen? Can write a great book review faster than you can slap a tick. Well-written book reviews take serious thought. They are usually smart and, often, they are gush-free. (And there is no mention of tick slapping.)
I am not that sort. I go for the gush.
So this is not a book review. This is simply a post about a book I love. Namely, this book:
Now. I realize you already think I’m sporting a bias here, because you've probably figured out that the author happens to be a dear friend of mine. You are correct in your assumptions.
I'm fine with admitting that I'm biased toward my people. That I get excited over my friends. I don't worry about my “integrity” as a reviewer. I do care about integrity as it applies to the relationships in my life. My friends mean more to me than books or writing or reviews or any of that. (Because living a good story is more important than writing a good story.) (Note: I also don’t believe in doing glittery reviews just to kiss up to people. There is a happy medium that exists, I think.)
But, Girl Scout’s Honor: I loved Jen’s writing before we were friends. And I would be talking up this book even if we didn’t have brilliant email exchanges throughout the day (by which I mean: swap wacky YouTube clips at frequent intervals ... mostly intervals when we are supposed to be "working").
She's a great writer. I’m super blessed to call her a friend too. And I’m so proud of what she's done with this story. You can read the official blurb here, but I'm going to jump right in.
These are my four greatest loves about Jenny B. Jones's Save the Date. (Please ignore the wonky formatting. Blame the blogger monster.)
Love #1: I love that Save the Date isn’t a “Christian version” of a general market novel. This book could prop on a shelf beside Adriana Trigiani, Meg Cabot, Emily Giffin and all those other literary wizard-ettes and be right at home. Save the Date is women's fiction with a southern flair: smart writing, bright characters, humor, and a love story that makes your heart go fluttery. (Even if you aren't the fluttery type, you'll swoon over Alex Sinclair. Trust.)
There is certainly a faith element to the story, too. Some of the characters in Save the Date are people of faith: they doubt, they screw up, they celebrate, they struggle, they question. But there is nothing preachy here, no eye-rolly moments that made me feel disconnected.
I think this has to do with how well faith is woven into these characters' lives. The characters in Save the Date talk to God and they question God. And they do this as they are living. Not every "God" moment occurs in church. Not every prayer comes while heads are bowed and hands are folded. Their faith appeals to me as a believer but, even looking strictly from a literary perspective, I think faith adds a whole heap of depth to the characters. I rarely connect with Christian fiction (I get the need for labels to differentiate genres ... but "Christian" is such a weird adjective, yes?) and I think it’s because faith sometimes feels very compartmentalized - tossed in because it has to be there, even if it doesn’t even seem natural for the character. I don't relate to many of those characters. But I relate to Jen's girls. I especially relate to Lucy.
Lucy, the main character in Save the Date, is constantly wrangling faith and life together. Her faith is her life. But she’s not pious or pretentious about it. She’ s seeking and searching and just irreverent enough that you feel like you could actually hang out with her. I dig that. Which brings me to …
Love #2: I love Lucy.
I like how she's all spitfire and passion when it comes to going after what she loves, but still feels flattened sometimes under the weight of her insecurities, her past, and all the unanswered places in her heart.
I love, love, love that Lucy is a dork. A gorgeous, successful, dork. Lucy was a nerd in high school but, instead of morphing into an uber-cool adult (like many characters in novels do), she’s wholly embraced her dorkdom. She has monthly meetings with her sci-fi buddies, the Hobbits. She loves Star Wars (Woot!). She drinks tea from a Princess Leia glass (... where can a girl get one of those?). And yet! Even though Lucy is cool with loving what she loves, she’s also battling some insecurities … those pesky, chronic insecurities that don’t change much from 13 to 30. I appreciated reading about a woman who battles insecurity in a very realistic way. I related to that and I was encouraged by it.
Might I be girly for a moment? Because I am a total romantic (don’t let my constant quasi-snark fool you!), I love the way Alex sees Lucy. Get ready to grin:
Just looking at Lucy made him smile. She had changed into yoga pants and a Wonder Woman t-shirt. He’d dated lots of models, spent time with some of the world’s most exotic beauties. But when he saw Lucy like this, in her comfort zone, he was in the presence of one of the most gorgeous women God had ever put together. p.230
Whew. (Have I mentioned this book will make you swoon a little bit? Cause it will.)
Quite frankly, I want to be a Lucy. I want to be like Lucy because, when it comes to what Lucy loves, she is a beast. She is passionate. She is determined. She is fiercely loyal to the people she loves. But she’s also open to change. She’s open to forgiveness. She’s a perfect blend of sassy and sweet. She's wonderful even without the boy.
But the boy is pretty darn fabulous.
Love #3: The Alex Sinclair Effect.
Alex. Gracious. At one point, about half-way through the novel (which was approximately 3AM on a Sunday morning), I started flipping back through the book wondering:
How is Alex such a fox?!
Do you ever stop to wonder this? Do you ever wonder how authors write fictional guys in such a way that you for-serious start to crush on them? Jen writes guys like this and, all I can figure, is that it's just her particular brand of writing wizardry.
Alex is a little bit cocky and a lotta bit handsome and underneath all that handsome snark … is a very broken heart. And a very kind heart. To tell you anything more him might ruin the discovery for you. But his growth as a character was my favorite. He’s more than eye candy (er ... brain candy?). And the chemistry between him and Lucy is downright sizzly. And so funny too.
Love#4: The Funny. Oh the funny. I love to laugh when I read a book, but it doesn’t happen often. This book made me straight-up laugh. LOL outloud, as Monk would say. And most of the laughing had to do with Clare and Julian, unlikely bff’s who I wish were real. Clare is an uppity ex-first lady with a redneck bucket list that made my life. And Julian is her assistant and has countless zingers in this book. You will adore him.
You will adore all of these characters.
And I suppose that's the thing I love most about Jen's writing: her characters seem so real. At some point, I stopped reading the story and started seeing it. That's my favorite: when my eyes scan the words in a book but my imagination starts to roll it like a movie.
Save the Date is definitely a love story. Jen usually refers to her books as romantic comedies, and they totally are. There is romance. There is plenty of funny. But there is always something else for me too; something hits me square in the heart.
While I was reading Save the Date, I thought about how life feels so open-ended. I thought about how we try so hard to achieve what people keep barking at us to achieve: get the perfect job at [this age], get married at [this age], have life well-written and on track by [this time]. And then either a.) you break apart somewhere along the way or b.) the timing just doesn’t click. Or c.) you get all that, exactly when you are supposed to get it, and you still end up feeling a little bit wind-blown and listless.
Life isn’t clicking for Lucy either ("How many ways can you twist me in two, God?" Lucy asks on p.62.) Or for Alex. Or for any of these characters. Life isn’t working out the way they planned, and then they get tossed into more turmoil on top of that. Those turmoil moments twisted my heart around a little bit, because I get that. I've been there. In many ways, I am there. I hate the not knowing and the waiting.
My favorite quote in the novel comes from Alex’s dad:
“I love it when God takes a big stirring spoon to plans. That’s when life gets good.” (p. 292)
I’m a firm believer that God writes good out of the broken places (Romans 8:28). And I’m learning the best stories are often the ones we don’t get to plan, the ones that take us completely by surprise. This book reaffirmed that for me.
If you are are looking for a good love story with humor and heart and a kick-butt heroine … you’ll get that in Save the Date. It would be worth reading just for that. The writing is stellar. The characters are vivid. The book is utterly charming.
But. If you're in one of those seasons when you’re working at making peace with your own story: the parts you’ve lived, and the unwritten places … then you might love this book for many more reasons besides.
Because there is so much hope in these pages. My heart felt lighter when I reached the end.
I hope you devour Save the Date and love it as much as I did.
Which is why I’m giving a copy away!
To win a signed copy of Jenny B. Jones’ new novel, Save the Date, this is what you need to do: comment on this post and tell me, in your comment, who your favorite fictional couple is. You can pick a couple from a book or movie or comic book or cereal box or whatever. They just can’t actually exist. :) Next Wednesday, I’ll fire up The Random Number Generator and holler at the winner. (You are welcome to participate even if you've read the book! However, if you've read the book, do let me know. I would love to send this one out to someone who hasn't snatched it up yet.)
On Friday, I’m posting part 1 of my interview with Jen. And if you think Oprah and Jo Rowling had a good interview just wait. (Cause did O ask Jo about Oreos? Or bacon? I think not.)
You can check out Jen’s blog here. And you can find Save the Date in your bookstore or on Amazon by clicking over here.
Happy reading, my lovelies!
PS – I’m sure this will come as a shock to you, but Anne + Gilbert = my favorite fictional couple EVER. Remember when he tucked her hair behind her ear and called her Carrots (..for the second time). Best. Scene. Ever.
You are entitled to your own opinion, of course. But sursly. Can any other couple even compare? ;)