“Book Review: How to Judge a Book by Its Lover”
Reviewed by Madeline Barbush
A dive into the mind of a hopeful and hilarious writer
In How To Judge a Book By Its Lover, Jessica Jiji tells the story of a young writer who reflects the universal struggle of an artist trying to make it big, or at all. We’re all too familiar with this theme, but Jiji tells it in a fresh way through the eyes of a great main character in Laurel Linden.
Laurel daydreams our own fantasies, feels stuck like we do, makes the same mistakes we find ourselves making every day. In other words, Jessica Jiji knows exactly where to hit us (the fellow confused creative) while also making us laugh at ourselves about it.
28-year-old Laurel Linden is at a point in her life where she should be seeing some sort of success as a writer. Instead, she’s beginning to believe she might be a dog walker who writes sometimes, as opposed to a writer who walks dogs on the side.
She’s surrounded by success most everywhere she goes: her clients are the rich and famous who don’t have time to tend to their canines; her sister and best friend have a picture-perfect family life; other aspiring novelists in her writing circle are getting book deals and making strides.
Laurel takes it one day at a time until she realizes there are more people against her than with her. The time comes when she has to make the decision to either take a few shortcuts to success or do some soul searching for what it is she truly wants out of this life.
Reading How to Judge a Book By Its Lover during this pandemic was a bittersweet treat. Laurel curses her horrible flirting skills, dodges the pretentious intellectuals of the New York art scene, and has many hilarious interactions during her dog walking. Jessica Jiji vividly exposes the thoughts of a sassy young woman longing for another life, and in turn made me long for a pre-COVID world where I, too, could feel lost in a crowd.
Jiji offers a witty but accurate depiction of what it’s like to be inside the mind of a creative dying to believe that their hopes and dreams are not ridiculous fantasies. The author is spot on with every jab Laurel takes from her family and frenemies, and we understand what it’s like to feel both confidence and insecurity within the same breath.
In Laurel’s character, Jiji plants so many different seeds. Will she grow to be a flourishing author whose imagination woos her readers, or will she stay sadly rooted in her degrading life of pooper scoopers and tiny apartments?
Whenever I enter a romantic comedy novel – or film – I do so cautiously. It can go so right or so wrong. But at the end of Laurel’s story, I felt a rush of excitement from the story’s effectiveness as well as a deep desire to feel the pulse of society again. Laurel feels every sting and every embrace of the city, and it made me incredibly jealous of the author, Jessica Jiji, and just how well she could capture the rollercoaster of our lives before quarantine. Sure I remember the world, but I suppose I just needed a little reminding.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Print Length: 263 pages
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