Saturday, October 29, 2022

REVIEW: The Girl I Was (book) by Jeneva Rose

The Girl I Was would probably best be referred to as "women's fiction" with a side of fantasy due to its time travel elements. I bought my copy brand new at Book Bonanza 2022.

This review includes slight spoilers.


Content warning: parent death.

This begins with Alexis having an absolutely awful day. She gets called to HR, and instead of the promotion she's expecting, she's laid off. She's reluctant to tell Andrew, her long-time boyfriend, because he was so excited for her when she got the job, but he can tell that something's wrong and gets justifiably frustrated and upset when she tells him that it's none of his business (they live together, so I was as baffled and frustrated as Andrew was). They fight, and Alexis discovers that Andrew had planned to propose to her this evening. Now, unfortunately, they're breaking up.

Miserable, Alexis attempts to drink herself into oblivion. She decides that the root of all her problems is her college self, who never put effort into anything because "Everything happens for a reason" and "In the end, everything will be all right. If it's not, then it's not the end." She finishes off her evening with a bottle of vodka that she and her college friends once got from some woman who told them to drink it in an emergency - "Drink to forget. Drink to repeat." Because that's not weird at all.

And when Alexis wakes up with a terrible hangover, she eventually realizes that she has somehow been transported back to college in 2002. She figures this is a chance to make things right, but then realizes that she's still her present-day self. If she wants to fix things, she's going to have to convince her 2002 self to make some changes. Unfortunately, her 2002 self is convinced that she's the one who needs fixing.

I bought this at Book Bonanza 2022. Based on the discussion the author and I had, I suspect it was her first Book Bonanza, and she probably felt more than a little out of place since most of the authors there wrote romance. The only book of hers that she had at her table was The Girl I Was, which she explained had some romantic elements (which was stretching it, a lot - this book was more women's fiction about Alexis and her relationships with friends and family than romance). I was intrigued by the cover art for a couple of her other books, The Perfect Marriage and One of Us Is Dead, and explained that I love thrillers, which is what those two turned out to be. I don't think she was expecting fans of more than just romance, but I managed to find One of Us Is Dead in the Half Price Books room and bought that in addition to The Girl I Was. Book Bonanza authors: yes, attendees are mostly interested in romance, but many read other genres and/or bring family members who read other genres. Feel free to market your other stuff.

Anyway, one of my library's student workers recently gushed about an author who turned out to be Jeneva Rose, so I decided to give her books a try, starting with the one I figured I'd like the least. This was intensely frustrating at the start - Alexis was clearly the one at fault in her and Andrew's breakup, and it was hard to understand how he'd managed to spend years with someone like Alexis. The man had the patience of a saint. I was worried that this really would turn out to be an "it's all College Alexis's fault" story. Thankfully, it was more complex than that.

In several ways, this book reminded me of the movie Happy Death Day. No, it didn't have the movie's murders, but it did have a main character who was forced to reevaluate herself and the way she interacted with others. Happy Death Day leaned more heavily on the romance, whereas The Girl I Was focused more on friendships and relationships with family members. This wasn't something I'd normally have picked for myself, so I was surprised at how much I ended up enjoying it - it's definitely a crying book, by the way, so have some tissues handy.

As a SFF reader, I have mixed feelings about the ending. The time travel element was definitely written more for general readers than SFF fans - potential problems and paradoxes were hand-waved away with a vague "my memories adjusted themselves." Basically, don't go into this for deep time travel thoughts but rather for female friendships and emotional family moments.

Hurray for Book Bonanza's endorphin-inspired book buying spree. BB22 seems to have been much more successful for me than BB19 was. I'm glad that I don't have to regret buying two books from a new-to-me author, although I'm sure that, due to the difference in genres, the author's other books will be very different from this one.

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