Published by Berkley on June 16, 2020
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Squashed among a bus full of strangers, mother-daughter duo Jessica and Emily Burnstein watch their carefully mapped-out college tour devolve into a series of off-roading misadventures, from the USA Today bestselling author of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.
Jessica and Emily Burnstein have very different ideas of how this college tour should go.
For Emily, it’s a preview of freedom, exploring the possibility of her new and more exciting future. Not that she’s sure she even wants to go to college, but let’s ignore that for now. And maybe the other kids on the tour will like her more than the ones at school. . . . They have to, right?
For Jessica, it’s a chance to bond with the daughter she seems to have lost. They used to be so close, but then Goldfish crackers and Play-Doh were no longer enough of a draw. She isn’t even sure if Emily likes her anymore. To be honest, Jessica isn’t sure she likes herself.
Together with a dozen strangers–and two familiar enemies–Jessica and Emily travel the East Coast, meeting up with family and old friends along the way. Surprises and secrets threaten their relationship and, in the end, change it forever.
Bantering Books Review
Quick! Raise your hand if you’re a Gilmore Girls fan. (I am! I am! I am!)
Come on now. Don’t be shy. I know I’m not the sole remaining devotee of the show. 😉
I still, to this day, watch Gilmore Girls reruns. I love the unique relationship between Lorelai and Rory. I enjoy the snappy, witty dialogue. I wish Stars Hollow existed, so I could visit it. And when I was much younger . . . and single . . . Jess Mariano made for my ideal bad-boy boyfriend.
I have a feeling that if Abbi Waxman were here with me now, then she, too, would raise her hand. For her newest novel, I Was Told It Would Get Easier, clearly strives to be reminiscent in style and tone of the famously clever TV show. But alas, Jessica and Emily Burnstein, our mother-daughter protagonists of the novel, are no Lorelai and Rory Gilmore.
Embarking on a bus tour of various colleges on the East Coast, Jessica and sixteen-year-old Emily have a difference of opinion regarding what they hope to individually accomplish on the trip.
Jessica views the college tour as a growth opportunity for her relationship with Emily. She and Emily are not close, and they repeatedly misinterpret the other’s words and actions. They argue often and seem to relentlessly be at odds. At this point, Jessica is uncertain as to whether Emily likes her, much less loves her, and she is desperately praying that the trip will bridge the ever-widening gap between the two of them. Bonus, too, if Emily figures out which college she would like to attend and what she would like to do with her life.
Emily, on the other hand, is hoping the college tour will provide her with a glimpse of her future and rapidly approaching newfound freedom away from her mom. Emily isn’t even positive she wants to go to college, and she is crossing her fingers that perhaps the trip will shed some light on the subject either way. It also wouldn’t be a bad thing if she makes some new friends . . . or, you know, meets a cute boy.
Shenanigans ensue. Secrets are exposed. Personal revelations are manifested. And Jessica and Emily’s relationship is forever changed, in ways both wonderful and unexpected.
So, I have yet to read Waxman’s popular novel, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. But I’ve seen many rave reviews for it, and I’ve always felt confident that it would be to my liking. Therefore, I am a bit stunned to discover that I Was Told It Would Get Easier is just, sort of, blah. It’s kind of bland; it’s very vanilla. As a novel, it doesn’t really do much of anything or offer much to the reader in terms of interest and excitement.
The one thing the novel does do, and does moderately well, is quick, witty dialogue. Hence, my Gilmore Girls reference. Waxman admirably attempts to replicate the Lorelai and Rory relationship dynamic, by way of Jessica and Emily’s verbal sparring, and the narrative overflows with a similar brand of dry humor to that found in the TV show. Sometimes it works – the book has quite a few charming, fun, banter-filled moments. But other times it feels forced, almost as if Waxman’s true intent is to instead write another episode of Gilmore Girls, rather than a fresh and original novel. (And she even unwittingly reinforces this point by blatantly name-dropping both Stars Hollow and Gilmore Girls a handful of times throughout the story.)
Waxman unspools the narrative by switching back and forth between the viewpoints of Jessica and Emily, which works effectively. Both mother and daughter are likable and developed well, but unfortunately, there are occasions where their individual voices lack distinction. Numerous times, I found myself flipping back a few pages to remind myself of whose point of view was currently in front of my eyes.
My mind also wandered (A LOT) while reading. Sadly, the story is just not very compelling, and Waxman’s writing is noticeably simple and of a plain style. Absent from the narrative is the requisite depth to create full investment in the characters and story line.
Still, I Was Told It Would Get Easier is, I suppose, enjoyable enough. It’s a light, quick read that doesn’t require much effort and thought. And that’s not necessarily a negative, is it?
Three stars, it is. But I’m definitely not jumping to recommend it.
I received an Advanced Readers Copy from Edelweiss and Berkley. All opinions included herein are my own.