She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick
Publication Date: 05 April 2022
I requested an ARC of this title because the blurb had me hooked with some of my favorite things: a sapphic, opposites attract, enemies to lovers, trying to get the wrong girl romance? Sign me up! But this book was so much more than that. Though most of the story was the sweet rom-com that we’re lured into by the description, the authors really take on some tough topics along the way.
Alex Blackwood is headed to college as a pre-med major. Does she really want to be a doctor? Nope. But it’s the only path she sees to a financially secure future. She has spent too many years trying to support herself and her mother, and never again wants to have to feel the weight of the world upon her shoulders. Her relationship with her mother is complicated; of course she loves her, but the burden of having to deal with an alcoholic parent is too much. College and the future it offers is her escape from that life. And then there’s Alex’s girlfriend, Natalie. Alex never feels quite good enough for her, but she intends to show Natalie that she can be the person she needs.
Molly Parker is also new to campus. She’s shy and awkward, with her mother as her only real friend, but she is determined to try and break out of her shell when she starts college, because it’s time to finally win the girl she crushed on all through high school – the beautiful and perfect Cora Myers. Molly finds an unlikely ally in Alex, who has decided that helping Molly get her girl is the perfect way to show Natalie that she can be a good person.
I think more authors should write books about the freshman year of college. It’s such a time of tremendous transition in life. You move from the relatively sheltered existence of your family and your town and the small domain of high school, to the intense, foreign world of a university campus, where even small things, like knowing which direction to walk to get to your next class, can be challenging. I identified so strongly with Molly as she struggled to put herself out there amongst the sea of new faces and experiences that college brings. I was that same shy, sheltered, socially awkward girl during my freshman year. Reading Molly’s story actually brought back a lot of those feelings of loneliness that I experienced that year, because I was not fortunate enough to have an Alex in my life.
There are some heavy topics dealt with in this book. Alex’s mother’s alcoholism draws attention to just how hard it is to love someone with this insidious disease. It does not just affect the addict, it changes the lives of their loved ones as well. Alex longs to feel like a “normal” teenager, one who can fully embrace the freedom and adventure that college brings, but at the same time she feels obligated to care for the mother who so obviously cannot care for herself, and this responsibility weighs so heavily on Alex’s mind and spirit.
Molly’s mother is also dealing with her own issues, the biggest of which is the sudden change in her relationship with her daughter. Throughout Molly’s life, her mother has been her friend and her confidante. They spend a lot of time together, and Molly feels like she can tell her mom anything. But now Molly is at school, away from home for the first time, trying to spread her wings and fly on her own. And that has to be so hard on her mother. As a mom of a college student myself, I can identify with this so much, because isn’t that what makes parenting the hardest job in the whole world? If you do it right, the reward for all those years of love and tears and sleepless nights is having your wonderful child leave you.
Other content warnings to add for this book include toxic relationships, references to parental neglect, internalized racism, and references to racially motivated bullying.
Overall, this is a sweet, slow-burning YA/NA rom-com with depth, a lot of humor, well-developed, complex and relatable characters, great chemistry, a dual-POV narration (my favorite), and a well-earned HEA. I can’t wait to read more by these authors.
Thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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