Monday 23 November 2020

What Are Friends For? by Lizzie O'Hagan

So, the set-up is a little complicated to explain but simple to follow when you're reading. Eve's flatmate Becky is unlucky in love so Eve ends up "helping" her profile on a dating website, to the point of choosing the date and helping out with the conversation. Max finds himself in a similar situation with his friend Tom. So Max and Eve pretending to be Becky and Tom strike up an online conversation whilst in the real world Becky and Tom go on the dates. What could possibly go wrong?

The story is told in alternating viewpoints between Eve and Max and is also written in the present tense - a style I usually hate but you do reach a point where there is such a sense of inevitable impending disaster that the use of present tense works.

For the first hundred pages I really liked this story, it had snappy dialogue, funny lines...

"I think it makes us sound like a double act. Maxy and Pads, putting the fun in fund-raising..."

"Dude, it makes us sound like a sanitary product,"

...quirky friends and an interesting premise. It was written in a comedy of errors style and I wanted to know how everything was going to end. Inevitably Eve and Max would be found out...but when and how bad would it be?

There were also some quite clever and subtle moments in the writing which I thought worked well. The fact that both Eve and Max are reading Far From the Madding Crowd at the beginning of the story. Eve saying that Becky is like a Disney princess before they got Tangled and Brave.

Unfortunately at about 100 pages in, the tone shifted and became more serious (I feel like this wasn't the book I signed up for) suddenly Eve is hiding letters from her absent, alcoholic father and Max is caught up in unresolved feelings of guilt and regret about his grandmother. Then Eve starts making Notes to Self on every other page - on page 208 she does it twice. And as it goes on, I find I care less and less about the characters and the long awaited revelation of Max and Eve's duplicity.

I actually end up feeling quite sorry for Becky and Tom who seem to be there mainly to illustrate how shallow they are compared to Eve and Max. The other thing that annoyed me was that if Max and Eve are so clever why at page 112 when it's clearly starting to get completely out of hand, that they are unable to see it. I thought it required a level of disbelief on the part of the reader that isn't realistic. 

Also, be aware this book spoils the plot of David Nicholl's One Day, which I hadn't yet read.

Overall - there were some funny moments and some clever dialogue and I'm sure it will appeal to a lot of people but for me the end didn't live up to the promise of the beginning.

(I've graded it a C- because when the dialogue and character's are working (more so in the beginning) I really enjoyed. But this is one of those books where by the time I got to the end, I hated it).

(I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review).