‘The Friend Zone’by Abby Jimenez – eARC Book Review

Just what the world needs. Another problematic book masquerading as a cute read… sigh Admittedly in the early parts of this read I was really enjoying this book for what it was; a contemporary romance with a bittersweet core. So I laughed, I cried. I had a lot of feels. Yes I ignored the blatant stereotyping and negative portrayal of the other woman that the leading man dated who wasn’t our sassy heroine because…
Well I liked the hunky leading man.
And I liked the sassy heroine! (Even though she was 100% a not like other girls stereotype which is of itself problematic)
Everyone in this book was so likeable really. I cared about the characters, I was rooting for them to get together and was very touched by the storyline…

But then that ill advised ending happened. And I’m unimpressed.

My review is going to be spoiler filled. I do apologise but it’s the only way I can discuss this book honestly and to be able to openly draw attention to its problematic nature.

So the content warnings for this book are illnesses and difficulties surrounding female reproductivity.

Our leading female character is Kristin. One day she has a minor fender-bender with hunky fireman Josh and sparks fly! Their chemistry is off the charts and much sassy banter and flirting ensues. But Kristin has a boyfriend called Tyler. He’s deployed overseas with the military but she loves him… Right? Wrong… She’s settling for him. And we quickly learn why. Because Kristin suffers with fibroids and extremely heavy menstrual bleeding. She has been told that she is infertile and within weeks is planning to have a hysterectomy at age 26. So she can’t have children, and Tyler doesn’t want kids so he seems like a logical choice for a partner….
But she has all this chemistry with Josh and despite her best efforts she finds herself falling for him.
And it’s likewise for Josh. He’s getting over a breakup with his girlfriend Celeste because….she doesn’t want to have children and that’s a deal breaker for him because apparently he wants a baseball team’s worth of kids!
So understandably Kristin feels that she is not the ideal woman for Josh but she won’t reveal to him her reasons, much to Josh’s disagreement…

Anyway the story evolves into a friends with benefit style relationship until we know that both characters are painfully in love with each other but Kristin resists until finally she believes that she is worthy of love. That her infertility should not deny her true happiness because to the right person (in this case Josh) it’s not a sacrifice for him to not have kids because of her, because to him his life is incomplete without her.

This was great. Ah I loved this. Struggling with issues about your own fertility and the knowledge that you are possibly responsible for your future partner not becoming a fully genetic father to children is a theme that needs to be explored in books. And I was so touched by the storyline. I related to it. It’s difficult to open yourself up to a relationship when you know you are infertile or have fertility struggles.

However, one of the reasons that Kristin finally accepted that she should be married to Josh and live happily ever after with him is because one of their best friends tragically dies……… CAN WE NOT HAVE THE PEOPLE DYING SO OTHERS CAN LEARN A LIFE LESSON TROPE???????????????

Honestly!!! eye roll

BUT IT GETS WORSE!!!!!!

Remember. This is a book that is about infertility and the acceptance of such… SO THE LAST THING YOU’D WANT IS FOR KRISTIN TO GET PREGNANT RIGHT??????
Well guess who gets pregnant miraculously at the end because apparently her IUD device was pushed out of her system with a heavy flow and the one time they don’t use condoms his oh-so-virile sperm just says screw you (literally and figuratively) to her tumour-infested uterus and boom it’s a boy…..

No.

No.

No.

No.

No.

Look I read the author’s note at the end of the book where she proclaimed the following (taken from the eARC copy) and I get what she was trying to say…. But I think when you have to spell this out for people in the hopes that your book won’t be interpreted a certain way…well then you’re on to a losing streak and no author’s note is going to make up for your egregious storytelling.

Kristen’s happy ending was never about getting pregnant. It was about her allowing herself to be loved, despite what she felt were shortcomings. It was about her recognising that she wasn’t defined by her ability to have children, and that her worth went beyond the state of her uterus. That was her happily ever after.

I can’t seriously be the only one bothered by this right???? If discovering true happiness is when Kristin learns to… I guess it’s almost learns to forgive herself for how her body is, then why would you utterly defeat the purpose of this character arc of growth, self love and happiness by having her fall pregnant in such an unrealistic manner?? Because therefore you are implying that the happy ever after is only when she has her own child born from her uterus!?!?!?!?! Go away. That’s insulting. This message is problematic because of how it still places that happy emphasis on one method of having children. Could our cute couple not have gone through with surrogacy as planned? Fostered? Adopted??? I mean it’s just such a ridiculous cop out that she gets pregnant at the end. Yes I know that these pregnancies can happen and that this is but one interpretation of a woman’s struggles with fibroids BUT this is not the commonplace experience. Therefore, I think it would be very upsetting to someone who is reading this book who themselves are struggling to conceive and was hoping to find a happy ever after of a more realistic sort.

I know, as a person who was and still is hesitant in relationships due to my own fertility status, I was personally very upset when I read the ending as it felt disingenuous to what I believed was the main theme of the book, that of the overall character arc of happiness through self acceptance and improving one’s sense of self worth in the light of fertility problems. The ending simply cheapens the whole message of the book and is a slap in the face to the myriad of women for whom this is not possible no matter how much they hope and dream it to be.

It also is poor in that it tells women with horrific menstruation problems that cause them untoward amounts of pain, possibly damaging levels of anaemia and causes them to live lives 100% dictated by their menstrual cycles that if you hold off and continue putting your body and health at risk by not opting for a surgical option (ie hysterectomy in Kristin’s case) then you’ll be rewarded with your bundle of joy and not a life of pain and recurrent hospitalisations…
I am baffled by this book’s unhealthily romanticised logic.

I had thought this would be a four star read half way through the book… Then it went to three stars with the dead friend but that ending hammered the proverbial nail in the coffin and it’s one fat shiny star.

An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

11 thoughts on “‘The Friend Zone’by Abby Jimenez – eARC Book Review

  1. This is really upsetting! I would have loved to see the two of them adopting children at the end of the book. Maybe siblings from foster care? You said the male lead wanted a lot of kids, well, there are a ton of kids in foster care that need families of their own. They also tend to get separated from their siblings, so it’s nice when they can be adopted together. I feel like this book would have been really frustrating for me as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and I’m glad I read through the spoilers. You’ve saved me a lot of time and energy.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

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    1. Absolutely agree with you. This book could have given such a positive message towards foster care, adoption etc, but instead it chose the easiest way out for the so called normalised version of what happy ever after looks like. And as a woman with infertility I felt like I had gotten a huge slap in the face when I finished the book. I am still quite upset over it even though it has been a few weeks since I finished it.

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