Book Review: One? by Jennifer L Cahill

Rating: 2 out of 5.

A story that was literally so close to being something for me.

Book CWs

  • Sexual Assault
  • Sexism
  • Lots of drinking
  • Mentions of sex
  • Controlling characters/parents
  • Slut shaming
  • Homophobia

Premise

Penelope and Charlie have just leased a new 4-bedroom apartment when they realize that, due to a mix-up, a complete stranger named Zara has also moved in! Deciding that the best option is for the three of them to just live together, they form a bond of friendship, love, and support to help each of them through their daily London routines.

Charlie is a musician on the brink of discovery. His lifestyle keeps him busy and out of the apartment most of the time–that is, until he finds any attractive fan willing to go home with him.

Zara is a small-town girl who is trying desperately to understand how to live a big city life in London. She begins a new job and befriends her coworker Rob, but just when things begin to look up, her company announces that many positions are being made redundant. Zara struggles to deal with the likely possibility of losing her job and becoming stranded in a town she has so few connections in.

Penelope is a hard-working young woman who is struggling to get her male-dominated company to take her seriously. At 28 years old, she is being pressured by society–and her mother–to find someone and settle down. One night, she meets a man named Alyx who seems to be a perfect match for her. The only problem is that Alyx is constantly traveling and has never been able to hold a committed relationship. And when Alyx leaves Europe for several months, Penelope starts wondering if she should begin spending more time with Richard, the man with a castle in Scotland who has been courting her for weeks.

Review (No Spoilers)

First of all, thank you Jennifer L Cahill for sending me a free ebook copy in exchange for a review! It was also super helpful that you sent me a copy of the cover to use for my banner graphic.

As always, it’s always disappointing when an author is kind enough to send me a copy and the book doesn’t end up working out. I feel like this book came so close to being something I could enjoy but that it was always just out of reach. This is going to be a lengthy review so please bear with me!

Let’s start with the characters.

I really wish that there was more information about the men, in particular Alyx, Charlie, and the last roommate who I can’t remember his name because he was mentioned so little.

When I read the blurb, I thought it was going to be one of those books where each chapter is about a different person, giving an equal view of everyone. What the book actually is, is a story about Penelope with side stories about Zara. I actually might have been okay with this change if I didn’t dislike Penelope so much.

Her character not only seemed to randomly play into sexist tropes (more about this later) but I also couldn’t understand why she was doing what she was doing. I can’t go into much detail without spoiling some of the plot but basically Penelope’s best friend George (and to some extent other friends and family) piloted Penelope’s romantic life, not Penelope. I felt like she was incapable of making decisions for herself, even in the end.

Zara was by far the best character so I would have much rather seen the story focus on her instead. Jennifer does have a sequel “Two?” coming out next year so it’s totally possible that those books will delve into some of the side characters.

Okay, let’s move to the plot.

I had a huge qualm with the weird sexism that was splayed throughout. There definitely were times where the book made the point to say things about how women can be just as capable, if not more, than men and I am super thankful for these instances. But so many times in the book, women would be going on and on about how they are constantly thinking about who is the one–so much so that they’re terrified of jinxing it–and how men don’t think about this like women do. I was definitely not into that.

Further, the ending came literally out of nowhere. I didn’t see it coming because to be it made zero sense. Up until like the last two chapters, there was a very concrete path that seemed to be laid out (and I was into that path) and then all of a sudden, it took a hard right and I ended up confused and upset. I’m hoping that the sequel will kind of nullify, or at least explain, the ending of this first book.

Finally, let’s talk about the writing.

This is kind of embarrassing to admit but there were a few times where I was confused simply because I’m American. Here is an example of a quote that I sent to my partner asking him what was going on because I couldn’t read it:

Richard’s brother came to collect Grace and Bernard bang on eleven o’clock and she felt like The Queen…

Thankfully my partner explained that “bang on” means “on the dot” in British English. I think I need to read more books by/about British people because I don’t want this to keep happening to me when I’m reading.

Speaking of this, the quotes in the book are indicated using ‘ ‘ instead of ” ” and I don’t know if that’s a mistake or just a think that British people do? I was very confused at the very beginning of the book because I thought the spoken words were thoughts. (BTW thoughts are also indicated using ‘ ‘ but in italics). It didn’t take me long at all to realize what was happening, but it kept me wondering.

Aside from my American ignorance, the book does need a good copy edit. There are tons of comma splices so I don’t know if that’s a style or if it’s just the case of not knowing when to use a semi-colon vs. a period. There were also a few typos that I noticed.

The thing that I felt really took away from the story, though, was character thoughts. Almost all of them read like ramblings to me because they were often used to portray background details that I think should have been added to the narration instead. Here’s an example (warning: it’s long):

‘Thank god she’s gone…the tears were welling up there, I was struggling to hold them back. I feel so depressed. I think I might have a bath, and see what’s on TV. Thank god I have a TV in my room, so I can have a good cry if I need to. I might go and get some junk food, and see if there are any films on tonight. Oh no, my life is so sad, I’m living in the big city, or should that be “the City”, and I am sitting in with the TV on a Saturday night! Saturday night!…That kind of thing is ok on a weekday night, but not Saturday! Oh no, here come the tears again. I’d love to ring mum, but they were so proud of me getting a job in London, she told everyone in the town practically, it would break her heart if she thought I wasn’t happy here. I might go back up as soon as I get paid to collect some more stuff, and go out with the girls. That’s better, something to look forward to.’

That’s pretty much it for my review! Since Jennifer sent me an ebook copy, I made a lot of notes on it using my Kindle app that I didn’t have time to add in here. I’m still trying to figure out if you can sync mobi files to Goodreads to share your notes and highlights like you can with Kindle books. Does anyone know?

If there is a way, I’d like to share my notes and highlights from One? because looking back, I’m laughing at some of the things I wrote. Here are some examples:

  • Wtf
  • Booooo
  • Dawww
  • Bruh your name is Zara chill
  • She gay
  • This entire exchange is amazing
  • Rude af Charlie
  • Jesus
  • God no tf
  • Bruh

I’m on the fence about whether I want to read Two? when it comes out. I’m curious to know what happens to the characters but I’m mostly worried that my feelings for Two? will just be similar to this one (pun intended).

One thought on “Book Review: One? by Jennifer L Cahill

  1. I agree with you on all points. Character thoughts were the worst part for me! The add nothing to the story and character development. The ending came out of nowhere and makes zero sense. It’s a shame about Penelope, I think she had a lot of potential and could have easily been the most interesting character.

    Liked by 1 person

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