Book review: Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid

Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid
Series: Knitting in the City #1
Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆
Links: AmazonGoodreads
Publication Date: March 14, 2013
Source: Freebie

There are three things you need to know about Janie Morris: 1) She is incapable of engaging in a conversation without volunteering TMTI (Too Much Trivial Information), especially when she is unnerved, 2) No one unnerves her more than Quinn Sullivan, and 3) She doesn’t know how to knit.

After losing her boyfriend, apartment, and job in the same day, Janie Morris can’t help wondering what new torment fate has in store. To her utter mortification, Quinn Sullivan- aka Sir McHotpants- witnesses it all then keeps turning up like a pair of shoes you lust after but can’t afford. The last thing she expects is for Quinn- the focus of her slightly, albeit harmless, stalkerish tendencies- to make her an offer she can’t refuse.

Here’s what happened to Janie Morris on the worst day of her life:

• She found out that her long-time boyfriend had cheated on her.
• She moved out of their shared apartment without having somewhere to go. (She’s homeless.)
• She broke a heel on the way to work and spilled coffee down her favorite white shirt. She’d also run out of hair conditioner, so her curls were going crazy. (Basically, she’s a mess.)
• Upon arriving at work, she was promptly fired.
• The bathroom that she stopped in to collect her thoughts was out of toilet paper.
• Her first interaction with the hot new security guard she’s been secretly admiring is him escorting her out of the office while she’s in this state.

The beginning of this book is hilarious. Janie’s commentary on these things as they just kept piling up on her was great. She can live with the fact that her boyfriend cheated on her. She’ll figure out her living situation. She borrowed a shirt and some flip flops. She’ll find a new job. But the thing that pushes her over the edge is the toilet paper. That’s the one thing that she just can’t let go. I was literally laughing out loud. I’m sure my neighbors heard me and wondered if I was okay.

With such a great start, it’s a shame that the rest of the book didn’t match up.

I first heard about Neanderthal Seeks Human when I was flipping through reviews of Imperfect Chemistry, a book I read a few weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed. Supposedly, according to those reviews, Neanderthal Seeks Human is very similar but even better. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to read this book. I was prepared to love it. I wanted so badly to love it. But I just couldn’t.

The premise was good. Unfortunately, the execution was lacking. This book could have used a good editor or three to cut down on Janie’s rambling, her repetitive internal monologues about colloquialisms, and the excessive amount of unnecessary analogies. (It also wouldn’t hurt to have a good editor go through and correct the grammar and spelling. I am willing to offer my services.)

I appreciated the intent of Janie’s character. She’s supposed to be a quirky, relatable young woman who doesn’t quite know how to handle herself in social situations. Instead of contributing to the conversation at hand, she spouts off random, unrelated trivia. She doesn’t really go out and prefers to stay in with her knitting club. This is all fine and dandy, but the author takes it about seventeen steps too far, to the point that Janie becomes a caricature and not a believable woman.

Let me discuss for a moment the contradiction that is Janie.

First example: Janie devotes an entire night to sorting her comic books by second-wave feminism influence. That’s pretty cool. I thought, oh, wow, finally a feminist character in a romance novel, but no. Janie is right up there with the worst of them, making snide comments about the other women who’ve previously slept with Quinn, her love interest. She refers to them as “slamps,” as if combining the word “slut” and “tramp” into a cute portmanteau makes her assessment any less disgusting. To make this even worse, she claims that she passes no judgment on these women… only on their actions. If they don’t want to be judged for having sex, then they shouldn’t have sex. Super classy, Janie. Super classy.

Second example: Janie isn’t actually too upset when she finds out that her boyfriend has been cheating on her. Although he was cute, she wasn’t particularly attracted to him. She felt that she could never fully be herself around him because his wealth afforded him opportunities that she would never have. She was uncomfortable accepting any kind of assistance or gifts from him, feeling that he was using them as a way to control her. Totally understandable. But the problem is that Quinn is the very definition of what she’s trying to get away from. Not only is Quinn incredibly wealthy, but he orders Janie around, has his guards follow her, and even goes so far as to order her food for her when they go out. It wasn’t okay when her ex did it, but Janie is fine with everything that Quinn does.

Third example: I can accept that Janie is book smart. She certainly has a way with numbers and a good memory for useless information. But she is not otherwise intelligent. Things that should be obvious to anybody with half a brain completely astound her. She doesn’t realize that it’s a bad idea to accept drinks from a mysterious stranger in a shady bar. She can’t figure out who her boss is, even when it’s blatantly obvious. She refuses to believe that she’s conventionally attractive, and somehow feels that men don’t like the “big boobs, small waist, long legs” thing she has going on. I mean,come on. I have met some pretty clueless people in my life, but none quite this bad.

I guess you could say that I didn’t really appreciate Janie’s character. The intent was there. But again, the execution didn’t really work out.

Quinn’s character was fine. Or would have been fine in a different sort of book. He’s very clearly an alpha male, which definitely has its place in the genre. But this isn’t the sort of book that he belonged in. Alpha males don’t match up with chick lit. There is no point in establishing your alpha male character and then being afraid to expand on it.

Sure, Quinn’s employees think he’s a little scary. (I was never quite clear on why.) Yes, he decides that Janie is in some sort of danger and posts guards at her door. (That was a little weird.) And then there’s the way that he always orders Janie’s food for her when they go out. (Also a little weird, seeing how he hardly knew her. What if she’d had allergies?!)

But here’s the kicker. If you’re going to dedicate entire pages to the fact that your alpha male character is good in bed, you need to deliver on that promise. I’m not talking about gratuitous erotica, but at least give the reader something. Because there’s nothing here. It’s as if the author was afraid to write what she was thinking. It reminded me of YA back in the day (because now they’re as full of sex as anything else) because every time that Janie and Quinn kiss, we just fade to black and it’s the next morning. Did anything happen? Apparently, because Janie tells her knitting friends that it did. But what’s the point? WHAT’S THE POINT?

I’ll spare you any further thoughts because I think that I’ll just keep ranting. I’m disappointed. Really disappointed. Because this had all the makings of a great book, but it didn’t deliver.

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