Mini-Reviews: Parental Guidance, Fix Her Up, and The Bride Test

Parental Guidance by Avery Flynn
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 31, 2019
Source: Borrowed

All I want is to play hockey on the Ice Knights, instead, I’m in a viral video for all the wrong reasons and my mom—yes, my mom—has taken over my dating apps. Then, when I think it can’t get any worse, the fates deliver Zara Ambrose, a five-feet-nothing redhead with more freckles than inches and who’d rather be anywhere other than on a date with me.

Now a bet with her friends and my PR nightmare have us both stuck in this go-on-five-dates-with-the-same-person hell situation. But if we band together, we can get the whole thing over with and go on with our lives. It’s perfect! No feelings. No future. No fuc— *ahem* fun. No naked fun.

What could go wrong? Nothing—as long as I remember the rules. Don’t notice the way she looks in a dress. Don’t react when she does that little shivery sigh thing whenever we touch. Don’t think about the fact that she’s never had a toe-curling orgasm that wasn’t self-delivered and just how badly I want to change that.

Five dates—that’s it—and then we go our separate ways. At least, that was the plan…

Sports romance isn’t usually my thing, so I was happy to find this cute-sounding book about a hockey star for 2019’s romanceopoly reading challenge. It’s an interesting concept for a romance novel: through an app, people are set up to go on dates with someone of their parents’ choosing, and I thought that the reasons both Zara and Caleb agreed to use this app were interesting.

Of course, plenty of drama ensues, including the typical “we’re not going to fall in love so five dates is our limit” trope that I’ve seen many times before. The writing was fine, but everything was a little overdramatic. I think every conflict in this book could have been resolved in about two minutes if the characters would have just acted like adults.

This book might not have been exactly my cup of tea, but it wasn’t bad. If you’ve enjoyed any of Avery’s other books, which one would you recommend I try next?

#romanceopoly: mystery #3


Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World… whatever that means.

Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)

Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)

Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)

Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)

Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite?

Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her…

Toward the end of 2019, after I finished my reading challenges, I just checked out a ton of books that my Goodreads friends had rated highly. I do love a good “brother’s best friend” story, so I was doubly excited for Fix Her Up. I can see why so many people loved this book! The three-star rating doesn’t mean that it’s bad or that I had any huge problems with it.

The beginning of the book was really good. I loved the characterization of both Georgie and Travis. They were wildly different people who bought out the best in each other. I sympathized with both of their struggles. I also loved the idea of the Just Us League.

It had all the makings for a great book, and then it kind of fell apart at the end. What ended up being the main conflict felt so contrived to me. After everything these characters had been through, I’m really supposed to believe that they’d just throw their relationship away? Not buying it. It goes on to end in possibly the most stereotypical way, and it wraps up so quickly that I thought I’d missed something.

I might give Love Her or Lose Her a try, but it’s not really at the top of my TBR.


The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

The Kiss Quotient was one of my favorite books of 2018, so naturally, The Bride Test was at the top of my 2019 TBR. My expectations were high, and this book ended up meeting most of them.

As expected, The Bride Test ended up being a really well-written romance. And, as expected, it featured a romance that falls outside of society’s norm. While The Kiss Quotient was about a woman who hires (and then falls for) a male escort, The Bride Test is about an arranged marriage.

Where The Bride Test lost points with me was the level of smut. Was The Kiss Quotient this smutty? I felt like basically all that happened after the halfway point was smut. And don’t get me wrong, it’s well-written smut, but it kind of surprised me. It also had a bit too much drama for me in the second half — I just wanted to reach into the pages and force Esme and Khai to have an actual conversation.

But, overall, I liked this book! I have hope that The Heart Principle will be on the same level as The Kiss Quotient.


Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good romances recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Mini-Reviews: Dear Sweet Pea, Small Spaces, and The Lightning Thief

Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Source: Borrowed

The first middle grade novel from Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’ (now a popular Netflix film), is a funny, heartwarming story perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead, Ali Benjamin, and Holly Goldberg Sloan.

Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco wasn’t sure what to expect when her parents announced they were getting a divorce. She never could have imagined that they would have the “brilliant” idea of living in nearly identical houses on the same street. In the one house between them lives their eccentric neighbor Miss Flora Mae, the famed local advice columnist behind “Miss Flora Mae I?”

Dividing her time between two homes is not easy. And it doesn’t help that at school, Sweet Pea is now sitting right next to her ex–best friend, Kiera, a daily reminder of the friendship that once was. Things might be unbearable if Sweet Pea didn’t have Oscar—her new best friend—and her fifteen-pound cat, Cheese.

Then one day Flora leaves for a trip and asks Sweet Pea to forward her the letters for the column. And Sweet Pea happens to recognize the handwriting on one of the envelopes.

What she decides to do with that letter sets off a chain of events that will forever change the lives of Sweet Pea DiMarco, her family, and many of the readers of “Miss Flora Mae I?”

This was my first book by Julie Murphy, and I really enjoyed it! I only picked it up because of a reading challenge but I ended up really enjoying it. I’d been a little skeptical of her books because of all the hype, but I’m definitely planning on trying out her YA novels now.

Sweet Pea was a really charming character and I liked all of the casual diversity — I think that’s so important in books, and books for younger kids in particular. It tackles some big topics like divorce and homophobia, but it does it in a really natural way. I did feel that some things were resolved a little too easily, but then again, this is middle grade and less than 300 pages, so all in all, it was pretty great.

#ps19: a book with a title that contains “salty,” “sweet,” “bitter,” or “spicy”


Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Source: Borrowed

New York Times bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. 

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. 

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.” 

And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

I hadn’t actually planned to read Small Spaces when I did, but it was available at the library, I had finished my other audiobooks, and I remembered Kristen recommending it, so I decided to go for it. It was really good! This is the kind of creepy, spooky story that would be perfect for Halloween.

Just like with Julie Murphy, this was my first book by Katherine Arden. Since I’m pretty picky about MG books, I’m taking it as a really good sign that I liked this! I’m excited to eventually read her YA series.


The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 1, 2006
Source: Borrowed

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse – Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena – Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

Over the years, so many people have told me to read the Percy Jackson books. Multiple children have told me that this is their favorite series, and I can understand why. This book is a lot of fun. It has a quest, it has betrayal, it has mythology. I can see how Percy would be easy to relate to.

The problem was that I just didn’t care.

I’m not really sure if this was a problem with me not typically loving middle grade stories or if it was more that the hype killed this book for me, but I don’t really feel like continuing on with it. I will, however, try out The Lost Hero.

#ps19: a book with at least 1,000,000 ratings on Goodreads


Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good MG recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Mini-Reviews: The Kitchen, Paper Girls Vol. 6, and Emily the Strange

The Kitchen by Ollie Masters
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 1, 2015
Source: Borrowed

New York City, late 1970s. Times Square is a haven for sex and drugs. The city teeters on the verge of bankruptcy, while blackouts can strike at any moment. This is the world of THE KITCHEN.

The Irish gangs of Hell’s Kitchen rule the neighborhood, bringing terror to the streets and doing the dirty work for the Italian Mafia. Jimmy Brennan and his crew were the hardest bastards in the Kitchen, but after they’re all put in prison, their wives—Kath, Raven and Angie—decide to keep running their rackets. And once they get a taste of the fast life and easy money, it won’t be easy to stop.

THE KITCHEN takes one of the most popular genres in entertainment and, like The Sopranos, reimagines it for a new generation to present a classic gangster story told from a fresh point of view.

Written by talented newcomer Ollie Masters with stunning art by Ming Doyle (Mara) and killer covers by Becky Cloonan (GOTHAM ACADEMY, Killjoys, DEMO), THE KITCHEN is not to be missed.

Collects THE KITCHEN #1-8.

I hadn’t heard of The Kitchen before searching for books that I hadn’t already read that were becoming movies, but it was available on Hoopla and it sounded interesting enough. This graphic novel takes a very simple concept — what if a bunch of mobsters went to prison and their wives took over — and attempts to turn it into a story about gender roles.

I can’t really say that it succeeds, because there’s little difference between the husbands and wives. The women, understandably, want to be taken seriously, but their way of being taken seriously is basically just being very, very violent. Mob stories in general aren’t my favorite, and this one just didn’t have enough outside of the standard grisly murder scenes to keep my interest.

I can see how this could be expanded into a decent movie, but as a graphic novel, it left me disappointed.

#ps19: a book becoming a movie in 2019


Paper Girls, Vol. 6 by Brian K. Vaughan
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Source: Borrowed

THE END IS HERE!

After surviving adventures in their past, present and future, the Paper Girls of 1988 embark on one last journey, a five-part epic that includes the emotional double-sized series finale. Featuring a new wraparound cover from Eisner Award-winning co-creator CLIFF CHIANG, which can be combined with the covers of all five previous volumes to form one complete mega-image!

Collects PAPER GIRLS #26-30

Paper Girls has been kind of hit or miss for me, wavering between “um, it’s fine” and “wow, that was actually pretty good,” depending on the volume. I was pretty excited when I saw that the final volume was out. I’d definitely been missing Vaughan’s work.

The final volume definitely falls into the “um, it’s fine” category. A lot happens and, honestly, it’s a little confusing. But as usual, the characters are great and the art is amazing. This isn’t my favorite of Vaughan’s work, but I’m glad I read it.


Emily the Strange by Rob Reger
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 19, 2002
Source: Borrowed
Emily the Strange is not your ordinary thirteen-year-old girl — she’s got a razor-sharp wit as dark as her jet-black hair, a posse of moody black cats and famous friends in very odd places! She’s got a broodingly unique way of experiencing the world, and you’re invited along for the ride. Legions of fans worldwide have joined forces to make Emily a pop-culture phenomenon.

I’ve seen Emily the Strange stuff for years without really knowing what it was all about. I needed a book that someone was reading in a movie or on a TV show, and this was on the Gilmore Girls book list, so I went for it.

I am confused.

Because there’s no story.

That can be okay depending on how it’s done. I mean, graphic novels can just be a collection of short stories. But I want it to at least tell me something, not just show me an edgy teenage girl doing edgy things. I guess the title is accurate because I was lost, the story was dark, and it was incredibly boring.

#ps19: a book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie


Have you read any of these books? What’s the best graphic novel you’ve read recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Book Review: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Source: Borrowed

In her new novella, Sunday Times best-selling author Becky Chambers imagines a future in which, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of the solar system instead transform themselves.

Ariadne is one such explorer. As an astronaut on an extrasolar research vessel, she and her fellow crewmates sleep between worlds and wake up each time with different features. Her experience is one of fluid body and stable mind and of a unique perspective on the passage of time. Back on Earth, society changes dramatically from decade to decade, as it always does.

Ariadne may awaken to find that support for space exploration back home has waned, or that her country of birth no longer exists, or that a cult has arisen around their cosmic findings, only to dissolve once more by the next waking. But the moods of Earth have little bearing on their mission: to explore, to study, and to send their learnings home.

Carrying all the trademarks of her other beloved works, including brilliant writing, fantastic world-building and exceptional, diverse characters, Becky’s first audiobook outside of the Wayfarers series is sure to capture the imagination of listeners all over the world.

I’ve only ever seen good things about Becky Chambers’ books, so when I saw this novella pop up at my library, I figured it was as good a time as any to give her writing a try. I guess that, after finishing, I just feel kind of conflicted.

On the one hand, the writing is really good! The setting is super vivid. There’s a ton of casual diversity and it’s never a thing, it just exists. On the other hand, very little actually happens. This novella is only 153 pages and it dragged. I kept waiting for something to actually happen and it never really did.

I couldn’t put my finger on how exactly I felt about this book until my boyfriend asked me what I thought of it. I blurted out, “It felt more like an exercise in worldbuilding than a real book,” and you know what? That’s exactly it. The four characters explore some worlds — and they’re really well-written worlds, with their own plants and wildlife — but that’s it. I mean, sure, there’s a message in there about humanity and whatnot, but that wasn’t enough for me to feel like I’d read an actual book and not just a ton of description.

I’m not mad that I took the time to listen to this one, but I don’t think I’ll be picking up any more of Chambers’ books any time soon.


Have you read To Be Taught, If Fortunate? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Book Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Source: Borrowed

Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.

Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.

Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.

And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is one of those books that I’ve put on my TBR and then taken off and then put on and then taken off seemingly countless times since it came out. I put it on my TBR because I liked the cover. I put it on because I saw a good review one time. I put it on because it has an interesting name. Every time, I took it off because I knew I wouldn’t actually like it.

And yet I checked it out from the library.

And, entirely unsurprisingly, I didn’t actually like it.

First things first, I was bored. I mean, books about cancer and death aren’t usually my cup of tea, but at least they’re not usually boring. You’d think, with all the filmmaking and the illness and Greg being a generally terrible person, that I might actually feel something other than boredom while listening to do this audiobook. You’d be wrong.

Actually, you know what? That’s not true. I felt annoyed. And not for the reasons that I’ve most commonly seen in the negative reviews I’ve read. Those reviews rightfully point out that Greg is awful, that the book uses a terminally ill teenage girl as a plot device, that the way the author continually refers to his book as horrible is pretty cringey… and all of that is true. But what really bothered me about this book was all of the casual racism that continually goes unchallenged.

And for every argument, there’s a counterargument, so I’m sure you could argue that this book is absolutely not racist at all or something. But I’m just going to say that I, a white person, knew that this book was written by another white person as soon Earl, a black character, made his first appearance.

Let’s talk about Greg first. He’s grown up in a loving, at least reasonably well-off family with parents that are still together. Both of his parents care about him a lot, but his mom especially is very involved in his life. Greg is also white, and so are basically all of the other characters in this book. The lone main character of color is Earl, Greg’s best friend, who is… a caricature at best, and an incredibly racist stereotype at worst. Because Earl is the opposite of Greg. He really has no adult supervision in his life. His father is completely out of the picture, his mother is an alcoholic who spends all of her time on the computer upstairs, his brothers sell drugs, their house is falling apart, and THE WAY THEY TALK. Did you know that you can write dialogue with a character of color without resorting to cringey stereotypes? I think Earl is the only character in this book who ever uses slang, and it’s the only way he ever talks. I hated it.

Add to that the completely unnecessary discussion on how bisexuality isn’t real and I’m just… heavily sighing. Like, there’s not even a bisexual character in this book. There’s just this random conversation where Greg and Earl talk about how bisexuality can’t be a thing because then you’d want to have sex with literally everything all the time and it made me so angry.

Now, you may notice that I’ve addressed Greg (the “me” in the title) and Earl and yet I have hardly any mention of “the dying girl.” This is because, despite being a titular character, she barely exists. I mean, sure, the plot kind of revolves around her, but she could be anyone. All she ever does is giggle and go to the hospital. Rachel and her illness only exist to further Greg’s character development. It really reminded me of All the Bright Places, in which Finch and his mental illness only exist so that Violet can react to them.

This book really just made me sad, and it’s not because of the cancer or anything else that was supposed to make me feel something. No, this book made me sad because I think it could have been a great concept, but it was absolutely ruined by almost everything that happened. As I finish up this review, my computer is telling me that it sounds “disappointed,” “sad,” and “confident” in what I’m saying. Good. I guess I’ve gotten my point across.


Have you read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Book Review: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Source: Borrowed

Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behaviour.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

I have a complicated relationship with Neal Shusterman. I really enjoyed Scythe but I didn’t much enjoy Unwind. I never really planned to read this book because it just didn’t sound like something I’d be interested in — I try to avoid sad books whenever I can — but I needed a book with the word “challenge” in the title for my Popsugar Reading Challenge, and, well… here we are.

First things first, this book is sad. It’s about a teenage boy deep in the throes of mental illness, and it’s just heartbreaking. I want to mention here that there are some books about mental illness that I’ve really appreciated. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine comes to mind right away, and so does Turtles All the Way Down. There are also some books about mental illness that I have despised, like All the Bright Places. Because, the thing is, mental illness isn’t something to glamorize. It’s not a cute quirk. It’s not something to be flippant about in a book. Luckily, Shusterman treats Caden’s story with the respect that it deserves.

I’m not going to say that I enjoyed reading this book, because I didn’t. It was hard to listen to. It’s confusing at the beginning, but it’s supposed to be confusing. Caden has trouble distinguishing between reality and his delusions, so we’ll be in his real life for a minute before we abruptly transition to him being on a ship in the middle of the ocean. It’s disconcerting, but again, it’s supposed to be. The book is very, very well-written, but it’s confusing and difficult to read.

There is a bright spot in all of this though, and that’s how supportive Caden’s family is of him. His little sister in particular handled everything so well.

It’s hard for me to say whether or not I’d recommend this book. I think if you’re interested in a really character-driven story about a teenager with schizophrenia, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try. If you like your stories with a bit more action and with more of a clear plot, maybe skip it.

#ps19: a book with “pop,” “sugar,” or “challenge” in the title
#mm19: seasons, elements, and weather


Have you read Challenger Deep? Can you recommend any YA about mental illness?
Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Book Review: What If? by Randall Munroe

What If? by Randall Munroe
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Source: Borrowed

Randall Munroe left NASA in 2005 to start up his hugely popular site XKCD ‘a web comic of romance, sarcasm, math and language’ which offers a witty take on the world of science and geeks. It now has 600,000 to a million page hits daily. Every now and then, Munroe would get emails asking him to arbitrate a science debate. ‘My friend and I were arguing about what would happen if a bullet got struck by lightning, and we agreed that you should resolve it . . . ‘ He liked these questions so much that he started up What If.

If your cells suddenly lost the power to divide, how long would you survive?

How dangerous is it, really, to be in a swimming pool in a thunderstorm?

If we hooked turbines to people exercising in gyms, how much power could we produce?

What if everyone only had one soulmate?

When (if ever) did the sun go down on the British empire?

How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live?

What would happen if the moon went away?

In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, studded with memorable cartoons and infographics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion. Far more than a book for geeks, WHAT IF: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions explains the laws of science in operation in a way that every intelligent reader will enjoy and feel much the smarter for having read.

For this review, I’m throwing it way back to 2007 when I was obsessed with xkcd. So was one of my friends, and we did things like printing the comics out to hang in our lockers, doodling the comics in class, and referencing the site in casual conversation. Senior year of high school, he signed my yearbook with a recreation of one of the comics. I may have had a panel of the ball pit comic as my Livejournal icon for a while. When I say obsessed, I mean obsessed.

So when I saw that Randall Munroe had written a book, I did what anybody who obsessed over someone a decade ago and hadn’t thought of them since would do — I completely ignored it. I mean, I’d seen it on Goodreads. I’d seen it in stores. I’d thought about reading it, but then I thought, “Sara, what if it’s terrible and it completely ruins your teenage years for you?” Then one day I just decided to go for it.

It wasn’t terrible.

It wasn’t great, either, but it wasn’t terrible.

I think, more than anything, it showcases how intelligent Munroe is. When faced with these questions, his mind goes to absolutely ridiculous lengths to answer them. He’ll provide a quick answer as to what would happen, and then branch off into the effects of that, and the effects of that, and the effects of that… until basically the entire planet is destroyed or humanity dies out. This was fun for a few of the questions, but a little much for the rest.

I’ll probably read Munroe’s other book at some point, but I feel like they’d be better spaced out than read back-to-back.


Have you read What If? Have you read xkcd?
Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’