cover image How to Judge a Book by Its Lover

How to Judge a Book by Its Lover

Jessica Jiji. Stone Tiger, $9.99 trade paper (262p) ISBN 978-1-73566-760-7

With this sassy, meandering rom-com, Jiji (Sweet Dates in Basra) introduces 30-year-old former suburbanite Laurel Linden as she struggles to carve out the perfect life she’s imagined for herself in Manhattan. Laurel’s spent the last eight years writing an epic historical novel but has nothing to show for her efforts outside of a slew of rejection letters and a job as a dog walker. She’s close to buckling under family pressure to get a “real job” when she meets fellow Vassar alum Vanessa, who takes Laurel under her wing. Thanks to Vanessa’s unwavering encouragement, Laurel’s life becomes the stuff of her wildest daydreams, complete with a sophisticated art critic boyfriend and the book deal of a lifetime. But reality can’t live up to expectations: her relationship with the hyperintellectual Lucien will never be equal, and her much-hyped book ends up being a dud. Further complicating matters is Laurel’s growing infatuation with Irwin Turnov, a bald dentist from Long Island she’s rejected once before because he doesn’t mesh with her glamorous aspirations. Though the plot sprawls awkwardly and is weighed down by excessive introspection, the story is saved by Laurel’s irresistibly funny voice and the colorful cast’s emotional depth. The result is uneven but just charming enough. (Self-published)