Today I am here with a review of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman.
I really wanted to love this book. And at moments I did. All the bookish quirks in this story are fantastic. And I love the allusions to classic literature, middle grade series, award winners, favorite reads, book club reads, etc. I even added a few new titles to my TBR that I haven’t read before.
But there was also some fairly inappropriate moments in this book. And most of those seemed nonessential to the story. Sometimes Nina and her friends talked about vulgar and almost inappropriate things. And some of the details of the story seemed political or just radical. I would have preferred more bookish quirks and less irreverence.
According to Goodreads, “The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.
When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?
Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)
It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.”
Nina is a quirky but likable protagonist. She has had an nontraditional and rather isolated life. I enjoyed her character overall especially how she comes out of her comfort zone as the book progresses. I loved that she loves books and works at a book store and runs about 5 story times and/or book clubs there. The fact that she’d rather stay home and read totally resonates with me. I love that she is a super nerdy trivia buff and awkwardly brings out these facts at random times. Its really fun to get inside her head.
I love the twist with Nina’s newly found family and all the craziness and drama they bring to her world. In fact, I would have liked a lot more development of her relationship with her family. It seems like we skim the surface of her interactions with them. Its basically just one interaction with Peter, Archie, Lydia and Millie but we don’t go any further. How do those relationships evolve? Do they build each other up? How do they connect? I felt like that whole plot line could be expanded quite a bit and more complicated. Things just seemed really easily wrapped up, and I was a bit underwhelmed by the big reveal of her father’s will. And frankly–why does he leave her the car? What does she do with it? More answers!
I enjoyed Nina’s budding romance with Tom and was glad to see she was willing to fight for him in the end. I appreciated how he was flexible and wanted to help her with her anxiety (which was an interesting subplot of the book overall). Be aware that there is one almost sex scene (more of a “they started kissing and then it was morning” rather than giving many sexual details). Their relationship isn’t perfect and at times they are totally awkward. But I enjoyed their quirkiness and that they find a way to accept each other and move forward together. And I love that he makes her a reading corner at his workshop. One of my favorite recent romantic lines: “Being with you is as good as being alone” Love!
Despite all the fun bookish-ness of this book and the fun characters, I finished feeling a bit underwhelmed. A few possible reasons why….
- Some vulgar/inappropriate conversations about body parts, sex, marijuana, and alcohol.
- Too many plots trying to fit together and none as developed as I had hoped
- Not enough bookish nerdiness for me
Overall, a fun book but surprisingly irreverent at times. I can’t say it was my favorite read. But I did enjoy the bookshop setting, Nina’s book collection, the descriptions of people’s bookshelves, and the quirky characters. In the end, I think it tried to do too much and had a few too many irreverent moments for me.
What are some of your favorite bookish characters?
Had any underwhelming reads lately?