Review || Smart Girl

Title: Smart Girl
Author: Rachel Hollis
Genre: Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Copy: Digital

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Before anything else, I received a digital Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of this book (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much, Rachel Hollis and Lake Union Publishing!

Smart Girl, the third installment in Hollis’ The Girls series, has not yet been officially released. The book is expected to be published this coming January 2016. As such, I will avoid any major spoilers in this review, which is a Herculean task for me because Smart Girl has easily wormed its way into my favorite novels. (Seriously, if you’ve already read the book and are in need of someone to squeal with, I’m your girl.)

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to read the series’ earlier installments – Party Girl and Sweet Girl, but it wasn’t necessary as this book can stand on its own as a separate novel. The story revolves around Miko Jin, an up-and-coming designer, event planner and hopeless romantic. This quirky heroine is convinced that she’s been in love with her best friend’s brother, Liam Ashton, from the moment she lays her eyes on him; a typical love at first sight scenario. After practically a year of bottling up her affection, Miko finally decides to act on her feelings and to make Liam realize that he does love her back. In order to accomplish this, she enlists the help of her closest female companions and uses all her literary romance knowledge as her guide.

On the surface, the storyline appears to be a melting pot of clichés – girl is head over heels for her best friend’s brother, the love interest is a notorious womanizer that can’t deal with commitment, the heroine is quirky and weird, and so on. However, Hollis delivers the story in such an original and endearing manner. Her writing style is humorous, refreshing and poetically poignant. A number of lines in the novel are just too hauntingly beautiful for words.

He crashes into me like a storm, only the force doesn’t push me away; it seals us together. Like we were magnets at counterpoint and someone finally flipped one of us around in the right direction.

Certainly, after the train wreck that was entitled Not Just Another Romance Novel (Read my review.), this is the perfect read to refer me back to my seat on the Hopeless Romantic express. But more on that later.

I really like the presence of strong female characters in this novel. The heroine’s friends all have wonderful, distinct personalities, and they are entertaining in their own way. Actually, I admire how the author was able to develop three-dimensional characters extremely well, especially given the novel’s length.

I’ve read about plenty of “quirky” lead characters both in published books and online fiction. That card is quite difficult to pull off because the character usually ends up coming across as too immature for his or her age and/or just unrealistic. Sometimes, the character becomes a victim of the Special Snowflake Syndrome, wherein s/he is deemed extremely unique and “requires” special treatment.

Thankfully, Miko is nothing like that. Although Miko has her fair share of crazy schemes and otherworldly ideas, she still proves herself to be a realistic lead character. Personally, I think she serves as a justifiable representation for daydreaming females everywhere—scratch that, females in general. I found it effortless to identify myself with her because as much as we females like to admit it or not, a number of us have gotten so swept away by our feelings that we end up doing stupid, totally inane things, including changing certain aspects of ourselves for guys we like. It really sucks, but I’ve been there.

Furthermore, I really like how Miko’s love for romance books is incorporated in her narrative. Her point of view features plenty of adorable book references. It was fun to read, and I think it really added flavor to her already unique personality.

One second it’s intense and I can feel the attraction between us like a third person in the room; the next second I worry that I’ve imagined everything. Maybe I have. Maybe I’m just like Peeta in The Hunger Games, and I’m going to have to start asking people if things are real or not real. Which sucks, honestly. Who wants to be Josh Hutcherson? At the very least, shouldn’t you get to be the Liam Hemsworth of your own life?
I shake my head in annoyance and turn the key in the ignition. Honestly, not one of my favorite book heroines would ever bring up a flattened fried burrito as the follow-up to the hero touching her lips. I mean, jeez, even Cinder acted more natural than that, and she was half cyborg!

What I love about Miko the most, however, is her character development throughout the story. At the beginning, she is relatively naïve and stubborn – the typical female who can’t cope with the fact that her romantic feelings are unrequited. However, after almost losing herself in the process of following her heart and chasing after love, she is forced to become more mature, more courageous and, to put it in Miko’s words, worldlier. She finally sees the true essence of love and learns the grave importance of loving herself. Long story short, Miko has proven herself worthy of the title, “one of Shealea’s all-time favorite heroines.”

As for the love interest, Liam Ashton, I have mixed feelings about him. He is an odd, perfect mix of frustrating and charming. He is the very definition of hot and cold. There were a number of scenes where I wanted to pull my hair out of anger and demand Miko to give up on him because she can definitely do better. However, there were also scenes that made me think, “Nope. They’re beyond perfect for each other.” Nevertheless, Liam has eventually become one of my favorite male love interests as well. The way he keeps adamantly denying the ridiculously palpable chemistry between him and Miko is kind of endearing in its own way. Additionally, I really enjoyed seeing the change and growth of his character as well.

Aside from the novel’s humor, one of the things I loved the most is Miko and Liam’s relationship. Told in Miko’s narrative, it honestly felt like I was a part of it, that I was with them as they ride the ups and downs of their relationship. I felt both characters’ inner struggles as they try to work things out even though they clearly wanted different, contrasting things. Moreover, I am in love with the way Hollis built their chemistry.

“Because you took care of me,” he said conversationally. “Nobody ever takes care of me, so you can’t be real. I’ve had too much to drink, and so I imagined a fairy with big brown eyes and wild hair so I had something beautiful to think about.”

I almost choked on my words, trying my hardest not to break the spell of this moment by getting emotional. I tried to keep my tone light.

“You believe in fairies?”

His lips brushed the top of my head before he whispered into my hair.

“I do now.”

I fell in love with Liam Ashton at that exact moment.

Seriously, how can anyone read that scene without squealing? Liam and Miko are frustratingly adorable together.

The author’s portrayal of romance, relationships and unrequited love is totally on point and completely honest. The realistic essence of Hollis’ prose is unparalleled and terrifyingly relatable. Her writing style is, to put it simply, heart-shattering in the best possible way. Personally, a number of lines in her book really hit close to home:

Would have, might have, should have: they all went up in smoke as soon as I got his text.
He leans in closer to look me right in the eye. “And you are throwing all the best parts of yourself for a guy who won’t even acknowledge you in public.”
When you break yourself, you feel the force of the explosion; you can see every part of the destruction and watch the pieces fall. But at least then you can find them again when it’s over; at least that way you have a chance of putting the pieces back together.
Maybe trying to live out your own love story means that you have less time to read about other people’s.

Okay, I’m sorry. The novel is too quotable for its own good. But I digress.

In summary, Smart Girl is an extremely delightful and heart-gripping read. I am so, so grateful I stumbled upon it in NetGalley. This novel is a fast-paced, gush-worthy love story that demands to be read and appreciated and fawned over. Needless to say, Rachel Hollis, I am officially one of your fans.

Review also available: Goodreads | Tumblr

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First of her name. Queen of millennials and the constantly caffeinated. Protector of books. Breaker of norms. Iskolar ng bayan.

12 thoughts on “Review || Smart Girl”

  1. I love this review! You stated EVERYTHING so freaking perfect with this book. I’m glad someone can write coherent sentences of the perfection that is this book because I could only ramble on. Great job girl! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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