I think that pop culture may have ruined my life. I may have gone into Sarah Jio’s new novel, The Look of Love, tainted, simply because certain associations it aroused in my psyche…My word, I’m digressing before I’ve even started. *Before further tangents take wing, I should inform you that I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.This in no way hampers the honesty of the following review, as you will no doubt notice in short order.*
29 year old Jane Williams is a Seattle florist (yay flowers!) She’s lived her whole life with what she believes to be a neurological condition that causes her vision to blur at unpredictable moments. One Christmas she receives a greeting card telling her that this condition is actually a rare gift that allows her to *see* love. Unfortunately, the “gift” comes with strings, and if Jane can’t identify the six different types of love before her 30th birthday, she will have to live without romantic love in her life FOREVER.
I’ve read and enjoyed Sarah Jio novels before, but, to be blunt, this one just did not work for me. I have to give Jio credit though, this is the first of her novels I’ve read that breaks from the dual narrative formula, so high five for branching out. Unfortunately, the book and I had some issues, most of which I blame on popular culture and my ravenous absorption of it…
First, the song “The Look of Love” evokes creepy for me, not romance. There’s a scene in Austin Powers where the song plays, and I can’t help but associate it with skeezy 60s men of mystery. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Austin Powers movies (though maybe I shouldn’t admit that my sense of humor is that of a 12-year-old boy.) It’s just that I can’t think of that song as in any way romantic, so I went in with a pre-conceived expectation of cheesiness.
Second, did any of y’all watch That’s So Raven on the Disney Channel? I was WAY too old to be watching it when it was on, but I used to binge watch Disney shows to combat hangovers in college. No real rationale behind this, it just was a thing my roommate and I did. In any case, the title character Raven was psychic, and every time she’d have a vision, they’d do a weird closeup on her eye and it would be all melodramatic and crazy-like. Every time Jane’s vision went blurry, I heard the That’s So Raven theme song play in my head.
Thank you, internet, for animated gifs.
Finally, I am a big cynical grump. I have a problem with insta-love. I simply cannot buy into the idea that someone could walk into my kitchen one day and I’d instantly fall for them. The first time I saw my future husband, I said to my companions once he left the room (direct quote here) “Is it just me, or is that one good-looking lab monitor?” (Yes, my husband was an audio-visual lab monitor. We are the dorkiest couple EVER!) So, I thought he was hot, sure, but even my sappy 19 year old self didn’t buy love at first sight. There were several instances of love at first sight in this book, most of which popped up despite the characters having other romantic entanglements and responsibilities (spouses, children, the odd cat.)
Love can certainly be a messy business, and I appreciated that even thought Jio had a lot of insta-love going on it wasn’t always an easy road to happily ever after. That said, I felt like she was trying to juggle SO MANY tales of love that I found it difficult to connect to any one of them in a meaningful way. It’s pretty clear that my personal associations and experiences made this book a no-go for me, but hopeless romantics who loved the movie Valentine’s Day might just discover a new favorite in The Look of Love.
Let’s chat, Bookworms! Have your personal associations with pop culture ever ruined a book for you?
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