Imagine an updated When Harry Met Sally, but with more quirks. More effervescence. More buoyancy. Then you have something like Christina Lauren’s Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating.
Sound good? It’s amazing.
The female lead of Josh and Hazel’s is an eccentric dazzler named Hazel Camille Bradford who dances like no one is watching at very public concerts and “can always be counted on to do or say the worst possible thing in a delicate moment.” She attracts people like a butterfly but her personality repels some of those same people soon after, particularly the boyfriends who expect her to tone down her eccentricities after they’re together.
Our male lead is a kind, hot man named Josh Im who is most definitely not looking for a new best friend, especially not Hazel Bradford, who has embarrassed them both in a series of (naked and otherwise) incidents over the years. Hazel believes these incidents have made her “entirely undatable” to him, which in turn, she argues, can help them be opposite-sex best friends.
And before Josh knows it, they are.
He’s recovering from a break-up and he’s a little formal, a little straight-laced. She wants to bring him back to the land of the living. They’re both attracted to what they see in the other, even as they continue to set the other up on disastrous double dates that only make them wonder if they’ve already found who they’re looking for.
Will Josh and Hazel continue not dating, or will the things bringing them together be too much to ignore? And maybe more important for this dynamic duo: would the differences between their personalities make them stronger, or drive them apart?
Watching Josh and Hazel become best friends gave me the same endorphin rush I get when I avoid a work-out or hear a montage of The Cranberries while wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt on a fall day. It’s that good.
Part of what makes it so beautiful is how unapologetically weird Hazel is, and how Josh loves her for who she is even though he is absolutely nothing like her. She’s not a source of embarrassment or curiosity to him, even though he definitely marvels at who she is.
Hazel’s a character that I think a lot of women can relate to; how many of us have been told that we aren’t enough, or in Hazel’s case, are too much? I’ve been using the word “awkward” to describe myself for years, and Hazel Bradford is my spirit animal—albeit louder, a fiercer dancer, and topless in public more frequently. I wasn't always 100% on board with what Hazel was doing--hello, I'm a classic awkward introvert, and Hazel is more of an awkward extrovert--but I admired that in real life, Hazel wouldn't care one jot about that.
With every book, Christina Lauren, a writing duo, reveals something new about their writing talents. I was/am a big fan of their Beautiful series, and then Love and Other Words (2018) wrung my heart out and then left me smiling. I’m still thinking about that book. Then Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating came along. I smiled; I laughed; I fell in love. I recognized bits of myself on the pages and resolved that I am good the way that I am but that it also wouldn't hurt to be braver.
Thank you, Christina Lauren, for the experience.
Give me that HEA, please.
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