She couldn't tell him that things would change before he knew it, because when you were a teenager your life really only stretches in your imagination about two weeks ahead, and they both knew that it wasn't going to get better by then. Or, probably, any time soon after that.
Jojo Moyes is one of those authors I would never have read or tried to read. When I first attempted Me Before You, I closed it after the first chapter, because it smacked of a fluff novel with a rich good looking guy with a vapid girlfriend and who knows which predictable direction this novel would take. Months later, I found myself without an audiobook to listen to, and Me Before You was what I chose. I very rarely go back to a book I abandoned. But, Me Before You worked. It more than worked. It rocked.
One Plus One fared similarly. I wouldn't go as far as to say that it was as good as Me Before You. One Plus One was more predictable. But it was also funny, witty, and filled with misfits.
One similarity between these two books is that her male protagonists start off as men you hate at first glance. They are too self-important, too rich, too brainless, and too shallow. Over time, they reveal a side of theirs that was, for whatever reason, hidden in the first few chapters. Also, it took a poor working-too-hard woman to save them from their egos.
Apart from that common formula, the two books different in every other possible way. In One Plus One, Jess Thomas works as a cleaner by day and a barmaid by night, trying to make ends meet and put two kids through school. Her husband, who doesn't contribute a dime, had moved away whining that he needs to fix his health and look for a job. Ed Nicholls is a rich-guy-done-bad-thing who is staying low after he took part in insider trading. His house is one of those that Jess cleans, and as is the wont with novels (and movies) like this one, the two start off on the wrong foot. Jess's husband's son, Nicky, is constantly bullied by some boys at school and in his neighborhood. Her daughter, Tanzie, is a math genius who just got the opportunity to study at a rich but great school on a scholarship, if her family can cough up five grand to cover up their share of the costs.
The problem? There is no five grand in their house, or money bag, or piggy bank, waiting to be used. So Jess decides to drive her brood and their dog all the way to Scotland where a Math Olympiad was being held in a few days, in her husband's ragged old Rolls Royce, hopeful that Tanzie will win the prize that will send her to the school of her dreams. But then, the car breaks down, a cop writes her a ticket, and Ed chances by. He volunteers to take them to Scotland. Besides, he needs to visit his dying father anyways.
What follows is a few days of fun, irritation, temper flares, and plenty of outbursts. It's amazing how much can be written about a car journey, even if it spanned a few days. I was half-wishing for a similarly eventful car-ride, but the only long ones I've had have usually been full of dramas. What I liked about One Plus One was how much I ended up caring for some of the characters. Misfit or not, there was something about each character that made you want to sit next to them. Sure, the story is very predictable, and sure, it reminded me a little about Maid in Manhattan (which I didn't like at all), but at the end of the day, Moyes's characters had a lot of personality and presence that made you read the book just to stay with them. I didn't want the book to end and move on. I didn't want anything bad to happen to them, which was what I was anticipating after reading Me Before You.
One Plus One is what I wish Sophie Kinsella's novels were more like. Light women's fiction with a rich-guy-meets-poor-gal script, but where the girl has brains and can hold her own kingdom.
I received this book for free for review from the publisher, Pamela Dorman Books, via NetGalley.
Armchair reading in United Kingdom