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I’m So (Not) Over You by Kosoko Jackson


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I’m So (Not) Over You

by Kosoko Jackson
February 22, 2022 · Berkley
Romance

I’m So Not Over You is a m/m contemporary romance about two men living in Boston who rekindle a relationship during a “fake dating’ weekend. I had a hard time connecting with the story, but Shana liked it a little bit better. Tropes include second chance romance, a wedding, fake dating, and ‘there’s only one bed’, and we know those are gold for a lot of readers! Unfortunately, it also has problems with the structure that make it difficult for us to root for the characters.

Kian (the narrator), and Hudson had a passionate romance followed by a break up that broke Kian’s heart. He’s still trying to get over Hudson when Hudson pops up and asks Kian to go to dinner with Hudson and Hudson’s parents who are very demanding and ridiculously rich. Hudson wants Kian to pretend that they are still together so that Hudson can continue to have his parents’ approval. This seems like an unsustainable situation, but OK, Hudson. Anyway, the next thing you know, they have committed to spend a weekend in Georgia at a family wedding. Kian’s an aspiring journalist who agrees in the hopes of networking his way into a job. But the real question is, will Kian and Hudson get back together?

Carrie: I’ve read a lot of romance/rom-coms with a single narrator, but never have I wished more for something, anything, from Hudson’s point of view, because he is such a cypher. Why were these guys together, other than sex? Why did they break up? Why are they still pining for each other? That is not coming through to me. At one point Kian describes all of Hudson’s good qualities to Hudson – but not to the reader. What are they? All we know for the first half of the book is that he’s sweet to kids and he’s rich and hot.

Shana: And a Southerner! If Southern accents were my kink, I probably would’ve liked this book more. Much was made of the sexiness of Hudson’s drawl. Plus, we’re told he looks like Jesse Williams.

Hello, Jackson Avery

Jesse Williams is shirtless and smiling

I’m torn on the single POV, because I often loved Kian’s voice. He’s snarky and opinionated with enough anxiety to make him sympathetic. And Kian’s so full of hurt and tenderness over Hudson that I just wanted to give him a hug. Or a new boyfriend.

Like you, I was not a Hudson fan. He dumps Kian with no explanation and then views him as a tool to avoid disappointing his parents. But he did grow on me in the second half of the book.

After Hudson convinces Kian to be his date, we get two things I loved–madcap wedding melodrama, and Hudson’s slow seduction of Kian. Plus, Hudson’s personality finally fleshes out once we see him among his family. My heart thawed when Hudson responded to Kian’s jokes and deflection with, “I’ve loved you since I first met you.” Then he fiercely defends Kian against a homophobic wedding guest, a sleazy business associate, and even Kian’s own imposter syndrome. Hudson’s clearly desperate for a second chance and his declarations of love were heartfelt and hit me in the feels. So for me, Atlanta Hudson almost made up for his cookie cutter character tendencies in Boston.

But he’s still a clueless rich dude. One of my least favorite moments was when the couple first arrive and Hudson refers to Max, the hired driver, as “part of the family…more family than the rest of them.” He says this in the car in front of Max and I cringed. Dude, your employee is not your family. Then he makes it worse by making out with Kian in the car while Max gets their bags out of the trunk and…presumably just stands there waiting while they moan and steam up the windows. The entitlement, Carrie! And we never see Max again after this scene so no, he’s clearly not Hudson’s family.

Carrie: I’m not above reading some “this is how the rich live” money porn, but Kian, who insists that he doesn’t care about Hudson’s money, talks incessantly about how rich Hudson is to a degree that felt redundant to me. There’s so little discussion of anything other than money and things tied to money, and none of it felt aspirational or desirable. The fact that Hudson grew up in massive wealth and has basically no concept of the value of money or how other people live would and should be a significant area of conflict, but his casual attitude towards spending combined with Kian’s relentless obsession with it made me dislike both of them. Kian’s distaste for wealth combined with his obvious and somewhat obsessive envy and resentment made him seem hypocritical to me, while, Shana, you’ve already pointed out Hudson’s extreme, if realistic, sense of entitlement.

I did like the fact that a wealthy Black family is not only represented, but is represented in a context of being surrounded by other wealthy Black families. I also adored a conversation between Kian and Hudson’s grandmother in which a “Fuck Yeah, Awesome!” family history is described.

Money, money, money!

Fresh Prince and Carlton dream of money

At first I liked the pop culture references but I thought they were overused. What did you think? Were they overused or just right?

Shana: The pop culture jokes were one of my favorite parts of the book!

But I readily admit to being biased. Many of them namecheck my faves like Beyonce, Gray’s Anatomy, The Little Mermaid, Moonlight, and True Blood. I loved when they surprised me by popping up unexpectedly. Like when Hudson and Kian are making out in a forest, and Hudson stops them from having sex:

“This . . . despite how romantic it is, isn’t how I pictured it.”

“We’ve had sex before,” I remind him. “Multiple times.”

“But not like this,” he argues. “Call me a romantic or superstitious, but I want this to mean something. I don’t want the first time we . . . get intimate . . . to be in the dirt or something. We’re better than . . .” He pauses, and I know he’s looking for some pop culture reference to make it all come together.

“Sookie and Bill fucking in the grave?”

“I was going to say Elio and Oliver, but sure. Wait. Am I Sookie or Bill in that analogy?”

I have to say, the tone and references in this book are super duper gay. It made my queer heart sing.

But I can’t handle a second chance romance where you never learn why the couple broke up. WTF, Carrie! I struggled to root for these two because I didn’t know whether any of the dynamics that led to their breakup had been addressed. Honestly, I was rooting for Kian to get over Hudson and fall for the guy he went on a couple of dates with, thanks to a setup by his BFF.

Hudson’s main character flaw is not standing up to his parents. I was looking forward to seeing him learn to organize his life for himself. But he doesn’t get out from under his parents’ thumb until the epilogue. Even then, the reader only hears about it in passing. Why did so many pivotal moments happen off the page, Carrie?

Carrie: I don’t know, and it drove me to distraction! Did Hudson become a psychologist? Is he still taking the family money? How did Kian get the job? Is Hudson still spending tens of thousands of dollars on suits or is he giving some money to charity? Everything felt very unresolved.

I had a problem with a lot of the conflicts and just general behavior as well. Some of this might be explained by the fact that Kian and Hudson are both in their mid-twenties and are somewhat emotionally immature. In my mid-twenties, I had the emotional maturity of a bowl of jello. But I did not enjoy seeing people fail to engage at the most basic levels of communication for 353 pages.

My primary problems with this book were structural: characters were difficult to pin down and so many important things happened off page that I never got a handle on who anyone truly was or why I should or should not root for them to be together.

Shana: I was chatting about this book with my friend Katta, and she pointed out that I’m So Not Over You is structured more like a Korean drama than a romance novel. I love K-dramas but I think this is why I struggled with the plot in book form. It’s a series of loosely connected grand gestures, tearful entreaties, and will-they-or-won’t-they scenes that build and pop romantic tension repeatedly.

Or a grand gesture + an almost kiss?

Park Seo-joon and Park Min-young take shelter from the rain

Hudson is like the hot chaebol heir, desirable just for existing, and Kian is the middle class love interest who has to win Hudson’s powerful family over. The book has a bevy of other drama tropes, like a love triangle, a dark secret from the past, a fight in the rain, and a fashion makeover. It’s a LOT for one book, and it felt like there were dozens of crucial scenes and flashbacks missing. Maybe the solution is to turn this into a tv show?

As romance fans, our expectations often felt out of sync with the story. If this was marketed as witty new adult fiction, we might have enjoyed it more. I think readers who like pop culture-inflected romances, angst, and wealth p0rn, but don’t mind opaque heroes might like this. I liked the characters more than you, but the romance arc was missing too many elements for either of us to believe that these two wouldn’t break up again in a week. As a book, I’d give it a B, but as a romance specifically, it was unsatisfying.

Carrie: I totally agree! Different expectations would have made a big difference in my experience – and yes, I would watch this as a TV show, for the fashion alone if nothing else. This book made for a frustrating read for me personally, but it also led to some great discussions. I agree with your recommendations, Shana. It would make a good read for people who like lots of pop culture references and a mysterious love interest and conversations that are left to the readers’ imagination.

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