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Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake by Mazey Eddings

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Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake

by Mazey Eddings
September 6, 2022 · St Martin's Griffin


TW: horrible stereotypes regarding women who get abortions

Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake is a classic example of how a book that is otherwise OK can be utterly ruined by a few sentences near the end. If this review seems compartmentalized, it’s because the book has a lot of compartments, some of which are filled with great stuff (hot sex, self-actualization) and some of which are terrible (unfortunate implications about abortion). I’m going to deal with the terrible first so you don’t have to read the book only to see it destroyed by the ending. Then I will attempt to review the rest of the book.

Lizzie is a baker who lives with ADHD. When baking, she is able to find her flow, hyper fixating on her projects and creating pastries that are beautiful and delicious. However, her ADHD causes her to struggle with things like remembering appointments and being on time – the latter of which causes her to be fired from a sequence of jobs. Lizzie enjoys casual sex, and she picks up a man at a bar, Rake, a name that Rake does in fact joke about (he has a pretty good knowledge base of historical romances).

Rake and Lizzie plan to have a brief fling before he leaves for Australia. Both of them are determined to avoid an emotional entanglement – and they both figure they are safe, what with Rake’s imminent departure, even if they do like each other more than they want to admit.

Surprise, after Rake leaves, Lizzie discovers that she is pregnant. She tells Rake, and he jets right back to Philadelphia to be with her. Lizzie wants to have a baby, and Rake wants to be a fully involved co-parent. Rake suggests that they try living together without having the sexual relationship that would “complicate things.” Can this opposites-attract relationship survive months of sexual frustration? What will happen when Lizzie’s air mattress pops and they have only one bed? Will Lizzie be successful at her new job that requires her to make sexually suggestive desserts? It’s a romance so…take a guess.

Let’s get the most problematic and infuriating aspect of this book out of the way right off the bat. Although Rake and Lizzie both state that they are pro-choice, near the end of the book…

Show Spoiler

Rake is emotionally detached throughout the story, and turns out to be because his ex had an abortion without his knowledge. Rake insists that it wasn’t the abortion that he objected to, it was her exclusion of him from the process: “It was always her choice to make – and I respected her decision – but I wanted to be there for her. I wanted the chance to be the partner I was supposed to be in her life.”

Then it turns out that his ex was cheating on him and didn’t know who the father of the baby was.

Of two women who experience pregnancy in this story, the one who has the abortion is portrayed as manipulative, callous, and dishonest while the one who chooses to proceed with the pregnancy is portrayed as a good person. It’s an ugly stereotype, and it comes out of nowhere, and it’s irresponsible. All of this shows up at the end of the book.

Rake can say all day long that the abortion wasn’t the problem, but clearly the abortion is supposed to be part of a sequence of secretive, irresponsible acts taken by the ex. This is villainizing abortion to a ridiculous degree, but on top of being ridiculous it’s dangerous.

As Sarah said during editing of this review:

WHAT THE FUCK. Using abortion to further villainize the character is unacceptable from my perspective when people are actively being harmed by abortion bans. Not only is this an ugly stereotype, it’s lazy and actively dangerous! Abortion is healthcare. And under current bans and limitations, pregnant people in different states are unable to access care, health providers are afraid to give care to pregnant people, medications aren’t being dispensed because pharmacists fear arrest. But sure, let’s further tired and awful stereotypes and make sure to underscore the Badness of the Bad Character with her having had an abortion.

So basically, a couple of sentences make this book intolerable.

From a technical standpoint, the whole thing is bizarre because it has nothing to do with the rest of the book, which is…not great, but OK. You could lift it out and change nothing about the characters or the plot. This massive reveal just slips in there at the last minute and destroys all my goodwill in about three sentences and then the book moves on with me going, “What just happened?” Bullshit, that’s what just happened.

Here’s my review of the book aside from the above fuckery:

Most of the book involves Lizzie’s ADHD and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. I don’t have these conditions but a great many of my friends and family do, and I could see a lot of their struggles reflected in Lizzie’s journey. Her pregnancy motivates her to work on improving her executive functioning. I appreciated her quest to improve her executive functioning skills by taking baby steps (pun not intended). I also appreciated that instead of her previous efforts to mask her ADHD, she learns to integrate her ADHD into her life in a positive way, embracing her creativity and enthusiasm and finding skills that “accommodated her habits instead of forcing her to do things ‘the right way.’” She finds techniques that “nurture her brain instead of rewire it.”

I thought Lizzie’s story balanced the real struggles that ADHD can create for people with the assets that can come with having ADHD. The story also dealt well with the importance of valuing neurodiversity. Lizzie is much more capable of executive functioning when she’s able to do things her way without constantly battling shame. I enjoyed seeing Lizzie come to appreciate her strengths and eliminate toxic people from her life.

Rake is a less interesting character (remember, I’m reviewing him minus the Paragraph of Crap at the End which turns him into an oblivious asshole) and he doesn’t go through much of an arc. He has to learn to trust, I guess? But his behavior throughout the book is consistently forthright, kind, patient, and committed. Did I like him? Sure, what’s not to like? Was he interesting? No, not at all. He is a rock for Lizzie to bounce off of and stand upon. His total acceptance of her allows her the space to grow into the confident woman she is at the book’s conclusion.

To an extent, Lizzie is Rake’s manic pixie dream girl. He’s overwhelmed by her energy, her casual and candid attitude to sex, and her collection of chapsticks in penis-shaped tubes, and I guess she teaches him to try for another relationship after his last one (years ago) left him uninterested in dating. But for the most part, he’s the same guy at the end of the book as he was at the beginning.

Overall, and not counting the Paragraph of Crap at the End, this book needed to be a little bit longer. Coping with ADHD, overcoming emotional abuse, overcoming a bad past relationship, starting a new career, and going through an entire pregnancy is more than can conveniently fit in a 322 page paperback with a smooth flow.

Instead, it felt like things were checked off a list. Lizzie’s friends learn to be more supportive? Check. Lizzie confronts her evil mom? Check. Rake deals with an evil boss? Check. Often seeing these things checked off was quite enjoyable, but it lacked cohesion.

Also, this happens in the epilogue, the most unrealistic line I’ve every read in a long history of reading unrealistic fiction:

Some nights, after putting Evie down, she and Rake would spend hours in front of the crib, holding hands and watching her sleep, grinning like lovesick fools.

There are so many things wrong with this sentence for me. New parents are TIRED. Lizzie and Rake both have jobs they are juggling along with newborn care. Lizzie built an entire human and pushed it out of her body. These people are going to stare at their newborn for five happy seconds and then pass out. Also, I don’t know what kind of babies the rest of you have, but my baby, who I did in fact adore, did not sleep for hours at a time. I couldn’t have stared at her sleeping face for hours even if I had been able to stay awake for it. Lest you think me unloving, I stared at her a lot when she was awake, but not once did my husband and I plonk her sleeping body into a crib and stare at her for hours while holding hands, and I doubt anyone else does that with their babies either.

This is especially irritating when we revisit the Paragraph of Crap. Raising a baby is DIFFICULT. I only had one baby and I had an amazing support system and was financially stable and I still was so tired that I hallucinated. Babies aren’t idyllic. You can’t just say, as Lizzie does, that she has a modified work schedule that lets her work around the baby, and solve your work/family problems. Your friends are not going to offer to babysit for a month, not even in jest, not even the ones that like babies. You are not going to have gleeful sex the minute the baby falls asleep. It’s enraging to me that the same book that treats the woman who has an abortion as devious and irresponsible treats raising a baby as only marginally more tricky than raising a puppy (which I do realize is difficult).

I WANT to recommend Lizzie Blake’s Last Mistake for the ADHD representation, which I thought was balanced, realistic, and positive (again, I don’t have ADHD so I’m speaking as an observer of the many other people in my life who do have it). Also, the sexual tension between Rake and Lizzie is certainly something.

However, the Paragraph of Crap, which villainizes the woman who gets an abortion while holding Rake and Lizzy up as Relationship Goals for having a baby together, ruins the entire story. Of all the directions this book could have taken, I’m floored that it went with “bad people have abortions and good people have babies.” We need more books that deal with neurodivergence in a positive manner but I can’t recommend this one.

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