The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.
When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?
Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)
It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.
This is like a love letter to readers.
My favorite kind of stories are ones written by voracious readers. I don’t know a damn thing about Abbi Waxman (*yet* because yes I do plan to follow her on ALL the social platforms – in a totally non-creepy ‘hey watchu writing now’ kind of way). But one thing I can tell you about this author is that she is a bookworm.
The main character in this, the titular Nina Hill, works in a bookstore. She’s introspective and introverted. She also has an amazing memory, and has so many random facts memorized that she’s a rising star in her local trivia circuit. One last thing you should know about her: she has anxiety.
For me, Nina broke the mold in a really good way. So often when we’re presented with characters like hers, they’re portrayed as socially inept weirdos, and that’s just not always the case in the real world. True, her personality traits could sometimes make for awkward interactions with strangers, but as a whole, she was funny and talkative and quick with a comeback when she felt insulted.
As an introvert, she also needed space to recharge. Paired with anxiety, she really needed time to herself. That was just fine for me. Being in Nina’s head was a treat. Her inner monologue was at turns thought provoking and hysterical.
What Waxman does SO WELL is the long joke. Nina would say or think something offhand that was funny at the time, but then that thought would come back around to a real world situation in an absolutely hilarious way. See: ice cream trebuchet.
Waxman knows that bookworms are smart. She doesn’t spoon feed her readers. There are multiple fiction and pop culture references in here that are made and not explained, so if you get it, you get it, and if you don’t, well, read more.
Nina’s anxiety was also handled well. Everyone’s anxiety manifests differently, but for me, this really resonated. It impacted her life in believable ways that never felt over the top.
While this is listed as a romance, the love story isn’t the dominant theme. Early on, Nina discovers who her father is and finds out she has this whole family she never knew about. So for me, this is much more along the line of women’s fiction. It’s really about Nina’s life and her growth as a person. I almost wish the romance wasn’t included, because that aspect is what dropped my rating a star.
It doesn’t seem like this will be a series, and I’m a little sad about that, because I REALLY want a spin-off told from the perspective of Lydia, one of the side characters.
So, Abbi, if you’re reading this: PRETTY PLEASE!