*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: hello (from here)
Authors: Chandler Baker and Wesley King
Publication Date: September 7, 2021
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Maxine and Jonah meet in the canned goods aisle just as California is going into lockdown. Max’s part-time job as a personal grocery shopper is about to transform into a hellish gauntlet. Jonah’s preexisting anxiety is about to become an epic daily struggle. As Max and Jonah get to know each other through FaceTime dates, socially distanced playground hangs, and the escalating heartbreaks of the pandemic, they’re pushed apart by what they don’t share and pulled closer by what they do. Hello (from here) cuts across differences in class, privilege, and mental health, all thrown into stark relief by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is the first COVID-19 themed novel that I’ve encountered since the pandemic began, and I’d give it a solid A for effort. I can’t say it’s going to be winning any awards, but it was an entertaining story about two teens who meet in the most unlikeliest of circumstances and manage to bridge their differences to build a relationship when the world is sending everyone into complete and total isolation. The world may be standing still, but Jonah and Max’s lives are just ramping up.
I appreciated the novel’s discussion of loss, grief, mental illness, physical illness, and the class biases that have become starkly apparent in the pandemic, but in my opinion, this novel just didn’t do most of these things the justice they deserved. I think the author’s are trying to say a lot of things on a lot of deep and hot button topics, but in trying to do too much, they do no favours to any of these topics. It felt a little half-done. I like what the author’s are trying to do, but I don’t think they achieved their goal. It was a bit of a flop. It leaves you wanting more and feeling very unfulfilled by the plot as a whole.
The writing is engaging and the plot is totally relevant for this time. I was endeared to Max, personally, and her struggle financially and romantically. She’s got a tough outer shell, that just needs the right person to crack it. Underneath she’s a big softy. Jonah, on the other hand, felt very much like a caricature. I thought that his struggle with depression and anxiety is completely relatable to many readers, but on the whole, his whole persona felt like a cartoon: the over-acted, over-done, annoying character you see on a high school musical television show. He just wasn’t realistic and it shook me right out of the story time and time again.
I gave this one a 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. I liked it, but didn’t love it. It was an ok first COVID-19 pandemic novel, but I would have never purchased a copy for myself. I hope you’ll have better luck with it.