Thank you to St Martin’s Press for the review copy via NetGalley!
I’m going to start this review by saying how much I wanted to like this book. I tend to love books that follow the hate to friendship to love path. They’re often gooey and sappy and adorable. Unfortunately, this book really didn’t do it for me.
Mr Nice Guy follows Lucas – an aspiring writer (and current fact checker at a major magazine) who is seeking a way up the corporate ladder. After a random hookup with Carmen (a prolific sex column writer) he finds his personal life is suddenly tabloid fodder. Instead of sitting idly by, he writes an anonymous response and inadvertently starts a biweekly column that starts a media frenzy. Along the way, the two clash and develop from hate to friendship to something more.
One thing that really detracted from this book were the long inner monologues that the characters had a tendency to go on. Don’t get me wrong, I realize that these can be a powerful plot tool to show character growth, but when over used they tend to make characters sound preachy and over-inflated. Both Lucas and Carmen constantly went on long, self important monologues about what they had learned in the five pages since their last monologue. It was all a bit over the top for me. On the whole, the plot really dragged most of the book. The book could have been significantly reduced and it would have been a more enjoyable read.
Let’s focus in on the two main characters: Lucas and Carmen. The story is told from both of their points of view, which did add a certain amount of depth to the book. However, I found both of them to be insufferable for most of the book. Carmen could have been one of the characters I love most: a tough, takes no shit, career oriented woman. However, she turns out to be a stubborn and immature person who never takes ownership of her own choices. She’s a woman who is trying to claw her way out of the writing corner she has painted herself into. Specifically, she decides to write a sex column knowing that there isn’t much growth potential, and then is upset and blames everyone but herself for the rest of the novel when she is stuck in a career without upward mobility. Honestly, it just really bothered me that she never owned her own choices, she just continued to languish in a job that made her miserable and pointed fingers at everyone else.
Lucas is a naive new New York-er looking to cut his teeth in the world of journalism. He is also trying to get out there in the big city. He is the archetypal ‘nice guy’ (ie. I was nice to you and now you owe me a relationship), which would have been fine if it was used as a starting point for his personal growth. Unfortunately, he never really grew as a character past this expectation that if he was nice enough to a woman she would fall head over heals for him. Everything he did was driven by his need for the women around him to want to be with him: even his big final act was driven by the need to win the affection of a woman who had time and time again told him her expectations did not match his. He constantly disregarded what the women around him said: for example, he started hooking up with a woman who stressed from the start that she was not looking for a relationship, but he decided that they were in love. He then got upset when she broke things off with him for not respecting the boundaries she had set, and instead of reflecting on the missteps he had made, he made her out to be the villain for standing by WHAT SHE HAD TOLD HIM SINCE THE BEGINNING.
On the whole, this was just not a great book. The plot dragged and the characters were overly self important. The sort of half redemption that Lucas and Carmen got was too little, too late, and made me wish I didn’t sink as much time into this book as I did. It wasn’t my cup of tea, an moving forward I think I might be taking a break from this genre.