I don’t read (or watch!) a lot of romantic comedies, but whenever I do, I always remember why I love them and why they’re so popular; they make you feel good! Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane is adorable, the protagonist Georgina has a biting sense of humour and her love interest is a handsome, brooding Mr. Darcy type. Will this book shock you in any way? No. Do books always need to shock us? No. Can’t they just make us feel good about life, and the world in general? Yes, they can and they should, and this book does just that.
We meet Georgina as a teenager on the cusp of graduating high school. She’s partnered with a quiet boy named Lucas in the last weeks of school for an assignment, and they quickly fall head-over-heels for each other. Unfortunately a ‘hinted at’ encounter at a party forces them apart, never to speak again, so they drift off into adulthood without speaking. Years pass, and we visit Georgina again during a particularly bad day. She’s been unjustly fired from a terrible job as a waitress so she walks to her boyfriend’s house in search of a little comfort and finds him in bed with another woman. To make matters worse, her mother is on her case about ‘settling down’ because Georgina is 30 years old and has no savings or career prospects (#okboomer), and her stepfather-in-law is an arrogant jerk who loves reminding others of their inferiority. Luckily Georgina’s brother-in-law has a lead on another serving job at a brand new pub, and after a trial run she’s happily accepted a full-time position there, so things are starting to look up. And as all love stories must, this book includes a crazy coincidence; Lucas happens to be one of the owners of this trendy new bar.
Yes, this is hard to believe, and there are some other crazy ‘suspend your disbelief’ type of moments, but despite this, I loved the book. Georgina’s character itself is not relatable, maybe because her life is a little too messy, but her constant struggle to make something of herself, and the pressure on this age to reach particular milestones is something that everyone can understand and sympathize with, regardless of where you find yourself in your own life. What’s even better is the undeniable laugh-out-loud humour in this book; Georgina’s secret writing skills seem to mirror the author’s talent for making any story hilarious. My favourite scenes are the ones that included Nana Hogg, who is the spitting image of Maggie Smith’s character in Downtown Abbey. Is there anything better than an old person who says whatever the hell they want? they’re the best! The banter between Georgina’s supportive and equally hilarious group of friends was fantastic-it reminded me of getting together with my own girlfriends, and it’s a delicious feeling to sit on the sidelines of these conversations and just enjoy them for what they are. This is a dialogue-heavy book, but the writing is witty and highly entertaining, so I flew through it in a matter of days.
I have one minor grumble, and that’s the fact that Lucas turns out to be really rich, which begins to veer the book into the ‘prince rescuing the damsel in distress’ trope. One focus of the story is how broke Georgia is, so when it’s discovered that Lucas is filthy rich because he inherited a ton of money from his Dad, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Why couldn’t Georgina just find a way to support herself? Why does Lucas have to solve ALL her problems, simply by becoming her boyfriend? As I read more and more non-fiction focused on gender studies, I’m coming to realize certain patriarchal ideals are woven into society’s expectations. To be clear, every book doesn’t have to outwardly combat this, but it’s tiring to see these standards consistently upheld, even in 2020.
Georgina’s talent at writing stories comes through in a different, serious way when she speaks about a sexual assault she experiences as a teen, and then sees the perpetrator in public with his wife and daughter years later. Both the assault and the future run-in are disquieting moments to read about, but it also offers a unique perspective as Georgina seems to come to terms with it by witnessing him with his child. It demonstrates the breadth of reactions that people have to this kind of trauma in their life, and the equally varied way victims can achieve some sense of catharsis. I liked the fact the McFarlane inserted these sobering moments into an otherwise lighthearted book because it gave the narrative an extra dose of conflict while fleshing out Georgina’s character even further. For those who enjoy this genre, you’re sure to like this new addition, and for those who are looking for a lighter read during these winter months, this is a great way to keep yourself laughing through the cold.