Book Review: The Friend Zone

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

🌺🌺/5

A bad summary based on the book’s blurb: When Kristen and Josh accidentally get into a fender bender, they have no idea that they are already connected through their best friends. As the maid of honor and the best man, they’re going to have a lot of events to do…and there is no denying their chemistry. But when Josh tells her that he dreams of having a large family, it hits Kristen right in her womb…because she is infertile. Determined not to lead Josh on, she tries her best to keep him at a distance. But fate has other plans…

What.

The.

Fuck.

Did I read??

Seriously. This is like Jody’s Revenge meets your average Lifetime movie.

For those of you who aren’t military, Jody is the guy who bangs your girl (or partner, but the stereotype, like this entire book, is heterosexual) while you are deployed.

For real.

Kristen has a boyfriend—who is a Marine (because of course)—and Josh is also a Marine (because of course). However, Josh is the salt of the earth infantry dude who likes pizza and beer, while Tyler is the sophisticated Marine linguist who enjoys wine and tapas and the finer things in life. He’s also a gunny sergeant, whatever the fuck that is, because this author clearly has no idea how military ranks work.* 

Also, Tyler has somehow been deployed for two years, which is a thing that is not…probable? At first I was like, okay, maybe he’s “deployed” for an Okinawa tour or some random back-to-back MEU or some shit like that but nooo, he’s somewhere in some unspecified war zone. And Brandon and Josh were deployed for year long tours too.

Which, uh, no.

Standard Marine Corps deployments are 6-9 months long. You might deploy for a year, but generally only as an individual augment. Year long deployments in the Marine Corps are rare, but you know where year long deployments are frequent? The Army.

Yup.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I thought I saw two regular soldiers being repped (woohoo non-SOCOM love interest!) and then my irritation when Josh and Brandon were Marines.

Look, nothing against Marines**, but I’m tired of Marines being the next-tier in hyper masculinity below special force alpha males. Like, can we not? And can we also not with the infantry thing too? I mean, I liked that Tyler was not infantry, but it was shown as something lesser and more inferior and honestly POGs*** get enough of that shit in life, it doesn’t need to be perpetuated in Romancelandia.

So my frustration with the first 2/3 of this book has mostly to do with the military aspect. Not only is it really wrong, but Kristen’s emotional cheating on her deployed boyfriend is literally the oldest tale in the book. And Josh, as a Marine, should know this. This common clichĂ© of the service member deploying and their partner cheating with another has been told so many times (and I’ve seen it and counseled a lot of Marines) that having it told from the perspective of the cheating partner with them as the hero just makes my blood crawl. Like. No.

Also, the break-up was not a break-up. You can’t get mad at someone for telling you they are re-enlisting over the phone when you don’t answer their calls because you are too busy hanging out with your fake-boyfriend. You also don’t get to call that other person the villain when you’ve been hooking up with someone right after the break-up. Tyler had no damn clue Kristen broke up with him because she never answered his fucking calls or texts. She’s the ghost master.

And you sure as fuck don’t get to say “I signed up for the military relationship” and then bitch about everything that involves being in a military relationship and say that’s what ruined it. That is literally what you signed on to.**** 

As for the rest of it. There’s a lot of hyper masculinity (ok, this is a romance book but still) and some seriously whacky heterosexual bullshit that goes on. The magical penis thing was a little much, along with the emphasis on his dimples and him liking her tiny-not-a-dude’s-dog dog—and rampant misogyny that is particularly emphasized by reducing Kristen’s worth down to her defective uterus. I felt like I was reading something from 2006. Not 2019.

I get that that was not the point of the book and that it was all in her head (and what many women with infertility issues feel), but it felt very regressive to have Kristen focus on being worthless to anyone without either a) a man and b) a working uterus. She either had to be with Tyler (and settle for his not wanting kids and sophisticated ways) or forsake Josh because she couldn’t give him a big, natural family.

BIG SPOILER The author says that the book is not about Kristen having children but finding her self-worth as a human outside of not having a working uterus or being able to have children, but Kristen literally only found her true happiness after having the miracle pregnancy and her miracle baby. I felt that the infertility issue would have been resolved a lot better if they had embraced her being infertile head on, gone through the surrogacy and everything instead of going, “oh but look! You do have self worth and value as a women because you were actually able to have a baby! END BIG SPOILER

Also, there’s a magical mental illness cure trope, with Kristen’s magically manifesting OCD being resolved when she’s with Josh. What. The Fuck. No.

That’s a lot of the 2/3 of the book with the Tyler issue and Kristen’s infertility, 90% of which would have been resolved with simple communication instead of Kristen stringing everyone—including me—along (no bitterness here, clearly).

The last 1/3 is some sort of Lifetime movie tragedy porn where Bad Things Happen to Side Characters and this forces the leads to realize that life is short and they need to seek happiness where they can find it.

Overall, although I found initial enjoyment in the first 20% of the book due to my interest in seeing infertility issues actually addressed in a contemporary romance, once it swerved into deployment-cheating territory and I’m-worthless-without-a-womb land, I found my enjoyment eroding until I was left with bitter resolve to finish it for the sake of finishing.

And to see if it would get better.

It did not.

*Marine Corps 101: the rank is gunnery sergeant, shortened to gunny only if you either know the person well or have enough rank/balls to call an E-7 a gunny. For example, all gunnys are gunnery sergeants, but not all gunnery sergeants are gunnys. There is no such fucking thing as a gunny sergeant.

**I am a Marine, but due to damaging shit like this book and the vetdouchebros, women’s service is erased from the narrative/deliberately undermined because a woman being in the military damages the masculinity of the men serving—like, seriously this is a thing. Please, Romancelandia, hear my plea: stop this shit.

***POG=Person Other than Grunt, aka, literally 80% of the Marine Corps.

****And no I sure as hell am not putting military partners on a pedestal of being better or whatever, just that there are certain things you kinda ~have~ to accept when your partner is in the military.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.

The Friend Zone released 10 June 2019 from Forever.*

*My review was originally posted (and still is posted) on Goodreads on 15 June 2019.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Friend Zone

  1. This is a really excellent review. (What can I say, I love a good rant, especially one that is well-deserved and written by someone who knows what they’re talking about.)

    I admit that I’m surprised that you gave it 2 stars, based on what you wrote about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was already super wary of this book because the concept of the friendzone is major ew for me, but everything you pointed out about cheating, super alpha male heterosexuality, and magical penis healing makes me want to throw this book off a cliff.

    Liked by 1 person

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