Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Trigger Warning: Racism (challenged), Emotional Abuse
Chloe Brown is going to get a life. For real. After years of suffering from fibromyalgia and limiting herself, one near-death-miss has convinced her to start living life to the fullest. Step one: move out of her parents’ house. Step two: create a list. Step three: actually do the list. But doing the list is harder than she thought, until one cat-rescue adventure presents an opportunity—her surly apartment supervisor, Red, has a motorcycle, and that’s on the list. And he’s a man of the world, maybe he can help her? Even if he’s kinda a dick?
This was probably just about the cutest, sweetest and most fulfilling thing I’ve read all year, and I’ve read a lot of cute, sweet and fulfilling things.
Chloe and Red are both absolutely hilarious, and their banter and chemistry was off the charts. Seriously, the banter. Omg. Between the two of them I was riveted and entertained and engaged.
So why has it taken me two weeks to write a review?
One, because I have no idea how to do this book justice (spoiler: I won’t, so go read it yourself), and Two, because there is a wealth of depth underneath.
Like all of the romances I love, this one basically took a hand, shoved it down my throat and enthusiastically ripped out my spine and played the violin while I cried and laughed and danced to the ups and downs of these fictional people.
“The thing is, Red . . . some of us have so many marginalizations, we might drown if we let all the little hurts flood in. So there are those, like me, who filter. I think you’ve noticed that I filter a lot. It’s not some inbuilt shield made of money. It’s just something I’m forced to do.”
The book tackles a lot of life. From being chronically ill (the chronic pain was handled so well IMO, but while I’m a chronic pain sufferer I don’t have fibromyalgia) to being a wealthy British Black woman to everything else, the intersectionality of Chloe’s identities was just perfect. And how her privilege of wealth was contrasted to Red, a White man from a lower-income family, and how the privilege of wealth and class was discussed alongside privileges of race, gender identity and chronic illness (particularly an invisible illness). And how both Red and Chloe had built barriers around themselves to handle their various hurts and pain.
Better to be alone than to be abandoned.
Along with the various hurts was the issue of abandonment. Fuck this entire theme of the book hurt so. damn. much.
Because who hasn’t been abandoned? Who hasn’t emphasized with that quote?
Red is recovering from a brutal breakup, where his privileged girlfriend had practically curated both him and his artistic talents, reduced him down to the sum of those talents, paraded him about like a prize on her arm, and then dumped him after providing him years of therapy worth of emotional abuse. And so to recover, Red isolated himself. He moved away from his hometown, cut himself off from all of his former friends, and continued to isolate himself away from his art and his pain and his former contacts because he had been so fucked up by the emotional abuse that he didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t anymore.
As a result of the emotional abuse, much of Red’s interactions with Chloe stem from his own internalized prejudices against that kind of girl—rich, belittling, cruel towards anyone considered beneath them.
And Chloe’s own abandonment issues were just as big. She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia after years of suffering from pain that doctors didn’t diagnose and constantly dismissed, and the diagnosis came years after her former friends slowly drifted away and abandoned her because she just wasn’t fun anymore. Literally all of her friends left her because they were tired of her being sick, until all she had left was her family (and her parents, while well-intentioned, treated her like a baby because of her illness). So the thought of reaching out again only to face the inevitable rejection and being abandoned again was a huge hurdle.
Anywho, enough of pain and abandonment issues. While it makes up a lot of the story and provides the main source of angst between the two (along with the understandable misunderstandings and lack of communication), I absolutely adored that both were solid in their understanding of consent and sexual fulfillment, and the shocking (okay not really) concept that someone who is ill can enjoy boisterous sex and be a sexual being.
There’s also the slow and happy opening up of both leads, not just in each other but in their lives, as they slowly begin to dismantle the barriers they’ve erected for protection, and learn that letting people in is more fulfilling and worthwhile than a life of isolation and pain.
And seriously, it’s cute and funny as hell and I want Chloe’s fake cardigans dammit.
Gimme her entire wardrobe.