Goodreads: Recommended for You
Publication Date: 2020
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets You’ve Got Mail in this charming and hilarious rom-com following two teen booksellers whose rivalry is taken to the next level as they compete for the top bookseller bonus.
Shoshanna Greenberg loves working at Once Upon, her favorite local bookstore. And with her moms fighting at home and her beloved car teetering on the brink of death, the store has become a welcome escape.
When her boss announces a holiday bonus to the person who sells the most books, Shoshanna sees an opportunity to at least fix her car, if none of her other problems. The only person standing in her way? New hire Jake Kaplan.
Jake is an affront to everything Shoshanna stands for. He doesn’t even read! But somehow his sales start to rival hers. Jake may be cute (really cute), and he may be an eligible Jewish single (hard to find south of Atlanta), but he’s also the enemy, and Shoshanna is ready to take him down.
But as the competition intensifies, Jake and Shoshanna grow closer and realize they might be more on the same page than either expects…
Recommended for You is a cute rom-com perfectly calculated to appeal to book lovers. While the standard rom-com plotline can often feel stale–girl meets boy, does not like boy, then discovers boy is not as bad as she thought–it seems clear that this book is trying to freshen things up by dropping as many bookish allusions as possible. Readers presumably are going to pick up the book because they like books about books. This strategy works somewhat. Ultimately, however, Recommended for You really does feel like just another rom-com, with no real reason for readers to choose it over another similar title.
Many readers, unsurprisingly, do enjoy reading books about books or, in this case, books about bookstores. Recommended for You takes that knowledge and does its darnedest to keep such readers happy. References to popular YA titles such as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games are made. Jokes about customers who browse indie bookstores only to buy the book off Amazon–while still in the store–are made. References to the nightmare that is working in customer service are made. In other words, the book checks off all the boxes to make book lovers and bookstore workers think, “So relatable!” None of it feels very organic, but people who get the joke might not mind.
Aside from the bookish allusions, the main thing that really stands out this book is Shoshanna’s character. She is, quite frankly, the type of protagonist many readers might not like, not because she is immature or rude or unthinking (all of which are true), but because she can be actively mean. She is the type of person who uses the bookstore intercom to shame a person for not reading. And who makes snide comments about her coworkers’ attire, then gets upset why they do not get the “joke.” There are things about Shoshanna that I can overlook because she is a teen, and, yes, teens do silly and rude things without thinking. But mocking people on the intercom is not something the average person does without realizing how awful that is.
The fact that Shoshanna and Jake are both really nasty, however, makes it difficult to buy into their romance. Shoshanna eventually learns to stop meddling in other people’s business and trying to “fix” their lives, but that is a separate lesson from her mean attitude, which the book never addresses. Jake, meanwhile, apologizes for being completely nasty to Shoshanna when they first met, but just glosses over it by implying he really needs the money and he just could not be expected to be polite to his new coworkers as a result. At some point, they fall in love despite their attitudes, but the book does not clearly indicate how or why this happens. The book is a rom-com, so why not, I guess.
On the whole, Recommended for You is a pretty forgettable read. It hits all the normal notes for a rom-com, but relies too heavily on the premise of being set in a bookstore to try to distinguish itself meaningfully in other ways. I finished the book because it is short, but I never felt invested in it.