The Biased Bibliophile‘s Spoiler-Free Review of Not Here to Stay Friends
Publication Date: 4 April 2023
Genre: YA Romance
Rating: 2 Stars
This summer, Reese Camden is trading sweet tea and Southern hospitality for cold brew and crisp coastal air. She’s landed her dream marketing internship at Friends of Flavor, a wildly popular cooking channel in Seattle. The only problem? Benny Beneventi, the relentlessly charming, backwards-baseball-cap-wearing culinary intern–and her main competition for the fall job.
Reese’s plan to keep work a No Feelings Zone crumbles like a day-old muffin when she and Benny are thrown together for a video shoot that goes viral, making them the internet’s newest ship. Audiences are hungry for more, and their bosses at Friends of Flavor are happy to deliver. Soon Reese and Benny are in an all-out food war, churning homemade ice cream, twisting soft pretzels, breaking eggs in an omelet showdown–while hundreds of thousands of viewers watch.
Reese can’t deny the chemistry between her and Benny. But the more their rivalry heats up, the harder it is to keep love on the back burner…
Review of Not Here to Stay Friends
Kaitlyn Hill’s debut novel, Love From Scratch, is one of my favorite romance novels. So, I was excited to read her second book, Not Here to Stay Friends, which is a friends-to-lovers story with a spin on The Bachelor. Sadly, I was largely disappointed with the novel, though I think fans of the trope and T.V. show will enjoy it.
I will start by saying that I’ve yet to find a friends-to-lovers novel that I truly enjoy. More often than not, I feel like the books that incorporate this trope rely too much on a previously established friendship, and the romantic tension and buildup is usually sacrificed. That was the case for this book as well, and I felt like neither the friendship, nor the romance were strong. Similarly, the main character, Sloane, formed friendships with other girls in the book, but these relationships also felt a bit shallow and underdeveloped.
Furthermore, I should have known better than to read a book that was compared to The Bachelor. No shade to anyone who enjoys the show, we all have our guilty pleasures, but the feminist in me can’t stand it. At the beginning of the book, I had hoped Hill was going to put a different sort of spin on it. It seemed like maybe the prize for “winning” would be a guest spot on a T.V. drama, as opposed to a relationship with the actor, but that was not the focus of the story.
Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something incredibly creepy about 20+ people going on reality T.V. in the hopes of forming a relationship with someone, someone who is romantically involved with multiple other people…. Throw in the fact that all the characters are 17-years-old, and the creepiness factor is on overload. Also, the protagonist has to briefly leave the show due to a medical emergency, and not only is she allowed back on the show, she is also allowed to stay at her friend’s house for a night before she returns. So, regardless of the unrealistic elements of The Bachelor, it’s even more unrealistic, as that is not something that is allowed on the reality show in real life.
Finally, I debated on including this part in my review, but I’m a big advocate for awareness about chronic illnesses, and I feel like it would be inauthentic of me to skim over this part. Some brief background information about me, I have an immunological disorder called Mast Cell Activation Disorder, and it causes anaphylactic reactions to numerous triggers. At one point in the book, the protagonist has an allergic reaction to shrimp, and her friend says something like, “Good thing it wasn’t anaphylaxis because anaphylaxis causes you to stop breathing.” (This is not a direct quote.) The issue here is that the protagonist’s reaction WAS anaphylaxis. The innocent ignorance behind the other character’s statement is, quite frankly, dangerous. It’s part of the reason why so many people with MCAS go undiagnosed, and why our concerns are not validated by the medical community unless we stop breathing. So, even though this seems like a small detail, it is important. I would have liked to see anaphylaxis represented more accurately, or not at all. Anaphylaxis can cause someone to stop breathing, or it can be hives, swelling, vomiting, confusion, headaches, and more.
As a whole, I was not a fan of this book, but I loved Kaitlyn Hill’s first book so much that I would still give her future books a chance.