REVIEW: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
Meet Nina Hill: A young woman supremely confident in her own…shell.
The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.
When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?
Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)
It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.
Dear Ms. Waxman,
1 – I must read about a book that has “bookish” in the title.
2 – I must read about a woman who is introverted (because I am, too).
3 – I must read about a woman who works in a bookstore (because “dream job”).
4 – I must read about a woman who has a cat (because I have several).
Okay, that about covers it.
Nina Hill lives in a charming neighborhood in LA and works in a bookstore. She meticulously plans her life (probably as an answer to her endlessly globetrotting mother), is part of a ruthless quiz team who mow down their competition, and owns a very confident cat named Phil. She’s also introverted, loves to read and has never known who her father was. She knows she has one because – obviously. But her mother has never said who the man who was the sperm donor is.
Suddenly Nina finds out that information when a lawyer appears with the news that her father is dead and has left a bequest to Nina in his will (unread as of yet as they were attempting to track Nina down) as well as tons of relatives that need a genealogical chart in order to keep them straight. Nina was fine not knowing these people or who her father was but they won’t leave her alone.
She also can’t keep from watching the captain of an opposing quiz team who is cute and whose sports knowledge (her team’s weakness) beat them on quiz night. But oh noes, Tom appears to be interested in her too and soon their team members are “accidentally on purpose” pushing Nina and Tom together. Can Nina keep her anxiety from overwhelming her in the face of all of this – new relations, a quiz tournament, a boyfriend, and a bookstore that isn’t selling enough books to stay in business? But most importantly will Phil be willing to accept another male in Nina’s life?
This book is darling. Go get/buy it and read it.
Oh, I need to say more than? Okay, this is a charming story of a young woman who doesn’t hide her anxiety nor allow it to completely control her but who nonetheless has it. One criticism I’ve read about this characterization is how can Nina be shy of meeting her new family yet be able to function socially. It’s possible. I’m this way. I can be comfortable in a crowd that isn’t focused on me and yet get nervous about having attention only on me. She has a job she loves pushing books and she’s organized several book clubs including one for ten year old, book loving girls who still haven’t been sideswiped by the world yet.
It’s funny without being too precious though there are plenty of POV shifts and quick switches. However those are easy to figure out and didn’t bother me at all. There is a lot of pop culture in the story so I’m not sure how well that will age but I will admit to laughing at how the story also pokes fun at a lot of that so maybe it will weather better than I imagine.
I enjoyed the characters and how they were developed. Even the tertiary ones were clear cut and memorable and this was a book that I inhaled quickly. I do wish there had been a little more romance – though Nina – for a brief moment – comes out of her introverted shell to make a Lloyd Dobler public declaration during the quiz final.
Tom hesitated. He looked at Nina.
“Please let me answer,” she said.
Tom sighed. “OK.”
Howard looked annoyed but nodded. “Go ahead, audience member. I’ll repeat the question: What were the famous last words of Arthur Conan Doyle?”
Nina stood up tall. “His last words were, ‘I have made a terrible mistake, Tom. There is room for you in my life, plenty of room. Please give me a second chance.’”
Total silence. QuizDick frowned and flipped over the card in his hand. “Uh, that’s not what I have here.”
“Wait,” said Tom, “he also said, ‘What about the next time you freak out? I don’t want to be with someone who’s ready to throw me under the bus every time she loses her composure.’”
“He has a point,” muttered Lydia.
“Shut up,” said Nina.
The Quizzly Bear captain said, “Wait a minute, are you allowed two guesses?”
“I know,” replied Nina. “I’m sorry. I can only promise to try harder.” She swallowed and raised her voice. “Being with you is as good as being alone.”
There was a pause, then Tom stepped away from the podium and walked over to Nina. “That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me,” he said, and wrapped his arms around her, lifting her off her feet and kissing her deeply. He was vaguely aware of a woman jumping up and down nearby, saying, “Conan Doyle’s actual last words were to his wife. He said, ‘You are wonderful.’” And then, as Nina and Tom showed no signs of stopping, “The longest kiss on record was over fifty-eight hours long!”
The wedding scene in the book was fantastic – no, not Nina’s though – because rugs and a camel plus picnic food. But in the end, Nina and Tom accept their differences and that they shouldn’t try and change the other.
“I like who you are,” Nina said, not feeling anxious at all. “And you know plenty of stuff I don’t know. Like Don Shula. I don’t even know who Don Shula is.”
“You don’t? Well, maybe this won’t work after all.” He grinned. “Look, I cleared you a corner.” Tom pointed to an area near a large window. It was dark then, of course, but in the daytime it would get plenty of light. “I was going to surprise you and put a comfy chair there so you could sit and read while I worked, and we could, you know, hang out.” He tugged her closer and kissed her. “I want to be with you the way you are, the way you’re going to be, and the way you end up. Every way you are is beautiful to me.”
They kissed, and then Nina said, “That was the cheesiest thing I’ve ever heard. I think I may be about to fall into a diabetic coma.”
Tom laughed. “Really? I worked on it in my head for days.”
This one has lots of feels and heartfelt moments but manages to keep from becoming too sugary sweet with them. I also had a blast reading Nina’s day planner pages and “hearing” from Phil. B+