Book Review: No Hard Feelings by Genevieve Novak

About the Book:

Hungover, underpaid and overwhelmed, this isn’t where Penny expected to be as she reached her late twenties. A sharp, smart and witty look at adulting – Fleabag meets Sorrow and Bliss with a splash of Dolly Alderton.

Penny can’t help but compare herself to her friends. Annie is about to become a senior associate at her law firm, Bec has just got engaged, Leo is dating everyone this side of the Yarra, and Penny is just … waiting. Waiting for Max, her on-again, off-again boyfriend, to allow her to spend the night, waiting for the promotion she was promised, waiting for her Valium to kick in. Waiting for her real life to start.

Out of excuses and sick of falling behind, Penny is determined to turn things around. She’s going to make it work with Max, impress her tyrannical boss, quit seeing her useless therapist, remember to water her plants, and stop having panic attacks in the work toilets.

But soon she’s back to doom scrolling on Instagram, necking bottles of Aldi’s finest sauvignon blanc, and criticising herself with renewed vigour and loathing. As her goals seem further away than ever, she has to wonder: when bad habits feel so good, how do you trust what’s right for you?

Published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia

Released 30th March 2022

My Thoughts:

I am really liking this new genre (sub-genre?) of which I have no name. Life lit has been taken and these novels are sharper than that, the covers striking with their photo images of the ‘fed-up woman’ (#canrelate) set against a boldly coloured background that catches the eye and makes the reader (me) instantly want to pick the book up and start reading until the end. This is the third novel of this type that I’ve read this month and I’ve loved each of them fiercely and despite the similarly themed covers, each of them has contained an entirely different story within. Inevitable comparisons are going to be made with other well-known novels of this type, but I can honestly say, No Hard Feelings more than holds its own. I enjoyed it so much I read it inside of a day – and it’s got to be a good book for that to happen with me nowadays.

Our protagonist is twenty-seven-year-old Penny. She’s got a lot of things going on, spends much of her time in denial about the real things while sweating all the small stuff. She is obsessed with mending a broken relationship, unhappy in her job, feeling uncertain within her friendships, and is reluctant about therapy because each time she goes, well, reality check: the truth hurts and is hard and who has time for that sort of introspection. I felt an instant affinity to Penny. I might not be in my twenties anymore, but I do know about starting over, broken relationships, being unhappy in jobs, and feeling uncertain within friendships; all of that doesn’t magically go away once you turn thirty. Sometimes it hangs around, other times it retreats only to find you again in your forties. So, definitely could relate to much of this despite the generation gap. Plus, Penny was just so lovely. I honestly wanted to give her a hug and tell her that she was awesome, that all of this, every single thing that was going wrong, had the potential to turn around for her. She just needed to believe in herself – as cliché as that sounds.

And herein lies the core theme of the novel (as I see it, anyway). Self-belief. It’s a thing and not enough people embrace it, particularly when they are young. Penny felt like she was a crap human and fully believed herself to be not worthy of anything more than what she was getting. Watching her plummet face first into a mess of her own making was devastating but seeing her emerge out of that funk to claw her way back up to the other side was enormously satisfying and incredibly life affirming. I love how Genevieve Novak writes. The wit is sharp, the humour is genuine, the dialogue punchy and realistic, the outrage suitably outrageous, and the feels – all the feels – really make you feel. This is an outstanding novel, one that I recommend highly for the list of ‘books you need to give to your best friend’. I look forward to reading more from Genevieve Novak.

☕☕☕☕☕

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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