Paperback: 544 pages
Publisher: Penguin (31st July 2014)
Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.
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*Heavy breathing* Here it is again. That. THAT. Dreaded breathing. That moment when my heart has shattered into a million pieces whilst reading a book and then put back together again once I realise that it’s not the end of the world and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
This book challenged my inability to cry in public, because there I was, on a Friday afternoon, at my desk at work, at Orion Publishing (a post about my internships coming soon) and I was trying not to cry in front of my colleagues who could only hear slight sniffles coming from me and heavy sighs behind my computer screen.
I previously read, and loved Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (the review for which can be found here), and saw reviews that foretold of an even funnier and better book - The One Plus One. So I picked it up on a quite Friday morning in the office, and after chortling and snorting and laughing my way through the whole book, I found myself battling tears at odd times and just knowing that this is already going to be a book amongst my favourites. Once I finished it, I felt a pang in my chest, at the thought of never getting that fresh feeling of re-reading a wonderful book for the absolutely first time.
This book follows the haphazard tale of one Jesse and her oddball of a family - Jesse - determined, hard working, broke as a joke. Then we have your average teen boy, Nicky, in the phase of discovering who he is, and like all teen boys, is relentlessly bullied for it. Up next, we have Tanzie, a maths prodigy who loves numbers and her big fat, fart addicted dog, Norman. And then finally there’s Ed. Computer software developer, hopeless with relationships, about to go to jail, rich. What happens when all these characters tumble together? The inevitable. Hilarity ensues, emotions flare, love happens.
I seriously loved this book so much, from the characters right down to the events and the prose. Jesse was amazing. She was a true badass heroin in my eyes, simply because she battles so hard for the things she loves - her children. Something that touched me deeply was that Nicky isn’t even her child, but rather her husbands and ex’s kid, who Jesse took on. Despite having her own child, her own money worries, and everything else that was going on in her life, she took in Nicky when he needed a home, a mother, more than anything else. We see her trying to make ends meet, put her children’s happiness before her own, and I seriously admired how selflessly she did everything, never giving up, trying everything she had in her. It was so heart warming to see and that makes Jesse such a standout character for me.
Her kids were a revolution of their own. I loved Nicky, Tanzie and Norman (their afore mentioned big, fat, farting dog). Nicky was hilarious - his comments, his strength in how despite the bullying he faced for his mascara and eyeliner, he refused to change. He refused to be someone else, someone he wasn’t. Tanzie, so wise for her young age, a lover of numbers, the little Small Fry. The bond between Tanzie and Nicky was seriously adorable, how much Nicky loved her, how he protected her, the names he called her.
“When Nicky got up to go down the corridor she put her hand gently into his, and even though normally he would have told her to ‘Scoot, small fry’ or one of the other stupid things he said, he just squeezed her fingers a bit and his swollen mouth gave her this little smile, like just for once she was allowed (or at least until he said, ‘Tanze, mate, I do actually need to go to the loo now’).”
‘Still want a kebab?’ Tanzie said to Nicky.
‘You’re an evil sprite’, he said, and shuddered.
Ed himself wasn’t a standout character for me - he just seemed like the glue that was about to bind this whole thing together, but he grew on me as the story went, and the way he took on this wild family (which btw, allllll started when he decided to pull over when he saw them all gathered around a police car one night). Unwillingly, he found himself agreeing to take them all in his car all the way to Scotland for the Olympiad, a maths convention for Tanzie to compete in. He didn’t even realise it himself, but suddenly in that short trip, he became one of them. One of the crazy bunch. And I loved him for it.
“And as he launched himself at the desk and started arguing with the organisers – the kind of argument that comes from someone who knows there is no way in the world he is going to lose – the relief Nicky felt was so overwhelming that he had to go outside, slump against the wall and drop his head to his knees until his breathing no longer threatened to turn into a huge, gulping sob.”
Finally. Norman. Oh Norman. The dog that loves to fart, eat, and laze around. He was the hero of this book and the reason that I was brought to tears. If you’ve read this book, you’ll know what spoiler I’m trying not to reveal, but he made such a dent in my heart and he had such a unique personality of his own. He was truly brought to life in this story.
This was one hell of a road trip story, which I did not except. The events that followed this Audi and the crazy bunch inside had me laughing so hard at my desk, I was pretty sure wee was going to escape. You may think that those 3/4 days of travel that spans this story is too short for anything to develop between Jess and Ed - but boy are you wrong. Far from feeling like some sort of instalove, this was seriously perfect. Time lost all meaning on this trip and I felt like Moyes managed to find the perfect balance between the romance and understanding. Yet even then, the focus wasn’t just about the romance between Ed and Jesse, but instead the story took on a whole life of its own. It’s about family, about bonds and relationships, about strength of character and that’s one of the main things I loved (amongst many others) about this book.
I didn’t think it possible, but I love this book almost more than Me Before You - though both are different in their individual rights, this book really struck a chord with me. The fluid and often hilarious writing, with alternating points of view between Jesse, Nicky, Tanzie and Ed worked brilliantly for me and I loved the insight we got into each characters head.
I can’t say enough good things about this book, except that I’m on a mad rush to buy all of Moyes’ books now and speed my way through them and I suggest you do the same. In the meantime, here's some of my favourite quotes from the book to get the ball rolling.
“Oh god he's farted Mum, I'm suffocating.”
“Nicky slept for an hour, his blue-black hair flopping over his swollen cheekbone, his face briefly untroubled in sleep. Tanzie sang under her breath and stroked the dog. Norman slept, farted audibly several times, and slowly infused the car with his odour. Nobody complained. It actually masked the lingering smell of vomit.”
“She opened the door only once, when Nicky pointed out that it was just possible he had choked to death on his own vomit. He seemed the faintest bit disappointed when it turned out Mr Nicholls was just in a really deep sleep.”
“Mr Nicholls leant forward and squinted through his windscreen as Nicky and she walked across the car park. To be fair, Tanzie thought, she would probably have squinted at them too. Nicky had stuffed two large oranges and an apple down the front of his jeans and waddled across the asphalt like he’d had an accident in his trousers. She was in her jacket, despite feeling too hot, because she’d packed the front of her hoodie with little packets of cereal and if she didn’t wear her jacket she looked like she might be pregnant. With baby robots. They couldn’t stop laughing.”