The sassy best friend gets to have witty one-liners, a killer wardrobe, and usually a pretty great job. But it is the best friend’s goal to help our heroine fall in love; it is not the best friend’s job to fall in love herself.
Therefore, I’ve just realized that I’m probably doomed at love. Because I’m pretty sure I’m not the heroine. I don’t even think I’m in my own story.
—The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles), by Amy Spalding
If I have to spend the entirety of a weekend sick in bed—there are approximately 800,000 different colds and flus going around my town but only 4,000 people, you do the math—romances and romantic comedies are my favorite way to escape. Amy Spalding’s Jordi Perez, in particular, was a perfect fit for me this time around because it was so warm (which helped with the fever chills) and because I read it with a delighted grin throughout, rather than laughing out loud (which avoided exacerbating the nausea).
It’s about the summer before Abby Ives’ senior year in high school: the summer of her first girlfriend, of her dream internship, and of a quest to eat and rate burgers across Los Angeles. She’s so, so excited about working for her favorite local fashion designer—and about the fact that her intern position almost always shifts into a real job in the fall—and so she’s thrown when she finds out that this year, there are two interns. Two interns, one job.
And she’s double thrown when she almost immediately develops a giant crush on the other intern—the girl she’s competing with—Jordi Perez.
Spalding’s character work here is tip-top—all of the characters, from Abby down to the third-tier characters who have fewer than five lines—are three-dimensional people who have specific and nuanced relationships with one another. It’s telling that I loved Abby’s burgeoning friendship with Jax the Lacrosse Bro just as much as I loved the romance between Abby and Jordi … and it’s indicative of the aforementioned skillful character work and the organic nature of Spalding’s storytelling that I only just now realized that Jax is the Sassy Best Friend of Abby’s story.
It’s about developing new friendships and maintaining old ones, about taking chances, about doing what you love and the insidiousness of imposter syndrome. It’s about consent and boundaries; it’s about finding a balance between giving someone space and time, and giving them a push when they need it. It’s about the painful fizzy joy of a new crush, about the solidity and support we get from platonic friendships, about feeling lost when family dynamics change.
It’s about the power of fashion, about the confidence gained from liking the way we look, and Spalding does a great job of showcasing Abby’s very particular style—and the care she takes in her own appearance—without suggesting that her way is the only way to be, without judging people who don’t share the same interests as somehow lesser, or wrong. And—and—there is a beautiful arc about fat positivity: about the disconnect between knowledge and emotion, about how we internalize prejudice, about how hard it can be to give ourselves the same care and understanding and love that we extend to others.
In addition to running a library in rural Maine, Leila Roy blogs at Bookshelves of Doom, is currently serving on the Amelia Bloomer Project committee, is a contributor at Book Riot, hangs out on Twitter a lot—possibly too much—and watches a shocking amount of television. Her cat is a murderer.