BOOK REPORT for Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey

Cover Story: Cutesy
BFF Charm: Nay
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: No Spark
Bonus Factor: Charming World
Relationship Status: Failed Connection


Cover Story: Cutesy

This seems very on-trend right now in this world of rom-coms/chick lit/women’s fiction/whatever you want to call this genre. Bright colors, cute drawings, fun typography. Something that tells you, “everything is going to work out this in story!” The faceless people are a little creepy and makes it feel like it’s not quite finished, though I’m guessing it was meant to be more allegorical.

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The Deal:

Annie’s life is comfortable, but she’s stuck in a rut. She longs to be the next Nora Ephron, but instead she’s writing how-to articles on the internet and spending her free time at the coffee shop where her best friend, Chloe, works. She wants to find love, a man just as perfect as Tom Hanks is in all of his romantic comedies she’s obsessed with, but no one seems to be hitting that mark.

When a new rom-com is announced to be filming right there in her town, her uncle Don tells her the director is an old college buddy, and, best of all, he can pull some strings to get her a job as the director’s assistant! Then Annie literally runs into Drew Danforth, the comedic actor who is trying to break into leading man territory, and she instantly dislikes him. He’s rude and never serious, and there’s no way some actor who is only pretending to be as good as Tom Hanks could actually be her Tom Hanks…right?

BFF Charm: Nay

I must confess a secret: I kind of hated Annie. I was rooting for her at first. She is the down-on-her-luck, slightly sad-sack leading lady that we know could shine with the right amount of confidence and the love of a good person. But the more I got to know her, the less I wanted her to succeed. Instead of a man, I think what she really she needed was a therapist. Her persistent delusions about what real love looks like—it’s rarely a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie, let me tell you—and her judgmental attitude really turned me off.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Just call my heart a pat of refrigerated butter, because nothing about this romance made it melt. Drew and Annie’s meet cute was milquetoast: she runs into him outside a coffee shop and spills coffee all over him, then runs away. When they meet again on set, Drew makes some joking remarks about their previous encounter and calls her, wait for it because it’s SO offensive…Coffee Girl. Annie is LIVID. She HAS A NAME.

Sigh. This all would’ve worked much better if the writing was clearer, because the way Drew is described, he doesn’t sound mean or dismissive so much as, let’s say, gently teasing. Who wouldn’t give a little side-eye to a woman who dumps coffee on them and then won’t apologize before she darts away? But Annie instantly hates him and projects all over him that he’s too cocky to ever be a Tom Hanks.

Yet every time we see Drew—and, remember, this is all in the first person from Annie’s perspective—he’s never really written as a horrible-sounding human. Sure, he gets annoyed at her standoffishness, but his smiles and jokes that Annie interprets as “mocking” in her head always seemed to this reader as, well, not. The misunderstanding in the third act also just fell flat for me, but that could’ve been because of my earlier disillusionment with the romance.

Talky Talk: No Spark

I tried really hard to love this book. It seemed tailor-made for me: plenty of references of beloved rom-coms; two leads who, at first, can’t stand each other; an author I’ve read and enjoyed in the past (I love Winfrey’s Tumblr, A Year of Romantic Comedies.). But in addition to my issues with the romance itself (as stated above), I struggled with the extremely annoying main character and her perspective. Since so much of a rom-com depends on having a likeable—or at least relatable—leading lady, ours was a love affair doomed from the start.

Bonus Factor: Charming World

What the author DID do right was create a homey little biosphere in which her characters could exist. The little town was quaint, and Annie lived in a cute Victorian house with her uncle where he played D&D with a cast of nerdy but delightful friends. She also had her very own “place” where she could go and see her friends and talk about her problems in the form of Nick’s, the coffee shop where Chloe worked. It served the purpose of throwing together characters (everyone on the movie set is apparently addicted to caffeine, so people like the director and the actors were always showing up), giving us one of those vaguely amusing tertiary characters who says wacky things everyone else always ignores, and providing a public backdrop to Annie’s awkward blind dates. (I did like her friend Chloe and HER it’s-obvious-they’ll-get-together-in-the-next-book flirtation with Nick, the coffee shop owner, but I do worry that when she becomes the main character I may no longer care for her.)

Relationship Status: Failed Connection

I saw you across the way, Book, and I felt it. The hint of something promising. This was the start of something new! But after getting to know you, I realized despite some common interests, we are two very different people. This thing between us isn’t going to work, so, hey, have a good life. Elsewhere.

Waiting for Tom Hanks is available now.