What we’re reading: Novak, Clements & Datta

Each week we bring you a sample of the books we’re reading, the films we’re watching, the television shows we’re hooked on, or the music we’re loving.


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Lian Hingee is reading The View Was Exhausting by Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta

The funny (not really) thing about the romance genre is that there’s a certain subset of people that assume that romance readers are a bit dim, or uneducated, or anti-feminist; when in reality the complete opposite is true. There’s been a bunch of think-pieces lately that have pointed out the inherent misogyny, literary snobbery, and outright short-sightedness of scoffing about what is – quite seriously – the book industry’s unloved golden goose. What helps more than articles about how romance books are actually feminist, and politically aware, and smart, and sexy, and witty, and wonderful, is romance books that sneak into the shelves of snooty independent bookshops masquerading as ‘general fiction’ and prove that the romance genre can be feminist, and politically aware, and smart, etc etc. The View was Exhausting by Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta is one such book.

Win Tagore is an up-and-coming film star who’s had to work ten times as hard as her peers to overcome Hollywood’s inherent racism. When a nasty break-up lands her in hot water, she brings in long-time friend and co-conspirator Leo Milanowski to help repair her image. Win and Leo’s on-again, off-again love affair has been making publicity headlines for years, but the red-hot chemistry between them is completely fabricated… or is it? While Win is trying carve out a career for herself as a POC in an overwhelmingly white industry, Leo – rich, white, blithely unaware – is simply happy to play along. But things begin to spiral out of control when a secret that Leo has been hiding is revealed, and Win’s carefully constructed public image comes crumbling down.

Clements and Datta have created a wonderful contemporary romance in The View Was Exhausting – the chemistry between the two characters is palpable, the challenges they face utterly plausible, the dialogue is witty, the politics are razor-sharp, and they’ve managed to squeeze in some of the most beloved rom-com tropes (Fake dating! Friends to lovers! Stuck together! Forbidden Love!). If you loved the chemistry in The Hating Game, read it. If you loved the glitz and glamour of Crazy Rich Asians, read it. If you’ve never read a romance book because you think they’re trashy, READ IT.


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Jackie Tang is reading The Last Graduate by Naomi Novak

For anyone who loves magical school stories, Naomi Novik’s Scholomance series is an absolute must-read, and I’m not just saying that because I want people to speculate about the brain-melting cliffhanger at the end of book two with me — definitely not. After the heart-racing finale of the first book (A Deadly Education), I was dying to get my hands on this sequel and return to the Scholomance for our snarky hero El’s graduating school year.

Scholomance is a magical academy with no teachers, incredibly high death rates and an endless scrolling catalogue of monsters out to devour the students in horrifying and inventive ways. The result is a student cohort honed to think only of individual survival. Everything you do becomes tactical – if you want a favour, you’d better have something of equal value to offer in return – and you don’t make friends, only allies. Graduation is the pointy end of the stick (only half the graduating class survive the school’s exit hall which is basically filled monsters that treat it like an all-you-can-eat buffet) so El and her friends are training as hard as they can. But of course, you wouldn’t expect things to go smoothly for El, not when there’s a doomsayer prophecy made about her being the Great Destroyer and the school itself seems out to get her.

The Last Graduate is an absolute roller-coaster of shifting allegiances, inventive world building and Big. Plot. Twists. I was bouncing around on the sofa reading it, dodging along with the characters in the action scenes and flying through the pages desperate to reach the end. In a year of grimness, a trip to an eldritch school of horror turned out to be exactly the fun romp I needed. I highly recommend you sign up too!

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The View Was Exhausting

The View Was Exhausting

Mikaella Clements, Onjuli Datta

$32.99Buy now

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