Genres: Adult, New Adult, Romance, College Romance, Contemporary Romance
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Source: From the publisher
Harper is anxiously awaiting placement into a top oral surgery residency program when she crashes (literally) into Dan. Harper would rather endure a Novocaine-free root canal than face any distractions, even one this adorable.
A first-year dental student with a family legacy to contend with, Dan doesn’t have the same passion for pulling teeth that Harper does. Though he finds himself falling for her, he is willing to play by Harper’s rules.
So with the greatest of intentions and the poorest of follow-throughs, the two set out to be “just friends.” But as they get to know each other better, Harper fears that trading fillings for feelings may make her lose control and can't risk her carefully ordered life coming undone, no matter how drool-worthy Dan is.
Blood, gore, and extra-long roots? No problem. The idea of falling in love? Torture.
Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, but it doesn’t influence my opinion of the book nor the contents of this review in any way.
First of all, I fell in love with the idea of this book! I discovered it shortly after going on an academia/women in STEM TBR binge after reading The Love Hypothesis… and may have even found this book on Ali Hazelwood’s TBR before requesting the ARC. I love academic stories set in grad school or residency and I love reading about women in STEM! I’m not a STEM person at all, hello strategic communications and marketing major here, but I do enjoy reading about the passion for science-y subjects. I was excited, in the beginning. Here we have a Type-A (and anxious) female main character (in STEM – a dentist) who crashes into an attractive guy her same age but in his first year to her senior. She vows to help him recreate the project they annihilated and they become the closest of friends!! who secretly want more ✨
This sounds like such a promising recipe, it had all my favorite ingredients. I love that Mazey Eddings is a neurodivergent author committed to writing stories for every brain, not just neurotypicals. Unfortunately, all of this couldn’t make me fall in love with the book itself. It tried a lot of things that a I respect and had very important conversations around grief, love, family and mental health… but I just hated the romance, and that generally spoiled it for me. Here’s more specifics what I liked and didn’t like…
Beware of spoilers.
What I Liked …
- The #ownvoices rep in this book with regard to mental illness. I don’t know to what full extent, only that Harper is diagnosed with particular acronyms and that Mazey shares at least some of them, including anxiety. The Author’s Note was beautiful 💛
- The passion for dentistry was real. I read that Mazey Eddings was a dentist, so it all makes sense 😂 I still laugh when I think of Harper’s tattoo of a canine tooth because of it’s message of being “sharp and strong” and rooted, though. But the surgery and the technicals were interesting, and I have to say Harper seduced me when she held Dan’s face and gently named all his facial bones.
- The conversation surrounding Judaism and religion was very touching. I wish we saw more of this throughout the book and not just one poignant conversation and then one outing in the beginning, though.
- I learned so many new things in this book! Honey mushrooms (a wonderful analogy for anxiety and a fungi that’s 3 square miles… horrifying) and Maine Coon cats, which are huuuuge.
- The feminism and women-in-STEM rah-rah! Harper is a powerful human and I loved this scene.
- The scene at the end with Dan’s mom. It was healing and it felt real, and I appreciated this representation of loving someone who treats you badly. I just wish it was MORE than one scene and him ignoring her calls the rest of the book.
There are a lot of great things in this story! Little pieces that I loved and that propelled me through the rest of the book. I wish we had more of those things and less of… the following list.
She blinked up at him, her brow furrowed. “For what? I should thank you. You’re the one that bought the drinks.”
“For talking to me,” he responded, giving her arm a light squeeze. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
What I didn’t like …
- First, this book did my least favorite trope in the world. The woman gets drunk and is all “but don’t you want meee 🥺” after traumatic happenings only a few hours after explicitly saying she doesn’t want to sleep with the guy (she’s lying but that doesn’t matter). He’s trying to valiantly be a good guy and she strips off her clothes drunkenly. NO. NO. NO. PSA: this is NOT character development. A guy who doesn’t sleep with an intoxicated women isn’t a “good guy,” it’s not proof of his character or valor or whatever. THIS IS HUMAN DECENCY. The regularity with which I read this scene pisses me off. Drinking happens, boundaries lower, things get reconsidered, but do the scene right or don’t do it at all.
- The quirky group of friends. Harper was in a friend group of three other girls who were all clearly very close knit (Thu, Lizzie and Indira – who I believe are all getting their own book in this Untitled series) and I love them in theory. But something just didn’t click with me on them. They were outrageous and supportive and crossed boundaries with Harper’s happiness in mind, just like best friends do. But are we seriously pretending that they wouldn’t notice or know that Harper has such Chronic anxiety and is claustrophobic? I think the writing did them an injustice, there’s no way they wouldn’t notice consistently triggering their friend. They were only there to do something specific to the plot and were otherwise tossed aside and made to be completely oblivious.
- Harper and Dan’s relationship……. I got tired, okay. Harper’s hot-and-cold “I like you but we can’t, but let’s kiss, but we can’t, I love you but we can’t…” became annoying and I cheered when Dan made it clear he couldn’t be a pawn in her games and indecision anymore. But he had his own issues
- Dan just got shuffled around. He was at Dental school because his mom asked him to be to help her with her practice (something that never made sense, as help wouldn’t come until four years of dental school and then residency was completed) and he hated it, and then he was liberated when his mom did an about-face. It was inevitable that he would quit, but he only did so at someone else’s behest. All his struggles started because he gave up his freedom out of a sense of duty, and then had his agency returned to him by that someone else later on. This doesn’t necessarily feel healthy; he needed to grow and evolve and make these decisions/realizations himself.
- I love that the hero failed at something without first overcoming it. He was never meant to be in dentistry! I just wish he’d had these realizations for himself
- Dan, while being incredibly consistent throughout the rest of the book, also had these strange Alpha-Protector moments with the heroine. Every other page he was a calm supporter in every way, but he’d occasionally decide to throw feminism away and be a shouting white knight on her behalf, even when she didn’t want it. This was terribly inconsistent with who he was. He was also just a constant bubble of support and friendship and flirting, but really didn’t have his own personality. He was just so… lackluster. This is the perfect #bookboyfriend syndrome, where he’s just so obsessed with the heroine and so perfect that you forget to give him a personality.
- I… didn’t ship the couple. Dan forgave Harper farrrr too easily. She was awful to him, a couple times, and it was largely just brushed off (pun intended). He was putting in all this effort and it was not being reciprocated. I genuinely didn’t understand what he found SO attractive about Harper that he was willing to disregard everything else. I thought they were great friends and had a great time together, but I didn’t get that sense of more from him about her, like I did the reciprocal.
- I found Harper incredibly difficult. I appreciated her mental health journey and thought it was a fairly accurate representation of anxiety. Of course, as a disclaimer to my next few points, I realize that if Harper had everything figured out this book wouldn’t exist. There had to be a learning curve somewhere. But I didn’t like how hot-and-cold Harper was, constantly. Even outside her mental health, she was *all about Dan* and then would do absolutely no schoolwork for two or three days, and then it would trigger an episode. She never had any balance at all, it was either Dan or academics. I couldn’t help but feel that if she’d had a planner, triggers would have been avoided. It’s not that I felt her mental health journey was annoying or trite, but I find it doubtful that Harper, someone so strict on her rules, wouldn’t have some of these systems in place. A lot of it just felt forced to trigger an attack. And why was she blaming Dan??? With how shamed she was, I feel it would have been more on brand for her to shove all that inward and just push him away, but she was literally screaming at him in fury and blame.
- Mostly I just didn’t connect with the pacing. The beginning was funny, I connected with the characters, they had interesting conversations… and then it all just flatlined for the rest of the book with this constant back-and-forth. I read four books in the middle before deciding to pick it up again to complete my review.
I didn’t like this book much. But it suffered a lot of first-book syndrome, and I haven’t written the author off at all and do see myself picking one up again, just after some time. I was definitely in the minority for disliking this book, though. I felt similarly to this book as I did to the Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams (specifically book two, Undercover Bromance!), so if you liked those you’d probably like this one. Namely that it tries a lot of good things that I respect, but with limited success in my perspective.
Other college romances with nerdy heroines you may enjoy…
What are some of your favorite academic/college romances? Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments down below, I’d love to hear from you!