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Book Review: Every funny girl wishes for a "Romantic Comedy"

Did anyone else grow up watching Saturday Night Live and realize how much the crass humor impacted them as adults? Just me? Curtis Sittenfeld’s newest novel, “Romantic Comedy,” is a love letter to the girls who grew up watching SNL and made it their entire personality.

As a sketch writer for the late-night live comedy show, “The Night Owls,” Sally Milz should be content with her career success and family. Yet, her love life is a lackluster disaster.

When Sally’s fellow writer and friend Danny starts dating a dazzling actress, he is suddenly part of a group of average-looking but talented men who’ve swung out of their league and dated stunning and successful women. Rather than doing some self-reflection like most rational people, Sally writes the “Danny Horst Rule” sketch––a comedic spin on the phenomenon that points out the slim possibility of this occurring for a woman.

Along comes pop superstar Noah Brewster and TNO’s guest host for the week. Charismatic and boyishly handsome, Sally is taken aback by his charms as they work throughout the week on sketches. But this is reality, not one of her beloved romantic comedies, and he couldn’t possibly be attracted to her…right?

But when Sally and Noah reconnect during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sally is hit with the reality that Noah might feel the same but is in denial that a pop star could date an awkward comedy writer.

I resonated deeply with Sally’s insecurities and awkwardness, especially when she and Noah began to hit it off. Relatable and a clever comedian, Sally perfectly encapsulates contemporary women and doesn’t hold back from owning her weirdness and (at times) gross humor. Although an unattainable celebrity, Noah is a delightful and charming love interest juxtaposing Sally’s quirkiness. And don’t forget the genuinely hilarious sketches Sally writes and the humor sprinkled throughout, so be prepared for some internal (or external) laughter.

“Romantic Comedy” tackles the nuances of beauty standards, power dynamics, and dating with whip-smart commentary. The commentary on the double standards of dating and beauty really hit home for me, especially the judgment that seems to always follow dating.

And yet, I found Sittenfeld’s writing style too reminiscent of my 8-year-old self’s diary pages. Recounting Molly’s moment-by-moment actions detracted from my reading experience and left me paying more attention to Sittenfeld’s writing than the story. Maybe I just haven’t gotten used to Sittenfeld’s style. Still, as someone who read exuberant amounts of terrible fanfiction in middle and high school, it’s hard to redeem a book when it reminds me all too well of my old love for Harry Styles fanfiction.

Additionally, the pacing was a bit uneven. Still, it was to be expected following the play-by-play of a late-night comedy show and, later, the pandemic. And maybe I’m crazy for saying this last gripe, but it felt too predictable? I wish there were some drama! Some flair! A good plot twist! But alas, sometimes we have to accept the wholesome happy ending.

Clever, laugh-out-loud funny, but too predictable for my taste, “Romantic Comedy” is a fun read for my fellow fake comedians.

This ARC was provided by Random House and Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Follow @bergreadstoomuch on Instagram for more!

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