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Book Review: "Good Girl Complex" is blander than a Midwestern dinner

Did you really fall into the lockdown, BookTok hole, if you didn’t read Elle Kennedy’s BriarU and Off-Campus series? I haven’t seen two series promoted more online than Kennedy’s best-selling hockey romance series. For many fans, her February 2022 release “Good Girl Complex” is a new era for Kennedy to go beyond just being a hockey romance writer.

After moving to Avalon Bay for college, Mackenzie “Mac” Cabot sets her sights on keeping her Internet business growing and playing the part of a dutiful daughter and girlfriend. One fateful night at the local bar throws local bad boy Cooper Hartley into her orbit–testing her limits and rational thoughts. Cooper soon realizes Mac isn’t another rich kid “clone,” and a friendship built on a secret blossom between the two. As Mac finally starts to be accepted in Cooper’s circle and in herself, the secret threatens to tear down everything the two have worked for since meeting.

Kennedy’s characters are often heartfelt and relatable to the point where you ask if they’re real. Yet, precocious Mackenzie and rakish Cooper fall flat compared to her beloved characters. Their chemistry–although explosive together–doesn’t make up for their bland, individual characteristics. Additionally, Mackenzie’s so-called “good girl complex” is rarely played upon in the novel and seems to be discarded after Cooper mentions it once.

Mackenzie and Cooper might be lackluster characters, but their underlying themes of personal growth, emotional abuse, and abandonment are written with Kennedy’s usual care and honesty. Nevertheless, the rest of the plot and the over-arching conflict is predictable from the first chapter and anti-climactic at the presumed climax.

The most disappointing part of “Good Girl Complex,” you might ask? The spice, the romance. The spice and sexual tension were blander than food at a Midwestern Thanksgiving dinner–which I have had the unfortunate pleasure to experience. If Mackenzie and Cooper’s relationship had been delayed a hundred pages and the sexual tension capitalized in the meantime, “Good Girl Complex” would have been infinitely more satisfying and swoon-worthy.

A lackluster release with minimal redeeming qualities, “Good Girl Complex” had the potential and foundation to be another of Kennedy’s swoon-worthy, steam-filled romance novels.

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