If you’re looking for a rave review of Abby Jimenez’s The Friend Zone, I encourage you to keep on scrolling. This isn’t going to be one. And in order to articulate why this one didn’t work for me, I will have to go into SPOILER territory. Consider this fair warning….
The story starts off with a meet-cute for Kristen and Josh, with a minor fender bender involving her best friend’s fiancee’s new truck and Josh’s car. Before too long, it’s revealed that they are both a significant part of their best friends’ wedding party and are suddenly thrown together to spend large amounts of time.
Kirsten is an independent business owner, making accessories for dogs including staircases to get up on beds. Josh needs a little extra income after his ex stiffed him with the bills for fixing up the house they shared. So, Josh starts working for Kristen and the sparks are starting to fly.
Except as with all good romance stories, there are a few obstacles. One is that Kristen is in a long-term relationship with Tyler, a soldier who has been deployed for much of their time together. But he’s coming home and planning to move in with Kristen, even if the best friends don’t necessarily think Tyler is the right fit for Kristen. Then, there’s the issue that Kristen is facing a hysterectomy and won’t be able to have kids of her own — and Josh comes from a large family and wants a large family of his own someday.
My issues with the story begin early as Kristen slowly becomes unlikeable due to a number of issues. One is that she begins to emotionally connect with Josh, getting to know each other as he builds steps and takes care of her when her house is nearly broken into and the police can do nothing. It even goes so far as Kristen ignoring calls from Tyler because she wants to spend a final few days with Josh before Tyler gets home.
And once she believes Tyler has broken up with her, she’s quick to jump into a friends-with-benefits situation with Josh, even though he repeatedly displays traits of wanting more with her. Kristen’s thoughts on this are the family situation and how Josh would reject her if he knew of the surgery she faces. There are multiple opportunities for both parties to sit down and talk about this like mature adults, but they are missed every time until it comes to a reason to keep these two apart — despite spending most of the book building them up as a nearly perfect couple.
It got to the point that I kept wanting to reach into the book, shake everyone, and tell them it was time to grow up and act like an adult.
Of course, this is all before the novel needlessly kills off Josh’s best friend and the fiancee for the wedding and brings Tyler back for a proposal that Kristen half-heartedly considers because she sees Tyler as the only choice since he says he doesn’t want kids. I get the that novel is trying to make Kristen come across as conflicted, but instead she comes across as less and less sympathetic as the story continues — even to the point that I started to actively root against her as the story progressed and think that Josh and Tyler both deserved better.
Needless to say, this ended up being one that I sped up a bit in the later half, just to finish. And I kind of wish I hadn’t because the novel’s final chapters undermine everything that comes before in a way I saw coming a mile away but honestly hoped Jimenez wouldn’t take — the miracle pregnancy.
This one is a terrible waste of potential. One of my least favorite reads of the year.