Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren

I’ve been struggling to write this Dating You/Hating You review for weeks, simply because I’m worried I won’t be able to convey how truly wonderful I thought it was. But I’m going to do my best, because this is a pretty worthy competitor for my favorite book of 2017. It’s funny, feminist, and a great example of a modern romance. I should also mention that this is a complete standalone and not tied to any of their previous series.

Onto the summary, which to me is the least important thing of this dang book.

Evelyn “Evie” Abbey and Carter Aaron (not to be confused with Aaron Carter) are talent agents in Hollywood. The meet at a mutual friends’ Halloween party, where they are the only single people in attendance. Naturally, they meet at the booze table. Both of them are dressed as Harry Potter characters.

It’s a nerdy, adorable meet-cute. Though they have chemistry, they both have reservations dating someone in the talent agency world. It’s a job that demands a lot of time and energy, not to mention that they work for rival agencies. But they exchange numbers, flirt via text, and agree to go on a date. Their date is a smashing success, but whatever post-date glow they have is quickly obliterated by finding out Monday morning that their agencies are merging.

And in terms of Evie’s position at work, well…THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE.

Their romance halts in its tracks once they realize they’re going to have to compete for the same position. Cue a battle-of-the-sexes prank war, but despite suddenly becoming each other’s arch nemesis via a pretty shitty boss, they still kinda like each other. A lot.

Whew, there we go.

Okay, first off, Evie is amazing and will go down in history as one of the best heroines I’ve read.

Evie loves her work and specializes in feature films. She’s also in her early thirties, making her older than Carter, who is twenty-eight. Her boss, Brad Kingman, is a dick of epic proportions and not in a good way. A few years ago, Evie had a client bomb in a huge movie and Brad frequently brings it up as a way of undermining Evie’s work and her current successes.

Brad also uses coded language to minimize and belittle Evie:

Circling back around his expansive walnut desk, Brad takes a moment to look at each of us in turn. “Have you met?”

I glance at Carter, offering a wan smile. “Yeah, we know each other.”

“See, this is what I’m talking about,” Brad says, “this is a team. Carter, I want you to know that Evie here has become my right-hand kid. Any questions you have, anything you need, Evie is the girl to talk to. Understand?”

I feel my cheeks warm under the simultaneous compliment and condescension of right-hand kid and the girl to talk to.

So far, I’ve been blessed that most of my career has allowed me to work under and with women. But I have had bosses who have called me “girl” or even “sweetheart.” It’s infuriating.

There’s also another moment later on, in the same scene, where Brad drops the bombshell that the company can’t keep both of them. They’ll have to work on a temporary basis and when their contracts are up for renewal, their work will be evaluated and a decision made.

Brad holds up his hands, motioning for us to let him finish. “Your compensation is comparable—which is why I have you both in here—and I don’t know if P&D will have the room to renew both contracts. At least not here in LA.”

We stare ahead, stunned. I can feel my face going red, my stomach twisting into knots. I’m five years older than Carter and have been doing this job in one form or another since I was nineteen. Judging from what I’ve seen, Carter is probably a great agent, but he’s only lived in LA for two years and is new to features. Like, today new. In what universe is our compensation comparable? Because he’s a man? Who knew a penis was worth so much?

Before the merge, Carter had worked in TV-literary, so it certainly wasn’t the exact same position for which he’s now competing. This is a great scene that shows women will often have to work twice as hard to try and get the same or even the barest recognition as their male counterparts.

At the risk of showering you with too many quotes, there’s another instance where Evie kind of loses it with Carter and he has this slow realization of how different things are for him. He never has to worry about being too pushy because he’ll be seen as ambitious, while Evie has to walk this fine line of being confident, but not smug. Aggressive, but not bitchy. Nice, but not a pushover. Evie’s work life is something that will resonate with many women, though I will warn you it’s incredibly frustrating to read, namely because we’ve all been there.

I liked Carter as a hero. He’s balanced. Not too demanding or domineering, but I wouldn’t classify him as a beta hero either. He’s stylish and smart. And man, the guy knows how to give an apology. Though Evie and Carter do get into a prank war of sorts, I never felt that it was malicious. It wasn’t career-ruining stuff. Instead, there was changing Carter’s coffee lifeblood to decaf or switching out Evie’s lotion for a self-tanner. Goofy stuff.

I had the lovely opportunity to talk with Christina Lauren at RT17 after they found my house keys that I didn’t know I had lost, and they told me nearly every ridiculous situation is based in truth. For example, Brad mistakes fancy dog treats as organic granola bars. And, yes, proceeds to eat them. This was a real thing that happened to a friend of CLo’s.

The one shortcoming of the book was Brad’s actions toward the end.

Twist-esque reveal
Brad was discovered to have been embezzling money and pinning it on Evie, who’s been planning the company retreat.

It was somewhat plausible, but a bit extra. Just having Brad being a sexist, power-hungry jerk would have been enough for me. There was already so much going on and with Brad being an integral component in fueling Carter and Evie’s rivalry, this reveal was unnecessary for me as a reader.

As we’ve discussed before, romance can be both progressive but still feature old-fashioned ideas. Some readers aren’t into surprise baby epilogues (don’t worry, there isn’t one here). Or books wherein the heroines who undergo the She’s All That treatment, where a makeover changes her whole life. My personal pet peeve in romance is when a heroine (I feel) compromises herself for the sake of the hero. There’s a difference between compromising for the betterment of a relationship, where two people both make changes. But then there’s the heroine compromising herself, changing her goals and adjusting her ambitions, while the hero does zilch. I’m happy to report this doesn’t happen here.

At the end, Carter and Evie decide to open up their own agency. Seeing as how they have experience in different aspects, with Evie in features and Carter in TV-literary, their contacts and breadth of expertise are complementary. I really couldn’t think of a more ideal ending, besides Evie being the boss at P&D and having inappropriate “performance reviews” with Carter.

Best of all, Evie is the heroine you want to cheer for, be best friends with, and she’d definitely come over at 2am after a date-gone-wrong for a good wine & kvetching session. While romance is well…about romance, it’s also about sharing women’s stories. Which brings me to what I truly loved about Dating You/Hating You. Evie is the star. It’s her story. She shines and Carter, as a character, takes a backseat. I didn’t feel deprived of the romance or felt that I was missing anything. He was a wonderful support for Evie, both as a partner for her and keeping the tension going for readers.

And while Evie’s was falling in love with Carter, I was definitely falling in love with Evie.

If you want the book-form of a great, contemporary rom-com (since those seem to be nonexistent from the theaters these days), Dating You/Hating You will scratch that itch. No, not just scratch it. Massage it. A full body, deep-tissue Swedish massage that will leave your bones feeling like jelly, where all you can do is close your eyes and let out a deep, satisfying sigh.

Brittany Murphy in Clueless, happy sighing

This book is available from:
Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren

June 6, 2017

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