Having previously read Nick Hornby’s books “A Long Way Down“, “About a Boy” and “High Fidelity”, I didn’t really have high expectations towards “Just Like You”. I have never rated any of the author’s books with more than 3 out of 5 ★ and his newest release can be classified within the same category. This one here was rather a case of being curious about a book because of its gorgeous cover and having stumbled across it during a short vacation in Cadiz.
Essentially the story focuses on an interracial relationship of a couple with quite a lot of differences: Them being within different social classes and having quite a wide age gap of approximately 20 years. The story takes place in England in 2016, so having the political background of Brexit. While sounding like something that could have potential and could have been interesting, it finally ended up being too loaded with clichés for my taste.
Why the rating of 2/5 ★? Even though I was extremely annoyed and disappointed by the book at times, I was still curious to finish reading it and find out how it ended (which was unfortunately not worth the 310 page wait). It wasn’t horrific, so I decided to spare it the 1/5 ★ and it does have one fitting setting of where to read it: during your holidays, on a beach, to let your brain shut off and take a complete rest. It might also have been the first sentences of the book which have captivated my attention, or a couple of quotes which I could relate with:
How could one say with any certainty what one hated most in the world? It surely depended on how proximate the hated thing was at any given moment, whether you were doing it or listening to it or eating it at the time.p. 3
Lucy understood it now. The referendum was giving groups of people who didn’t like each other, or at least failed to comprehend each other, an opportunity to fight. The government might just as well be asking a yes/no question about public nudity, or vegetarianism, or religion, or modern art, some other question that divided people into two groups, each suspicious of each other.p. 151
When going deeper into the details, I felt like there were quite a few problematic points within the story. Even though it felt like the story was meant to be told from a neutral perspective concerning racial dynamics, I felt like the author’s point of view of a white privileged male still came across. Especially when the main female character came up to her butcher (the future boyfriend to be, not a spoiler, since it’s completely evident from the very beginning on), asking him for advice on people to babysit her children and ending up hiring him for the night… Why should he be the expert on that?
“I’m looking for a babysitter for tonight, and I wondered if you knew any responsible young people around here.”
“I do quite a lot of babysitting. […] Except I can’t really do tonight.”p. 31
Other descriptions just seemed really weird and as if they didn’t go along with the described character, but were rather, once again, a white male’s assumption towards what they are supposed to be like. In this example, where the author was trying to describe how a 20 year old would dress up for going out:
Jaz had made an effort – she looked like someone who was going out on a date. She was wearing a tight spangly shirt over leggings, and there was glitter on her face.p. 81
To sum it up for you, I just don’t think that this book is worth your attention, unless you’re looking for a mediocre read. It’s another one of those overhyped bestsellers that ride on the wave of recent trends to create some attention for themselves.
Edition: ISBN 978-0-241-33857-5
Penguin Random House, 2020