Hi friends! Today I’m coming to you with a review of “The Make-Up Test” by Jenny L. Howe, which came out this last Tuesday (9/13).
A digital ARC of “The Make-Up Test” was provided to me by St. Martin’s Press/SMP Romance via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Read on to check out the official synopsis of the book, my review, and a bit about the author!
ONE TO WATCH meets BEACH READ in this smart, swoony, romantic comedy, in which two college exes find themselves battling against each other—and their unresolved feelings—for a spot in a prestigious literature Ph.D. program.
Allison Avery loves to win. After acing every academic challenge she’s come up against, she’s finally been accepted into her dream Ph.D. program at Claymore University, studying medieval literature under a professor she’s admired for years. Sure, grad school isn’t easy—the classes are intense, her best friend is drifting away, and her students would rather pull all-nighters than discuss The Knight’s Tale—but she’s got this. Until she discovers her ex-boyfriend has also been accepted. Colin Benjamin might be the only person who loves winning more than Allison does, and when they’re both assigned to TA for the same professor, the game is on.
What starts as a personal battle of wits (and lit) turns into all-out war when their professor announces a career-changing research trip opportunity—with one spot to fill. Competing with Colin is as natural as breathing, and after he shattered her heart two years ago, Allison refuses to let him come out on top. But when a family emergency and a late night road trip—plus a very sexy game of Scrabble—throw them together for a weekend, she starts to wonder if they could be stronger on the same team. And if they fall for each other all over again, Allison will have to choose between a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and what could be a twice-in-a-lifetime love.
Charmingly bookish and unequivocally fat positive, The Make-Up Test embraces the truth that people can sometimes change and grow, even when you least expect it.
Fat positive lovers to enemies to rivals to lovers? Uh, YES PLEASE.
“The Make-Up Test” was such a delight of a book to read and while it gave me the swoony rom-com moments, it also packed an emotional punch outside of the romance between Allison and Colin.
The first thing I must say about this book is how often I teared up and cried during it because the author did such an incredible job focusing on the outside stressors of Allison’s life, not just the conflict between her and Colin. Sometimes rom coms can be very romance heavy, meaning the book tends to get relationship tunnel vision–our main character’s love life becomes their life. While there’s nothing at all wrong with romance novels with heavy romance (why else would I seek out this genre if not for romance), it’s always a joy to see a well balanced and rounded character. We got to be alongside Allison as she struggled with teaching, her grad program, and her familial relationships, specifically her parents. I cried alongside Allison quite a lot because of how well we got to know her.
Colin, Allison’s love interest, was a gem. Of course, I did hate him on Allison’s behalf for a good portion of the book, but man was I rooting for him at the same time. He had a lot of character growth, and most of my hatred simply stemmed from the miscommunication trope which obviously is the way the story moves along, so I don’t fault the author that any bit.
I loved that this book was definitely fat-positive, and I think both fat and straight-sized people will find something within it. And while there was a lot of fat positivity going on, there was definitely was fatphobia and emotional abuse depicted in the book, but it was handled honestly and with care.
Back to the rom com aspects of the book, perhaps my favorite part was the traditional end-of-the-book grand gesture we typically get from one of the love interests trying to apologize or make up for a mistake. I’m not going to spoil anything, but it was definitely one of the most unique grand gestures I’ve ever read and not something I was at all expecting. I loved it.
Overall, “The Make-Up Test” was swoony, adorable, emotional and wonderfully written. It has been immediately added to my list of favorite rom coms starring fat women. I can’t wait to read more from Jenny L. Howe in the future.
★★★★☆ (4/5 stars)
About The Author
Jenny L. Howe first started scribbling stories into black-and-white composition notebooks with neon pink pens when she was in junior high and never really stopped. In college, she decided to turn her love of books into a career by pursuing a Ph.D. in literature, where she spent the next few years studying bizarre and entertaining medieval romances. Now, as a professor, she teaches courses in college writing, literature, and children’s media. When she’s not writing and teaching, Jenny spends her time buried under puzzle pieces, cross-stitching her favorite characters, and taking too many pictures of her rescue dogs, Tucker and Dale. The Make-Up Test is her debut novel.