Wilder, Ava. Will They or Won’t They. Random House/Bantam/Dell, 2023. 384 pp. ISBN 9780593358979 $17.
Pam and Jim. Lorelei and Luke. Nick and Jess. The will-they-or-won’t they television trope involves two characters with #UnresolvedSexualTension that take a loooooong time to hook up (or maybe never do), and it’s related to the Zeigarnik Effect that postulates that people remember unfinished/interrupted tasks better than completed tasks: the interest in unresolved things is higher and keeps us watching (or reading).
Enter Lilah and Shane, who got their big break together (her after years of diligent showing up for auditions, cast in increasingly bigger productions), and him (unfairly!) from a discovery at his day job. Cast as attracted colleagues who never consummate the relationship on the paranormal television show Intangibles, their relationship deteriorates over the course of the show until she ditches in season five for a movie contract. It flops. Invited back for the finale (and unbeknownst to their complicated past), the producers intend for their characters to (finally!) hook up, but can Lilah and Shane make nice between scenes when they can’t seem to stand one another?
This well-told tale moves back and forth in time (spoiler: they didn’t always hate each other) and in the best of enemies-to-lovers fashion, lots of the angst is unresolved miscommunication, not meanness or pettiness or different values systems. The reader needs to suspend disbelief that the issues couldn’t have been solved with one open, honest chat, but it’s par for the course for the trope, and not entirely unrealistic that people don’t enjoy difficult conversations and fear rejection. The story feels light, but is grounded by mental health and body issues. Lilah is the one not into relationships, which is a bit of plot twist. The banter is fun, their connection emotional AND banter-y, and it was hard to put down. Recommended for fans of Once in a Blue Moon by Christina Laurens and Reunion by Kayla Olson (I have not yet read Wilder’s How to Fake it In Hollywood yet, but it’s queued up next in Audible!)
I received a free, advance reader’s review copy of #WillTheyOrWon’tThey from #NetGalley