Review: 80s Mix Tape Anthology

80s mix tapeReviewed by Janell

So this is an anthology with stories based on 80s song titles. I’m not good at reviewing anthologies, I only got this because it has a Jenny Holiday story in it and, well, you know. *fangirl* To make this easier on myself, I didn’t read every story. Sorry. So, in case you’re interested, there’s a reunited lovers story, a reunited childhood friends story, a motorcycle club story, and a one-night-changing-everything story.

The Fixer by Jenny Holiday

This trope is a favorite of mine, even though I never knew it until I read this story: brooding/artsy boy with dark hair and bright eyes is worn down by the persistent perkiness of colorful girl. I can only recall one other book with this setup that I loved so hard, it’s a YA called Nevermore and I fell so hard for that guy, but then it became a cliffhanger trilogy all about dreams and reality, and the romance was horribly neglected, and I was so disappointed by the end. So thank you, Ms. Holiday, for redeeming this trope and making it So. Soul-sucking. Satisfying. Ahem.

Jenny is a senior, editor of the college newspaper, with eyes on becoming an investigative journalist. She believes that if she can save a campus building from demolition (with strongly-worded editorials and poorly-attended sit-ins), she’ll get into grad school with a prestigious fellowship. She needs outside assistance. Her college has a famous alumnus who is also a reclusive artist, and he’s mentoring an art student. Jenny plans to get to the famous guy through the art student.

Matthew is the art student. He arrived at college with a “genius” moniker and teenaged confidence. Four years later, he’s been overwhelmed by all he doesn’t know and questions whether he’ll even graduate, since his advisor doesn’t advise very well. He’s poor, starving, and solitary, and full of suppressed feelings.

Enter Jenny, bearing pizza and wearing teal and lemon yellow stripes, “look[ing] like she’d been barfed up by Rainbow Brite.” Jenny’s strategy is to follow Matthew around until she gets what she wants. She also comes bearing food a lot, because she’s observant. Matthew acts annoyed, but he secretly picks up on all of her quirks, like how she hates to be silent, and what makes her embarrassed, and how she never gives up.

This story also has an obnoxious frat guy that Matthew gets to punch, and sex with a contraceptive sponge, and big declarations of love. I mean, Matthew falls so hard. I loved that he barely tried to resist — there’s just this girl, and he wants her to be happy, and if he makes her happy, then he’s all in forever. Gush. Jenny’s awesome, too, with her plans and determination. She’s tough, she stands up for things, and she won’t let other people tell her what to do. She deserves a guy like Matthew who will worship her. I finished this story and could not get up off of my couch because I was so happy-book-sigh hungover. Gah.

Rating: A

Young Teacher by Bobbi Ruggiero

Julia runs her own ad agency, and she has no time for a personal life. She has a crush on the guy at the sandwich shop who fixes her lunch three times a week, but he’s young and cool, so it’s just a crush.

Matthew is in a band, teaches guitar on the side, and he works at at the sandwich shop to earn real money. He thinks Julia is pretty hot, and they talk about music. But she’s a professional and sophisticated, way out of his league.

They have a mutual friend, who gifts Julia guitar lessons from Matthew. Dun dun duuun! These two are pretty adorable how they dance around each other. Julia is a terrible guitar player, and she’s such a control freak that she gets frustrated during her lessons and can’t believe that Matthew doesn’t hate her. He just wants her to relax and not run away.

This was a fun, sweet story. I liked both characters, and their path to true love wasn’t very challenging so it fit the novella length perfectly.

Rating: B+

Just Like Heaven by Rachel Cowell

Sarah is a pre-med student with perfect grades. She’s supposed to have wanted to be a doctor for her entire life, although it’s definitely more her parents’ dream than hers. Josh is the TA for one of her biology labs, and he’s gorgeous. She crushes on him, of course, but he’s her teacher.

Josh wants to cure cancer, and he’s on a strict career trajectory. He definitely cannot have a relationship with one of his students. But he can’t hold back from flirting with Sarah when they bump into each other outside of class. And he can’t help kissing her even when he’s trying to tell her that they can’t fool around.

Both of these characters are cute and slightly awkward. They flirt over textbooks, they study at the library together. They smile goofily at each other. It’s perfect, except that they have bigger issues. Sarah’s parents monitor her very closely, and Josh still has his job to worry about. The story has a believable crisis at the end, but I wasn’t exactly happy with how it was resolved. Then it wrapped up without giving any insight into how Josh and Sarah would deal all the rest of their issues, so I felt like they still had a lot of work and growing up to do. It was well-done and compelling, though.

Rating: B

*ARC provided for review

Click to purchase: Amazon

80s Mix Tape
by Karen Booth, Gwen Hayes, Autumn Jones Lake,
Jenny Holiday, A.J. Pine, Bobbi Ruggiero, Rachel Cowell
Release Date: February 9, 2016
Publisher: Pink Kayak Press

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