Book giveaway: Allie Larkin’s ‘Why Can’t I Be You’

Why Can't I Be YouThrough divine providence (or a postal mix-up?), I’ve come to possess an extra copy of Allie Larkin’s Why Can’t I Be You — a book I read and really enjoyed last month. This story of friendship, mistaken identity and coming into your own resonated with me . . . and perhaps it’s time for it to resonate with you! (And early, too; the book publishes later this month.)

One randomly-selected winner will get a brand spankin’ new paperback copy, sent over by yours truly — and to enter, simply fill out this brief form. I’ll choose a winner via at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, and email them for their mailing address. U.S. entrants only, please. Good luck!

(Comments closed to avoid confusion!)

EDIT on 2/07: Congrats to Nicole, our randomly-chosen winner! Nicole, I’ve emailed you.

Book review: ‘Why Can’t I Be You’ by Allie Larkin

Why Can't I Be YouJenny Shaw knows awkward. After she’s unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend at an airport (and at the curb, no less), the PR executive must put on a brave face to make it through a business trip to Seattle. Far from home and reeling from the betrayal, Jenny’s ardent wish is to be someone else — and somewhere else.

When the friendly Myra mistakes her for an old friend at the hotel where a high school reunion is taking place, Jenny temporarily becomes Jessie Morgan — the no-nonsense, outlandish and adventurous young woman a group of friends remember from ten years before. Under the guise that she’s gotten a nose job, Jenny easily sinks into Jessie’s role and basks in the camaraderie of having companions. But as the truth of Jessie’s past and disappearance unravels, so does Jenny’s identity — until she’s not sure where one woman ends and the other begins.

Allie Larkin’s Why Can’t I Be You is a fast-paced story centering on the importance of friendship. Larkin’s second novel, preceded by the lovely Stay, has similar themes: an awful break-up; a plucky heroine going through A Time (both Jessie and Jenny); a dog whose presence soothes others. The author’s trademark wit has created another cast of fully-realized characters that resonated with me — especially after I focused on suspending my disbelief.

Because that suspension? It’s a little necessary. The premise is that a woman from 3,000 miles away can impersonate someone else so well that a cast of old friends can’t spot the imposter. Physically similar but with seemingly little else in common, Jenny impulsively allows herself to be seen as Jessie because she’s lonely, adrift and unfulfilled. She doesn’t like her job, doesn’t think she’s in the right field, isn’t sure her one good “friend” is really a friend at all. Being embraced by a new circle allows her to feel, for the first time, how the warmth of friendship can color a whole life.

And I didn’t blame her for it. That was the weird part: I guess I should have been skeptical or worried for Jenny, thinking she was a colossal idiot for becoming an unwitting identity thief. But it was obvious that Myra, her newfound best buddy, was also searching for something: Jessie. The only rational explanation for why a group of people were completely duped into accepting Jenny is that Jessie herself had disappeared in a cloud of mystery, and they really wanted to see her again — so they did. Myra, Fish, Robbie and Heather each missed Jessie for a different reason, so they saw what they wanted to see.

I felt awful for Jenny. From the moment she’s ditched at the airport, I felt a kinship with her — and that is Larkin’s skill. Her female narrators are your buddies who can’t get their stuff together . . . but it’s not entirely their fault. Though I bonded more with Van in Stay, Jenny/Jessie was an interesting character — someone who became confident through the shared belief that she was confident. It’s the classic “fake it ’til you make it” — this thought that Jenny changed because of who the Seattle crew believed her to be. I kept waiting for the Big Reveal — for the shoe to drop — and that kept me in suspense. Quite simply, I had to know she was going to fix this.

Why Can’t I Be You is a transformation story — and a very satisfying one. Seeing Jenny’s progression was a treat, and I finished the book with a pleased head nod. Though I thought the subplot love story was just okay, I really appreciated that the true love story was of the platonic variety. Just go with the flow and allow Larkin’s ode to friendship to pluck at the heartstrings.

3.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0452298377 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Digital review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review

Book review: ‘Stay’ by Allie Larkin

After suffering through the wedding of her two best friends, Savannah Leone is struggling to pull herself up from a black hole. It’s not enough that she had to suffer the indignity of wearing pumpkin orange at the nuptials, after all; she had to also nurse a case of serious unrequited love for the groom. Van met Peter before he ever met Janie, her close friend since childhood, but there was no stopping the wheels of affection once Pete and Janie met.

Devastated and feeling as if she’s lost them both, Van slides away from her maid of honor duties and retreats to her Rochester home. An evening of overindulgence leads Van to a website where she searches for a new life mate. Lonely and still grieving for her mother, a kind housekeeper who died years before, Van decides that the best way to bring someone new into her life is to buy him.

But it’s not a mail-order groom service . . . it’s a dog site. And with a few drunken clicks and her credit card, Van is now the proud owner of a German shepherd. But Joe has about 60 pounds on the tiny pup she was expecting to bring home in a cardboard box . . . and that’s to say nothing of that fact that Joe seems to only obey commands in Slovak. Bewildered, Van takes Joe to the vet and meets Alex, a handsome doctor with a crooked smile and heart of gold. But it’s far from happily ever after as Joe makes Van’s life endlessly interesting . . . and things get far more complicated.

Oh, Allie Larkin. How I loved Stay. Nevermind that I’m a total dog lover who thinks her golden retriever has human qualities and really “gets” her. Or that I’m a sucker for love triangles and tales of first love, especially when they’re coupled with the struggles and triumphs of modern dating.

This is just a really great book.

Stay surprised me in the absolute best way possible. I’ll admit that I accepted a review copy based solely on that adorable pup on the cover (don’t judge) and expected a light romp filled with dog anecdotes. Though Joe is a central character in this novel, of course, he’s not the novel; this is definitely Van’s story. And Joe is one of many delightful, unexpected and warm characters in this heartfelt book.

I read about 80 pages of this one before realizing I was completely hooked, and then? This was a stay-up-until-you’re-done and grab-whenever-you-have-30-free-seconds read for me. I absolutely fell head over paws for Joe, sure, but who wouldn’t? The real hero here was Alex, who I thought just walked on water. His friendship with Louis, an 80-year-old charmer, just clinched it all for me. Louis himself was a warm, funny and charismatic character I just wanted to squeeze, and the affection between the two of them was awesome. Alex is a man’s man, yes, but he’s also a sweet soul who takes care of injured animals all day.

And their owners, too.

Van is just the sort of real character we all know and love. She’s strong in many ways but weak in others. Bereft of any true family after her beloved mother’s passing, she’s very lonely but unsure of how to change that. Her propensity for alcohol keeps her from making smart decisions, but time and experience shape her into a new woman. She realizes her limitations and is vulnerable, but she’s not afraid to go after what she wants.

Every time I thought Van would shirk confrontation or lay down like a doormat, she surprised me. Even when things were decidedly not working out the way she had planned, she was the perfect blend of tactful but firm. (Though I did love it when she lost her cool on Diane, Janie’s controlling mother. F-bombs everywhere. I dug it.) Van is the sort of character you root for and love, even when she’s screwing everything up. You know deep down that she’ll get her act together. And she does.

Who didn’t I like? Peter, actually. For all of Van’s devotion to her college best friend and object of complete desire, Peter seemed — for most of the book — like an oblivious jerk. But like nearly everyone in Stay, he’d redeemed himself by the close. All my ire melted away when he finally, finally came through for our girl Van.

Exploring grief, loss, friendship, the nature of family and love itself, Stay was a book I adored from start to finish. I’ve heard it described as a cross between Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed and Claire Cook’s Must Love Dogs, and I would heartily second that nomination. A warm read for more than just the women’s fiction or dog lover — a spirited, unique debut that definitely caught my attention.

4.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0452297125 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review