The Best Possible Answer by E. Katherine Kottaras
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Published by: St. Martin’s Griffin
Format: ARC e-book
Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Academic overachiever Viviana has a panic attack that puts her in the hospital after the nudes she sent to her now ex-boyfriend completely destroy her life. As she tries to pick up the pieces, she gets a job at her apartment building’s pool and meeting a new group of friends who will help get her through. This sounds amazing, right? I was really pumped for this contemporary, I was all set to read it over the summer, but then life got in the way and I didn’t start until October and had to put it down for almost month before I finished. But I did. I eventually came back to it and realized why I might have put this down in this first place.
So, I have anxiety. Especially academic related anxiety. I constantly worry that I’m not doing enough or that I’m not clever enough compared to my peers, and I thought I would really be able to relate to Vivi, being your classic overachiever. But something was getting in the way. (Sidetone: this book made me understand just how difficult the college application process is in the US. It sounds completely different to what it is in the UK, so I spent half my time reading this thanking chance that I was born in the UK!)
The Best Possible Answer has a really interesting format, where the beginning of each chapter is a prompt for an essay or a tip for high school seniors. Initially, I was really excited for the format, but in the end it just turned out to be an excuse for clunky backstory/expositional passages (e.g. Let me tell you: All About My Best friend) which seemed more like a ‘previously in my life’ catch up before the main event.This is the kind of stuff that I like to learn organically through the speech, rather than having everything explained to me in one go. I’m not sure how well the format of college tips and advice even worked in the latter half of the story when it was more about Vivi’s family issues rather than her stressing out over college.
Did I like any of them? Yes, one. Mila, Vivi’s little sister, who’s basically a child genius, or at the very least, extremely perceptive of the world around her meaning she’s always underestimated. As I mentioned earlier, family is a really big part of this story and makes up one of the more important sub-plots. I found it incredibly difficult to like either of her parents because the dad was pushing her too hard to be perfect and they had really high expectations and standards for her life and behaviour even though we’re all human and make mistakes.
The new friends Vivi makes at the pool were fun but seemed very two-dimensional. The scenes that they were in seemed to me to just split up the rest of the melodrama with some much needed comic relief.
On to Sammie, Vivi’s BFF who was problematic on so many levels, and the way these two were treating each other throughout the whole story made me wonder if they really had been friends for a long time, because surely if they had they wouldn’t felt comfortable enough to actually share their problems with each other and be open about their feelings.
Finally, let’s actually talk about Vivi. I found her to be 100% too melodramatic. There’s one bit where she’s in an argument with a guy and she completely yells at him and then is all like ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and jumps into the pool with all her clothes on and swims about a bit. It’s not like she ran away. Everyone that was involved in the conversation can still see her and is probably thinking ‘what the heck?’ right now. (Plus, I prose was so eye-roll inducing sometimes, full of sentences like ‘I can’t take it anymore’, ‘I’m done’, ‘I’m broken and no one can fix this,’ layered on top of each other.) She was always running away from her problems instead of having good communication and not freaking out.
So, it’s insta-love. No doubt about it. Vivi knew Evan when they were in middle school and they played seven minutes in heaven and I’m supposed to believe that they’ve liked and remembered each other since then? This doesn’t mean it’s not insta-love.
Evan was pretty sweet, to be honest. He wanted to be there for Vivi as a friend but they needed to DTR a lot sooner, but they couldn’t because… Sammie AND Vivi are in love with him. Best friends fighting over a boy? NOOOOO. Had I known this was going to be a part of the story, I probably wouldn’t have read it. Both were ignoring the fact that Evan clearly liked V more, with V saying that Sammie should pursue him instead because V is done with boys. If this was really the case then V would’ve bowed out of the race, but of course it’s not and she ends up being a really shitty friend. It also makes Evan seem like a worse guy because he’s breaking Sammie’s heart in though he was never interested in her like that in the first place.
What I have to give props for, though, is the ending. It completely flipped by expectations on the head and I was relieved that it ended the way it did. It didn’t make up for the farce of the romance, but it at least didn’t go with the ‘love fixes mental health issues’ trope (or at least not love sole from a love interest, you need the support of family and friends), so THANK GOODNESS. I’m giving it an extra star just for that.
I went into this book thinking that I was going to LOVE it. Like this author was going to be my next Kasie West or Morgan Matson, but in the end I didn’t really like the writing style and though the story was jam-packed with subplots, I found I didn’t care about any of them as much as I should because I was expecting something very different. I gave The Best Possible Answer 3 stars.