The first time I heard the name Jen Rogue was from Erica. She had just ordered one of Jen’s—I mean J.R.’s—poetry books and was telling me all about her. Later that year, I ordered a custom poem from Jen’s Etsy store and was blown away by the product she produced. Even today, it is framed and prominently displayed on one of our walls.
So when the time came to pick another book for the blog, Jen’s book seemed like an easy choice. Even the title was intriguing: I Like You, I Love Her. I remember asking Erica, “What the hell does that even mean?” to which she responded that I had to read it to find out. Shady wife mind games! But it worked. I read it and am better for finding out the answers for myself.
The book revolves around the main character, Severin (cool name) who is also known as Sev, who returns to rural Kansas to deal with family matters and all that comes with returning to the town you grew up in. The story is told from dual timeframes—one as Sev is growing up and the other as Sev has returned home. These conflicting timelines can sometimes be tough. In my opinion, the author has to be really detailed in making sure information the reader gleans is done in the right time period. Jen does this with ease.
What stood out to me the most about Jen’s writing is the way she writes a male character. For good or bad, I can name about 10 different friends over the years that fall into the role of Ben or Bryan. They seem realistic and I definitely appreciate that. Few things are as challenging as reading a book where a guy does something and I think to myself, “Who in the hell is this guy?! This dude is fucked up/a complete psycho/totally unrealistic.” I didn’t feel that way with Ben or Bryan. I understood their personalities and what drove them to act certain ways, and even more importantly, they made sense.
The other part of this book that I loved is the style in which Jen writes. Some poets might try to jump into the world of a novel and write like a poet: “Her breath was as moist as the dewy spring air that clung to her underboobs like sticks of butter had been used instead of soap.” Okay, maybe that was a bad example. I am not a poet. But what I liked about this book is the way Jen describes various situations. For example, here are some of my faves:
“I do not like to be this fragile. I prefer sarcasm and wit. I prefer the way I can ward off the vulnerability that comes with opening up.”
“He cusses and I slam both of my palms to my face, ears ringing, eyes spitting salt already.”
“No one will care about your sadness as much as you do. No one will be as invested in it, fall apart for it, crumble with it. We all have our demons, and we will find people willing to hold our hands and help us, but no one can fight our battles for us.”
The only minor area I struggled with, at times, is that I got a bit confused on who was being quoted in dialogue. I don’t need every quote to say “he said” or “she said.” But maybe a few more? I found myself thinking I knew who was saying what, until I got to a line that didn’t make sense. Then I had to go back and read it again. But really, this is super minor and probably more user error than anything else.
Jen posted on Facebook recently that this book was originally intended to be light and fun, but that her personal life played into changing the dynamic. I don’t know what happened in her personal life, and I am sorry for whatever it is, but I do appreciate the impact it had on the story. There is a realness and sincerity that comes through the pages and for that, I am grateful.
I can absolutely recommend this book with no qualms at all.
Underboobs? Seriously? Okay, moving on…
One of my favorite things as a reader is seeing an author grow. When every book they write gets a little better, a little clearer, a little more polished and refined until they reach the holy grail: complete reader love and appreciation (otherwise known as five stars). We don’t give star ratings on this blog out of preference, but this book makes me reconsider, because it is absolutely a five-star read.
What I love about this book is what I always love about Jen’s writing: she invites poetry into her prose. I highlighted so many lines. Here are a few of my favorites that, in my opinion, give nothing away:
“My dad says life is just choices. Roads we take. You can be the passenger, you can let someone take the curves for you, and just hang on. Or you can take the wheel. Take control.”
“People are always so worried about pulling the Band-Aid off so they choke on their truths, let lies spill out.”
“I try to comfort her. I try to be the one giving, not the one taking. My sponge sister and all her worry.”
“I’ve glued together a story. Pieced their scraps into something readable. I need stories, true or fiction, it doesn’t matter, to distract from my own.”
I’m not surprised that Matt had different favorite quotes, because there is so much beauty in this book. There are so many other lines I could share, but they are too telling. Just…when you read this (because you really must read this), give yourself the time to highlight. This is not a get-to-the-end-as-fast-as-possible book. It needs to be savored. It deserves to be savored.
It’s easy to savor, too, because of Jen’s steady pacing. There are no hills and valleys in this book. Everything feels natural and smooth and easy. This isn’t an angsty read where you have to know what happens next. No, instead you want to know what happens next. You become invested in the characters not because they cause you distress but because they are real and relatable, even raw.
What Matt said about the male perspective in this book is spot-on. Jen’s voice for them is so genuine and believable, you’d think a man actually wrote those lines. She’s able to get into Ben’s and Bryan’s heads and give them each a personality that is masculine and different from one another.
But perhaps my favorite thing about this book is the way it all comes together in the end. Questions are answered, motivations are revealed, characters make choices. It left me feeling satisfied. As though Jen had tucked me in at the end of a long day and turned off the light. I’m ready for sleep. I’m ready for these words of hers to be the last I think about.
And think I will. I will be thinking about this book for a long time to come. Because it made me nostalgic, gave me a sense of longing, and made me want to go back in time and make different choices—be a little more brave and a lot more self-aware. The power of a good read is in its ability to change minds and cause reflection. I Like You, I Love Her did both for me, and I’m thankful to have read it.
I definitely agree with Erica saying that the pacing of the book is smooth and appropriate. It is a continuous build and I like that. It makes the ending satisfying, and while most questions are answered, some are left to the reader to determine. I like books like that.
When we started this blog, we didn’t want to do starred reviews, mainly because we just wanted to share our opinions and let others determine if the book sounded good to them. It is challenging in what makes something a truly five-star review. As Erica later explained to me, sometimes you have to be in the right mindset, in the right place, for everything to click. That being said, I do understand why she says it would be a five-star read. It’s hard for me to agree with that. Nothing against Jen, but I prefer not to rate the book in stars.
Now that we have that out of the way, I just need to take a second and call out the fact that Erica just wrote that she felt like Jen tucked her in at night after a long day and turned off the light. Uh…hmm… The typical guy in me wants to know if they kissed good night? Did they snuggle? What else happened as she drifted off to sleep? Is that why she said “Jen!” in the middle of the night last night? I know I know, the domesticated version of me understands what she meant…maybe. Muahahahahaha.
Let’s end with one of the best quotes ever:
“‘I’ll say as such as I want to.’ She stuck her tongue out at me.
‘That didn’t make sense.’
‘Your face doesn’t make sense.’”
Whether or not your face makes sense, go get this book.
To purchase a copy of or read the synopsis for J.R. Rogue’s I Like You, I Love Her, click here.