Title: Kind of Like Life
Author: Christina McMullen
Renee is excited about her move cross-country. She’s always wanted to live in New England, and now she not only has the perfect house and people who might become friends, but also guy she instantly falls for. But when fantasies become reality, and anything she can imagine can become real, a danger she never imagined surfaces . . .
This starts more like a typical fiction story, where the introverted, socially awkward Renee is discovering that life really did get better after a cross-country move. It’s not like life is perfect, but with friends to give her more of a place than she had back in New Mexico, and a hot guy who likes her, she’s finding the downsides easy to brush aside.
But this part of the story is playing out a lot like a really bad self-insert fanfic (although with admittedly very good writing). I kept hitting details that felt like terrible worldbuilding, and it was harder and harder to convince myself the fantasy portion would be worthwhile when the details initially presented looked like the plot would go a certain way.
And just when I’m eye-rolling hard enough to almost put the book down unfinished (super magical kiss with soul mate!!! Bleagh), the first big twist shows up and changes the rules completely. Because the fantasy is bigger and stranger than some wish-fulfillment fantasy/romance. This one will kill Renee if she can’t get to the truth.
Even then, her odds of surviving don’t look good.
The book immediately gets funnier, snarkier, and starts this glorious trip through all sorts of genres, worlds, and powers. Renee and Blake have all kinds of villains to fight. Zombies. Interstellar enforcers. Elves. And way more.
I love how the use of imagination allows for both an anything goes mentality, coupled with some hard limits. If she believes this is how things work, they will. But if she’s subconsciously believing otherwise (or if someone explains why something won’t work) the impossible goes back to being impossible. So there’s a weird balance that Blake and Renee need to work with—not enough information and one of them is going to inadvertently cause trouble, but too much and their biggest advantage won’t work.
And it leads to so much fantastic imagery. I’m particularly fond of the phoenixes, but I also found so much to laugh about throughout the book. They shift genres and expectations at the drop of a hat, and the story can pivot from flying spaceships with laser weapons to being pirates on a tropical island looking for treasure.
Overall I’m glad I stuck around long enough for the hook that changed the book from “interesting, but not really my thing” to “this is awesome.” I rate this book Highly Recommended.