What If You & Me by Roni Loren
July 6, 2021, by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Review by Melinda
I really love parts of this book so much. This continues the Say Everything series and examines mental health, trauma, and disability in really interesting, yet romantic, ways, and I love all of that. I love that both Andi and Hill felt like real characters, they were fully fleshed out with realistic issues and flaws. Messy characters are my favorites, and these two were internally messy, with some real issues they were trying to work through.
Andi is a true crime podcaster who we met as a side character in the first book. She tries to stand out from the podcasting crowd by giving tips and lessons from each case she discusses and also applies these to her real life. She is dealing with some heavy PTSD from her previous boyfriend turning out to be a murderer…which, I mean, would give me some major issues I’d think. I’ve never considered before but how much would that screw up a person to find out the person you were sleeping with had murdered people? There’s a bit more to her experience, but she’s dealing with a lot of emotional baggage when she meets her new neighbor Hill. I really liked how well developed her anxiety was – I could feel it coming off the pages in waves. When Andi was trying to get a handle on it and talking herself down from an anxiety attack it could have been a real life scene from my life.
Hill also has his own emotional baggage with his ex and dealing with being newly physically disabled. He’s worried about how people will react to him, and how to still be productive with his disability. He has a lot of internalized ableism to work through about what it means to be a valuable member of society and that’s not a common storyline to see in romance and it’s one that Loren handled extremely thoughtfully. I liked that he had his own complete storyline, although his ex was a bit over the top in the beginning, and I was worried it was heading towards evil ex territory but it slowly veered away from that, thankfully.
My main issue with this book that I cannot let go of is that Andi mentions therapy – yay therapy! However, she specifically mentions that she cannot afford to go, which is a detail that I completely appreciated. This is a very real problem that so many people face. But Andi’s solution to this is to use her friend, who is a therapist, for free therapy. Her friend specifically says that she can’t actually do formal therapy because they’re friends and it’s a conflict of interest…but proceeds to basically conduct informal therapy. This consists of more than just listening to her as a friend. It bothered me so much because I know Roni Loren is previously a mental health counselor and this felt so wrong to me as someone who believes in therapy as a tool to use. I wish that it was handled in a different way, maybe that her friend helped Andi find resources for low income people, or a mental health group. I’m absolutely not saying solutions are easy for this but it felt extremely out of bounds to conduct therapy with her friend as the boundaries are so messy here. This may happen IRL but I was so worried about this I couldn’t stop thinking about it and focus on the plot.
I adored Andi and Hill working through their individual issues separately, and then together, to fall in love. Andi’s podcast, her fears, and how she uses those to make her podcast better, were a great aspect of the book. Their HEA was great, but I couldn’t get past my issue with the therapy in all honesty, but of course YMMV.