26 September 2014

Review: One Plus One by JoJo Moyes

One Plus One by JoJo MoyesGood thing I do not have very strict rules about what I'm willing to read. If I did, I might not have given JoJo Moyes's delightful One Plus One a try.

Although I'm not a dedicated fan of contemporary women's fiction, I need to remember that some authors, like Moyes, can take the basic formula and create something fresh. The major plot points may offer few surprises, but the journey from one stop to the next is where to find the heart of this novel.

What's all about? Hardworking but poor Jess Thomas remains upbeat and hopeful even after her husband leaves her to raise their math-whiz daughter and his Goth-silent son all on her own. When ten-year-old Tanzie has a chance to go to private school on a partial scholarship, Jess is tempted to do something ethically questionable to give her daughter a bright future. Meanwhile, successful dot-com entrepreneur Ed Nicholls is accused of insider trading after he divulges information in a desperate attempt to break up with a clingy girlfriend. Of course, the Thomases hook up with Ed, who ends up driving them to Scotland so Tanzie can participate in a math contest (the prize money would pay her remaining tuition). As you can imagine, the road trip is full of adventures and personal growth as the four learn to ask for both help and forgiveness.

Plotting and characters. If you boiled One Plus One down to its bare bones you would find the typical story of girl meets boy, girl doesn't like boy, girl falls in love with boy, girl and boy have a misunderstanding, girl and boy finally get back together. Fortunately, there is a lot of meat on this skeleton, and Moyes adds depth and humor as she takes us through these phases of her newest novel. One of Moyes's strengths is her characters, and we fall hard for the flawed but good-hearted people who pile into Ed's car that fateful day. We cheer on Jess, whose attitude to all problems is, "We'll sort something out." We cross our fingers for Tanzie who loves numbers more than people and needs a safe place to thrive. We want to protect Nicky, who has been abandoned twice and is the target of the neighborhood bullies. And we wish we could straighten out Ed, who is caught between his loyalties and selfishness and never meant to do wrong. We can't wait so see what they'll learn about themselves and each other after being locked in a slow-moving car for days on end.

Themes, issues, things to think about. Through the personalities of and interactions among the four main characters, Moyes explores bullying, friendship, family, love, honesty, ethics, the socioeconomic divide, forgiveness, and parenting. Among several takeaway messages this may be the most prominent: No matter how independent and self-sufficient you want to be, it's not a weakness to ask for help when you really need it.

Overall thoughts and recommendations. Good characters, thoughtful issues, and plenty of humor make JoJo Moyes's One Plus One the perfect weekend read. Jess and the gang remind us that it's never too late to create the family we choose and through that family we find our strength.

Audiobook. One Plus One is told from multiple viewpoints, and the unabridged audiobook from Penguin Audio (12 h, 19 min) highlights this by using four narrators (one each for Jess, Ed, Tanzie, and Nicky). Elizabeth Bower, Ben Elliot, Nicola Stanton, and Steven France make a great team, each one nicely conveying his or her character's personality. All the narrators were new to me, and I'm not sure who read which parts, but the performances blended well together, making this an enjoyable listen.

Penguin USA / Pamela Dorman Books, 2014
ISBN-13: 9780525426585
Source: Review (both print & audio) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


rhapsodyinbooks 9/26/14, 7:53 AM  

I don't think she exactly falls into the "women's fiction" category, if only because Jim has read two of her books, this one and Me Before You, and really liked both of them. I wouldn't even try to get him to read a "typical" women's fiction book. I think her writing and characterization maybe puts her more into the "lit fiction" category (NOT that I know what the line might be between the two, but it often looks to me like if you have a male narrator, the book is more readily characterized as lit fiction as opposed to "genre writing.")

bermudaonion 9/26/14, 8:06 AM  

This doesn't seem like your typical fare but Moyes writes with a lot of heart so I can why you enjoyed it.

Beth F 9/26/14, 8:07 AM  

@Rhapsody: I guess it's the formula of girl meets boy and then hates, loves, hates, love that makes me think of chick lit or romance. Regardless of genre (or not) I liked it!

nishitak 9/26/14, 8:24 AM  

I am not a big fan of contemporary women's fiction either and I've never read any of her books, but this actually sounds quite nice. I like that the formula is there, but the story is a lot more than just adhering to the formula. Thanks for the review!

Les 9/26/14, 10:14 AM  

I love Me Before You, but was quite lukewarm about The Girl You Left Behind. This one sounds like one I might enjoy. Great review!

Daryl 9/26/14, 12:17 PM  

i am so glad you liked it .. i really love Moyes and this is right up there with You Before Me .. the other two i read (titles escape me now) were good but not as good ..

Sandy Nawrot 9/26/14, 12:25 PM  

I just posted my thoughts on Goodreads 10 minutes ago on this book. I loved it! I am now wondering if 4 stars was enough, but I didn't give it five because the plot was very predictable and a tiny bit corny. But still I loved it. Adorable characters. And weren't the narrators amazing?

JoAnn 9/26/14, 5:48 PM  

I loved three of her previous novels… can't wait to read this one!

Unknown 9/27/14, 12:41 AM  

I really enjoyed this book. The humor really made it so much less boy meets girlish. I still get a lump in my throat when I think about Me Before You.

Laurel-Rain Snow 9/27/14, 11:09 AM  

I have this one on Sparky, having loved some other books by this author. Why haven't I read it yet? Lists, queues, etc. I need to move it up! Thanks for sharing.

Kailana 9/27/14, 9:06 PM  

One of these days I really must try her. I have at least two books by her kicking around on some form of media.

Anonymous,  9/30/14, 8:02 PM  

I just finished this one last week, and I loved it!

Katherine P 10/1/14, 4:33 PM  

I definitely want to give this a try. I've been wanting to try Moyes for awhile and this one looks less gut wrenching than some of her other titles. Glad you enjoyed it and I like the sounds of the audio version! Thanks for sharing!

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