Release Date: February 25, 2014 (first published 2012)
Publisher: HarperCollins | Avon
Pages: 464 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle e-book
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Summary (from Goodreads)
What happens when the one that got away comes back?
Rachel and Ben. Ben and Rachel. It was them against the world. Until it all fell apart. It’s been a decade since they last spoke, but when Rachel bumps into Ben one rainy day, the years melt away.
They’d been partners in crime and the best of friends. But life has moved on: Ben is married. Rachel is not. Yet in that split second, Rachel feels the old friendship return. And along with it, the broken heart she’s never been able to mend.
Hilarious, heartbreaking and everything in between, you’ll be hooked from their first ‘hello.’
Thoughts on You Had Me at Hello
I bought You Had Me at Hello in January, but I honestly can't remember how I found it. I think I saw it pop up somewhere on Goodreads, so I downloaded a sample. I know I loved the first chapter, so I went ahead and bought it. However, the bad thing about that is that the books on my Kindle are sometimes out of sight, out of mind. And that's exactly what happened with You Had Me at Hello.
Then, I read Sarah's review on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves. The cover initially caught my eye (it was different from what I purchased), but I soon realized this was a book I already owned. I told myself I had to read it soon and even mentioned it to my friend when it was on sale. Well, she read it before me and loved it! I'd obviously waited way too long to read it, so I happily opened this book while I was on vacation. Before I knew it, I was absolutely hooked.
You Had Me at Hello introduces readers to Rachel and Ben. They are best friends from the moment they meet in college... until the moment it all falls apart. Ten years have past since they last spoke when they randomly run into each other one rainy day. It's as if time falls away, but neither one can deny just how much has changed. The story isn't told linearly - the present day is the focus but there are a number of flashbacks highlighting their first meeting, their friendship and the things that tore them apart.
Life hasn't turned out the way Rachel imagined. She just split from her long-term boyfriend - the person she thought she'd marry - and she's completely on her own. Well, not completely. She has some of the best and most hilarious friends supporting her. Plus, she's got a good journalism job, even if it has its own set of complications. And then Ben shows up... he's handsome, successful, and married.
I was a little worried based on the summary because it asks, What happens when the one that got away comes back? Knowing Ben was married, I was concerned that this would be a cheating book. Thankfully, it wasn't. While there were a few things that gave me pause, I was pleasantly surprised by this story. Even still, I will admit that I always have a hard time rooting for a couple to be together when it would require one to get divorced. Honestly, it's probably the only thing I didn't like about the book. It made me feel so conflicted: I wanted them to talk about what had happened but also couldn't forget that Ben was married.
What I loved, however, was the writing! There were so many passages that made me chuckle, and I found myself grinning at my Kindle on more than one occasion. I was glad that I was just reading this book around my family since they already know I'm a nerd... One thing I didn't expect was the number of British sayings. I knew McFarlane is Scottish, and the book is set in Manchester, but I had so much fun pausing to look up unfamiliar slang or sayings. While it slowed down my reading a few times, it didn't bother me. Truthfully, I loved it. I want more British lit to be available in the US!
In addition to the writing, the secondary characters were so charming. Ben and Rachel may be the focus, but Rachel's friends steal the show. I would love a book about them, too! They added a nice depth to this story, and I was so glad that You Had Me at Hello was more about friendship than romance. The setting was also so lovely. This goes back to the writing in many ways, but McFarlane made Manchester come alive. It was memorable without ever overpowering the plot. I love when the setting matters!
You Had Me at Hello was more character driven than I anticipated, which was such a nice surprise. Those are often my favorite kind of books, so it probably isn't shocking that I loved this one as much as I did! Sarah wrote that she read it because she wanted "something light but not shallow," and that really does describe this book perfectly. It's a great read with relatable characters, smart writing and a wonderful setting. It's more about Rachel's growth as an individual than it is a love story, which I totally loved. I can see myself recommending this to so many readers, especially the ones I know in real life, because it's witty, charming and just so dang enjoyable. Now I can't wait to read more from McFarlane in the future!
“Do nothing, and nothing happens. Life is about decisions. You either make them or they're made for you, but you can't avoid them.”