SLIDER

'I'd notice you in a crowd of a million.'


PLEASE NOTE: Discussing this companion novel does spoil Sloan's story in The Friend Zone

Last year, I fell in love with Abby Jimenez' debut, The Friend Zone. When I found out she had a new book coming out this year, I was thrilled. And my excitement only grew when I realized it was a companion novel. In The Friend Zone, we meet Kristen's best friend, Sloan. And I knew it was an excellent book when I was invested enough to cry over the secondary characters, too. Because Sloan's story in that one? It's a happy ever after that ends too soon.

I was smitten the moment we met Sloan's fiancé, Brandon, in The Friend Zone. And part of it was because I loved the idea of two best friends falling in love with another pair of best friends. Have you ever tried to make friends as a couple? It's a challenge! So often, there's one person you like more. But as Kristen fell in love with Josh, Brandon's best friend, I could picture the four of them living near each other, raising kids at the same time, vacationing together, and more. When Brandon died, I deeply felt the loss of him and the future I'd envisioned for all of them.

The Happy Ever After Playlist picks up two years later. Sloan's life is still on pause, as if she's suspended in time. Brandon's clothes are still in the closet, his drink sitting open where he left it. Sloan is surviving, but she's not really living. Then, a dog jumps in her car window and everything changes. When Sloan finally tracks down the owner, she learns he's a musician currently on tour in Australia. He wants his dog back, but Sloan's not ready to surrender her new pet to someone who didn't even know he was missing for two weeks. Can you call it a meet cute when a couple has yet to meet? Either way, it's the beginning of a romance too adorable for words.

If you've read my review of The Friend Zone, you may remember that part of Kristen's story hit close to home for me. Though I haven't gone through the exact same thing, her feelings resonated with me. Because her story made me so emotional, I wasn't sure if Sloan's would be able to compare. I haven't experienced that type of loss, so I anticipated loving it just a tiny bit less than the first. Well, Jimenez has cemented herself as an auto-buy author for me because I loved The Happy Ever After Playlist even more. WHAT?! From the moment I started, I couldn't put it down. I had a huge grin on my face while turning the pages, subjected my bestie to constant texts about my emotional state while reading, and just felt so unbelievably thankful for it. When I was recently in need of a comfort read in the midst of the world's chaos, I re-read this book. So, yes, I've read this twice in the span of two months.

I could go on and on about why I loved this book, but here are my top three reasons you should pick it up:

1. Sloan and Kristen's Friendship
From the very beginning of The Friend Zone, I was sold on their friendship. Kristen reminded me of my best friend, and their interactions felt familiar. Sometimes I'll read a book and think, "This author is writing from experience." That's how I felt about Sloan and Kristen – they made me believe that Jimenez knows firsthand the power of female friendship. I love Kristen's hilarious attempts to fluster Sloan's more reserved nature, how they show up for one another, and how they have honest (and sometimes painful) conversations. It's a friendship rooted in love and laughter that flourishes with their loyalty to one another in every season of their lives. If there was a prequel novel focusing solely on the origins of their friendship, I'd be the first in line to read it.

2. Jason, My New Book Boyfriend 
I thought Josh Copeland won my heart in The Friend Zone, but Jason Larsen came in and stole the show. Many of my favorite book boyfriends have a similar type – a little more quiet and serious. They may not have sparkling personalities, but they're steady. But sometimes, I can't resist a charmer. From the moment Jason started replying to Sloan's texts, I was hooked. He's funny, flirty, and straightforward. He knows what he wants, he's willing to wait for it, and he's not playing games with Sloan's heart. Now, he's not perfect, most notably when he has a huge "I'm withholding information for her own good / to protect her" moment. But I understood his reasoning, even as I mentally yelled at him. Otherwise, I'm totally here for this gorgeous, guitar-playing, Minnesota man.

3. Sloan's Hard-Fought Healing
Finally, I've got to end by focusing on the incredible heroine of this book. My heart broke for Sloan and the pain she experienced in the previous book. When I learned two years had passed before the start of this book, I thought it might mean that we skipped over seeing the worst of her grief. But that wasn't the case at all. It was hard to see her so withdrawn and isolated, but I loved being able to watch her begin to fight for healing. I was so proud of her for embracing life, opening herself back up to love, and learning when to say goodbye. Another favorite aspect? Learning more about her passions! I loved reading about her artistic talent, and her skill in the kitchen came with a delightful revelation. Sloan's growth is central to the story, and I appreciated that so much.

As you can see, I'm so obsessed with this book! I have to give major props to Jimenez because Sloan and Jason's connection develops very quickly, and I'm usually annoyed by any hint of instalove. But in this case, I believed it. The first half of the book is just a delight, but the second half does have a decent amount of drama. Most of it is caused by external circumstances (Jason's music career and the reality of life on tour, etc.), so it felt like a realistic source of tension in their relationship. There is one moment, however, where Jason decides what's best for Sloan in a very frustrating way. Did I want to smack him? Absolutely. But it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book in the slightest! If you're in the mood for a fun, feel-good story of falling in love, pick up The Happy Ever Playlist.

Release Date: April 14, 2020 | Publisher: Hachette; Forever Romance
Source & Format: Publisher; e-ARC | Pages: 400 pages

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

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