L.M. Stull’s debut novel A Thirty-Something Girl has a fascinating main character: Hope has been living a lie, covering up what she sees as her imperfections until they come crashing down around her on her birthday. Hope has hit rock-bottom, and we get to follow her on her way back up.
I had to read this book in two sittings for time reasons, and when I got to the first point where I had to stop, I was seriously tempted to keep going and deal with the missing sleep the next day. Hope’s story sucked me in and I couldn’t wait to see what was next on her journey. I loved her first meeting with Sam and how things developed between them. She has a gift for creating characters to care about.
In a lot of ways, that was a bad thing, because the second half of this book doesn’t live up to the promise of the first part. Hope is part of a big secret with one of her friends that first is mentioned early on, something they haven’t told their other friends. That secret plays a role in the resolution of the story, yet we never see the friends being told or hear what their reaction is. There’s no mention given that they do know by the time the secret comes into play for the ending, yet they accept things as though they do.
Likewise, the ending hadn’t been set up well. The event that leads to the reunion between Hope and Sam needed some foreshadowing. Her friends calling Sam to get him back even though they’ve never met him didn’t make sense to me, especially since Hope starts the book keeping so many things to herself to preserve this perfect picture of her life.
Finally, the pacing was too abrupt in the second half compared to the first. Things unraveled quickly, we saw just a little bit of time and then a deus ex machina brought everything back together and sent us into an epilogue that glosses over a lot of the difficulties that led to the split between Hope and Sam in the first place. It was an unsatisfying end to a really strong beginning.
Stull shows a lot of promise as a writer, but some patience in the second half to let the story develop into the happy ending would have made for a much better read. I’d give it three of five stars.