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  • Writer's pictureJulie Mackin

A Bildungsroman

In which we realized we are all kind of assholes in our twenties

One Star Romance by Lauren Hankins

Stars: 5

PopSugar Prompt #2 bildungsroman- coming of age story 

Wow, just wow. One Star Romance was my BOTM pick for June and it looked like a fun premise, an enemies to lovers story set over a period time. I was feeling When Harry Met Sally, a  light summer read. But then BAM, Lauren Hankins just hit me with this coming of age story that strikes this perfect combination of humor and heartbreak. This book is a love story on so many levels, a fully developed novel that shows how we need all kinds of relationships in our lives.

Natalie Sharpio is living in NYC with her best friend and college roommate, Gabby, trying to live her dream of becoming a writer. At Gabby’s birthday party, her boyfriend, Angus, pops the question, and Natalie finds herself chatting with Rob Kapinsky, Angus’s best friend. There is a bit of sexual tension there, but they don’t quite get off on the right foot. And then at Gabby and Angus’s wedding, Nat learns that Rob has given her newly published novel one star on Goodreads. When Nat confronts Rob, they have a fight and some cruel words are exchanged. And for the next few years, Rob and Nat will have to come together because of their best friends, and in all those times, there will be an underlying attraction and an unspoken acknowledgement that these two people have a deep connection but they just can’t make the leap to try anything because the timing is not right. But maybe, like Harry and Sally, they will eventually figure out what they want for themselves in their own life, and then they might be ready to find each other. 

Though Nat and Rob’s love story is the focus of the book, it is their other relationships that shape them and inform so much of who they are. For Natalie, her friendship with Gabby is essential to her and when Gabby and Angus get married and start a new life, Nat feels adrift. She misses being Gabby’s number one. Rob has grown up in the shadow of his father, a well-respected, if not well-loved, Constitutional scholar at Princeton. Rob struggles to conform to the mold his father created for him and it leads to a lot of unhappiness. Hankin gives us these flawed characters who outgrow the hubris of their twenties and who mature in their thirties, showing them taking chances and breaking free of not only the expectations that other people had for them but also the ones they had for themselves.

Again, I am not sure I can express how blown away I was by this book. Hankin’s perfectly encapsulates those awkward years as people come out of college and try to find their new skin. How friendships change, sometimes for better, sometimes worse. How what we think we want from a relationship in our twenties can be radically different from what we want in our thirties. How it is ok to change your mind, to strike out and do what scares you, and also to realize it is ok to ask for what you want. 


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