Quarantine has given me a lot of time to try and accomplish things I claimed I wanted to get done but had no time to do it. I have been working from home for about 13 weeks (since March 15th.) I told myself that, along with starting this blog, I need to read more. I have not really read much since graduating college back in 2015. Being an English major sapped all of the fun out of reading for pleasure. Some may say I am “not actually reading.” but I logged into my audible account and promised to listen to 2 books a month as well as read the manga I have stacked up on my shelf.
Of the many things I miss during this quarantine, it is being able to watch hockey. Prior to the quarantine, my friend and I did a week vacation in which we traveled to Pittsburgh to see the Penguins play (her favorite team) and then traveled on to The Big Apple to see the Rangers play (my favorite team) at Madison Square Garden. I may do a post about this later, but suffice it to say… I wanted to see if there were fictional stories about hockey. A bit of romance, mixed with a bit of hockey. And what should I find but Parental Guidance by Avery Flynn. I confess that I may have judged a book by his cover. I went into this believing I wasn’t going to enjoy this. Thank goodness that wasn’t true.
The story is about Caleb and Zara. Both of whom are strong armed by their parents into using a dating app where their parents are allowed to pick their matches. Caleb Stuckey (who plays hockey for the fictional team Ice Knights) was caught in a viral video where his rookie teammates are complaining about everything from their coaching staff, the team, and their individual playing time but what really got people was that the rookies said some not great things about the women they were sleeping with aka the “puck bunnies” (not shocking at all.) What is shocking is that Caleb, who said nothing, is made to fix this PR nightmare. The agreement is he’s going to use a new dating app, Bramble, and let his mom pick his date, go on five dates then agree to be interviewed about the resulting 5 dates he goes on. That’s 5 dates with the same woman, being interviewed after each one, sometimes by his mom, and sometimes by the media, about the dates. I don’t pretend to know a damn thing about Public Relations but maybe I would have made the assholes who actually said rude shit bear the brunt of their actions. I understood the women of the city being annoyed even angry about the comments made on camera about their friends and relatives and they wanted the opportunity to express their grievances. But I quickly got annoyed with the attack on Caleb thing. Should Caleb have said something to his teammates for being dicks… sure… but grown people are their own people and make their own mistakes and therefore need to deal with the consequences of their own actions. Does he hold some fault for being silent…? I believe so… a bit. Does he deserve to be the fall guy and the aim of every woman’s anger in the city. No. I think the bums that were talking nonsense… (as young people generally do stupid shit.) should have been made to clean up their own mess and face the women of the city they pissed off. I am also not sure that I believe that any sports team would think being shitty about women is enough to have to damage control. But that is enough about that.
Zara Ambrose has no interest in dating and definitely not a stranger for the entertainment of other strangers, but she agrees to do it because it would allow her dad to get his SAG card, and fulfill his minutes-long dream of becoming an actor. Her father is the one allowed to pick her dates. Both Caleb and Zara have some parental issues to work through as well. Caleb’s mom seems as though she is cold and uncaring. (But such is the case for women that are too competent.) Zara’s dad is a nice guy to everyone at the expense of his family. (Bills go with out being paid amongst other things.) Zara is about as cynical as they come. Because she couldn’t count on her father to keep the bills paid, she makes sure that she doesn’t need to depend on anyone. Any men especially. As a result, she is a workaholic. Trying to keep her miniature etsy shop alive. What I enjoyed about her was her hold nothing back attitude…. I mean read the profile that she puts up on Bramble. (Maybe a little too TMI for some people… and I can imagine how horrified she was that his mother read the profile and not him.) “I don’t want to date. Anyone. Ever. I like being in full and complete control of my life.”
Now I am not sure that I would allow my parents to pick a man for me. I wonder how that would even work out for me. But it was an interesting premise and I wondered why I hadn’t seen it before. The dating apps are hard enough to navigate without having to broadcast what your dates are like and without questions being asked about your thoughts and feelings in front of the date by your parents. The thought makes me squeemish. And the first few dates and interviews are about as awkward as you can imagine especially with Caleb’s mom and Zara’s dad arguing on camera for the world to see.
What I enjoyed about the book was that they explored a learning disability with someone in the later stages of their life. It was interesting to see how they coped with it as an adult because some times we are made to believe that once school is over these things just go away. Kudos to Avery Flynn. Caleb has dyslexia and it is a struggle for him. He was made to read aloud in front of the class by a worthless teacher. Ugh that annoyed me so much. What kind of teacher does that? He describes his mom as believing if he tried hard enough that he would “overcome” it. (When I read that, my eyes rolled so hard they bounced.)
Another thing that Avery Flynn decided to include which I thoroughly enjoyed was the fact that Zara had such a hard time reaching the wonderful O. Zara and her friend have a discussion about her not being able to orgasm unless she takes matters into her own hands. I am sure this lends to the not really wanting to be bothered with relationships or meaningless sex because it brings her no real relief or satisfaction. Also not having a partner that was willing to actually try to learn to get her off in the past. It was mind-blowing for Zara to realize that sex with Caleb was different… and let me tell my mind was blown too. To know that he really cared if she got off, if she enjoyed as much as he did set him apart from the rest of the men that she had been with. Zara also jumps to the conclusion that Caleb is a typical arrogant jock who likes to sleep around. (Definitely bolstered by the viral video.) “You’re not into being creative? I guess that’s expected for someone who has probably had women throwing themselves at him for years. You haven’t ever had to work for it.” We learn though, Caleb doesn’t sleep around and the only thing he’s arrogant about is his skills on the ice.
I enjoyed the chemistry between Caleb and Zara. They had great banter and they clicked right away. I found it interesting to see what Bramble set up for them to do. It was good of the app to come up with things for the daters to do that was neutral so that they could get to know one another. One thing I found funny was Caleb was set up with Zara who knew nothing about who he was or hockey in general. (I totally get it. It just made me laugh that in a city where hockey is a big deal, she has no clue who he is. Not everyone watches sports or is taken with players that easily.) Her first assessment of him was that he was tall, well built and maybe had broken his nose a few times…. but couldn’t place why. Too funny to me.
I also enjoyed that the guys (the other players on the team) gave each other advice and acted as a big family. They gave real relationship advice and called each other out on their bullshit. Do they each have situations where they acting like douches? Sure but they are more than teammates; they are actually friends and care about each other. They open each others eyes to the good women in their lives and push them to fight for the girl. Same for Zara and her friend. Shout out to Avery for giving people awesome friends that actually tell the truth. (Keep in mind, you may have awesome friends. And that is great… but not everyone does. I feel sorry for those people.)
Which brings me to the dog, Anchovy. First, why name the dog Anchovy??? Ew. (Lol, I know why but anchovies are gross.) Zara’s dog is large and definitely in charge. Anchovy has some serious personality. Bordering on some rudeness… (Turning off the lights during a video chat.) But the dog is also a favorite character of mine. It was great that Caleb was neither frighten nor disgusted by Anchovy and they got along great. Makes it easier to make something work when your guy and animal get along.
So in the end, I really enjoyed the story and didn’t think I would. 4 out of 5 stars So do not judge a book by its cover. Definitely a fun beach read or plane read. I have already been gushing about it to friends. (Sometimes they actually listen to me so who knows.) I say get it read it and let me know your thoughts in the comments section. (GOODNESS, I MISS HOCKEY.)