I Still Believe (Still Believe)

I used to be a sucker for the romcom and the romdram. Is that a genre? If not, it should be. The Notebook, Titanic, 27 Dresses, P.S. I Love You, The Wedding Date, 500 Days of Summer, and SO many more filled the days of my youth. (Nora Ephron classics came later in life). I used to peruse the $5 movies at Target looking for any and every cliché romantic movie I could find. In fact, I used to go to Target on Black Friday specifically for this reason and not to buy Christmas presents for other people. I have no shame.

Somewhere along the line, though, I fell out of love with fictional tales that focused on cliché love itself. Maybe it was maturity. Maybe it was a reality check. But now, I can barely sit through five minutes of The Notebook.

*Please do not discount the gravity of this sentence. I used to watch The Notebook or Titanic (or both) every week.*

Every now and then, however — usually when the going gets tough — I crave a little cliché romance. I’m not talking chick lit; I mean pure romance and cliché. Enter: Waiting for Tom Hanks, the novel dedicated to the romcom genre that I have long since avoided. My friend Kelliann sent me this book after a rough week but warned that it was pure fluff and to not have high literary expectations; just be prepared for an escape. A welcome escape was exactly what I got, but did the fluff go too far?

“You can react to tragedy in one of two ways: You either distract yourself from your pain with over-activity, or you make yourself a home inside your pain cocoon.”

Waiting for Tom Hanks

Annie Cassidy lives for the romcom. It’s not just that she’s infatuated with the movies themselves, but she obsesses about one day living her own real-life romcom. She grew up watching the genre incessantly, especially the Nora Ephron films (Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, etc.), with her mother who passed away at a young age. Her parents had that cliché love you see in the movies, and even though her dad died before Annie could remember him, she knew she would find the same kind of love as her parents’ one day.

The only problem is Annie has a hard time getting out of her own way. She lives in the same Columbus, Ohio house she grew up in along with her uncle who swooped in once her mother died. There’s no way Annie could ever leave this house or her uncle. She aspires to be a screenwriter but lacks the courage to send her in-progress work to anyone; instead, she settles for a thankless job writing about hemorrhoid cream. Furthermore, she goes on very few dates because she doesn’t enjoy putting herself out there and just knows her one true love will arrive via the cutest of meet-cutes. All she needs is her own Tom Hanks, and then her life will actually begin. To say Annie hates taking a risk — and has unrealistic expectations — is an understatement.

Then she hears that a new romcom is being filmed a few blocks from her house. And she has the uncutest meet-cute when she runs into the lead actor, Drew Danforth, and spills coffee on him. This might sound like a meet-cute, but she literally can’t get a word out of her mouth, not even an apology. Plus, once she starts working on the set, she learns Drew is cocky and a prankster — he is certainly not Tom Hanks. As expected, they start to experience some very charged moments with each other, and Annie begins to wonder if maybe her real-life romcom has been playing out this whole time. There’s no way, though, a story worthy of a Nora Ephron screenplay actually exists when the male lead is leaving town in just a few weeks. Or could it?

If this novel sounds predictable and cheesy, it is. If it sounds like every other romcom you’ve read or seen, it is. Nobody picks up a book like Waiting for Tom Hanks and expects some literary tour de force with profound writing and edge-of-your-seat plot lines. You pick up a novel like this for the same reasons you go back to the romcom movies. You want that cheese and that cliché. You want that happy ending. Books like Waiting for Tom Hanks aren’t just an escape, they’re a comfort, something you know all too well. That knowingness is exactly what draws you to them in the first place.

“The things that suck still suck, but they’re allowed to be happy. And maybe it means so much more that they’re happy, knowing that they still carry that sadness with them.”

Waiting for Tom hanks

Is this book like a giant marshmallow? You betcha. But to answer my earlier question, no, it did not contain too much fluff. I was all for it, especially because Kelliann had set my expectations for just how fluffy this book would be.

However, there’s one thing I’m not for: plot holes, of which there are many in this book. I’d say this book leans toward four flames, right up until the final chapters when Annie decides to get her head out of her ass and go after the man she loves. The ending happens very quickly due to the pacing of the writing. And at this point, you are so invested in the characters and their love story that you are flipping madly to reach the end, to find the happy ending that you’ve known would happen from the get-go.

I appreciate the fast pacing of the writing. It reflects the character actions at this point, and you can feel the adrenaline they are experiencing. You can’t, though, have quick pacing and simultaneously leave out key information, which happens at the end.

Questions kept entering my brain as I finished the book, but I buried them and told myself the book would clarify soon. I forged on. Well, author Kerry Winfrey never gave me that clarity. I should have been rejoicing for true love! For taking risks! For LIVING YOUR LIFE! And I was, but I also couldn’t stop pondering on the plot holes that came as a result of the book sprinting to the finish line.

It’s hard to describe what I’m feeling without spoiling the ending, but I promise there is validity to my statement. And I know I’m typically a skeptic with books and movies (the whole “yeah right like that could actually happen in real-life” attitude). This time, though, I didn’t even need realism about how the story occurred; I just needed answers.

So, yes, I seem like quite a critic of Waiting for Tom Hanks right now, but please don’t be deterred. It still garners three flames, and I really only had negative feelings toward the end. Honestly, this book charmed me and gave me exactly what I needed and wanted right up until the climax. Smart Bitch Trashy Books agrees with me. (By the way, that is THE best blog name):

“However, despite these major problems, I [was] mostly charmed by the book. It was sweet but not too gooey, and I loved Annie’s thorough knowledge of the rom-com genre and her observation about how we can appreciate happiness all the more if we’ve also known loss.”

I concur.

Waiting for Tom Hanks didn’t have the perfection that Annie yearns for in stories, but it sure did have her heart and charm. And yes, her fluffy expectations. Who doesn’t like extra marshmallows in their hot chocolate? Am I right? Or am I right?

“It doesn’t matter how someone in a romantic comedy affords their absurdly nice house, or whether or not their profession makes sense, or if technically they’re sort of stalking someone they heard on a call-in radio show. What matters is that they have hope. Sure, they find love, but it’s not even about love. It’s the hope that you deserve happiness, and that you won’t be sad forever, and that things will get better. It’s hope that life doesn’t always have to be a miserable slog, that you can find someone to love who understands you and accepts you just as you are.”

Waiting For Tom Hanks

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