Release Date: February 24, 2014
Ellie Cahill is poised to coin the term “sorbet sex” with her charming twist on the age-old ‘friends-with-benefits’ story.
Dating can be fun, but it can leave a nasty taste in your mouth. For Joss, ever since her longtime boyfriend cheated on her, she doesn’t want her last memory of a guy to be that jerk. Enter her college friend, Matt. They come up with a theory: after a bad break-up, a person needs to cleanse the palate with a little sorbet sex. Lovers for a night, but always back to being friends in the morning. The two can handle it because they have a contract: rules they wrote, rules they follow and rules they can sometimes bend. The arrangement works: everyone needs a little sorbet now and again … until it starts to be the only thing you want. And then Joss breaks the one rule they never wrote down: don’t fall in love.
I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I don’t even really know what to say about this one. You can blame that on a mix of me being generally unimpressed with what was going on here, the fact that I read it months ago when I needed a cute pick-me-up, and that I didn’t bother to take many notes at the time. What I do remember is that When Joss Met Matt was absolutely not the pick-me-up I’d expected it to be. It wasn’t cute. It wasn’t funny. It wasn’t endearing. It was an annoying and disappointing hot mess of bland characters and boring sex.
I just don’t think there’s a whole lot of story here. Most of it is told during this one night when Joss and Matt have plans to meet up and Joss remembers all the times before that, from their meeting during the first week of college to right now when she’s working up the nerve to tell Matt she has more than just “sorbet” feelings for him, plus all the hook-ups during those seven years. And it’s boring. It doesn’t really help that this set-up gives me the impression that she just lives from Matt hook-up to Matt hook-up, which doesn’t do anything to convince me that they are actual friends with benefits, let alone friends because honestly what do you two even have in common except for breaking up with people so you have an excuse to bang each other, instead of two people who are just too afraid to commit.
I’d actually be okay with the “people who don’t want to commit” spin, especially since this is mostly set during college, if it had been executed well, or, you know, at least halfway decently. The problem is that I don’t think this is even half as sex positive a read as it would like to be. First of all, we have Joss, our amazing awesome super inspirational sexually empowered female lead, who both slut- and virgin-shames as if it’s what she actually majors in. Then there’s the fact that this whole friends-with-benefits/let’s-call-it-sorbet-because-words-like-sex-and-penis-are-just-much-too-mature-for-us is passed off as clearly a phase all chilluns have to go through before they grow up and decide that a conventional relationship is the only legitimate way to show your love and attraction to someone.
Look, I know that in some cases friends-with-benefits relationships do indeed lead to this “something more”, but that isn’t always the outcome, and that’s okay too. When Joss Met Matt, however, seems to think that casual sex relationships will inevitably lead to committed relationships and that anyone who doesn’t agree with that is just fooling themselves. That’s not sex positivity. In fact, it’s very close to a “hell yes female sexuality, as long as it means that she falls in love with this cute guy and they HEA” line of thinking that I’m starting to hate. Not that I’m not for sexually empowered girls falling in love and having monogamous relationships, because that’s awesome too, as long as it’s what they want, but this kind of mentality sets up a framework of acceptability, and that’s what bothers me. There shouldn’t be conditions à la “as long as they get together for real” or “as long as you end up with one stable girlfriend/boyfriend” attached to things like FWB relationships or sexual liberation in order to make them acceptable or legitimate. That’s false acceptance, by the way, and not everyone always wants something to lead to a monogamous relationship. (Though it’s totally fine if you do.)
I’m not surprised this is the way Joss and Matt’s understanding seems to go, though, and not only because we’re dealing with a rather standard NA romance here. From the beginning, it was very clear that Matt was into Joss, but she had a boyfriend at the time. Their whole meet-cute or whatever is actually pretty gross. First of all, there’s a casual rape joke in the second chapter and it’s not as if the overall narrative seems to realise that rape jokes are not fucking funny. Then, Joss has to actually tell Matt she has a boyfriend before he backs off and can we just hit pause for a moment and acknowledge what a truly disgusting thing that is? Her saying no simply isn’t good enough for him to get she’s not into it. She has to bring up a boyfriend and the moment that happens, oh man, she’s another man’s girl and universal bro code, you know? I hate them. Like I said before, they’re not funny, they’re not cute, if there is banter it’s so flat I simply didn’t notice and *Emma Roberts Wild Child voice* if this were America I would sue. Maybe I was just too distracted by Matt’s super smooth game because who can resist a guy who says he’s not going to move in on you and then does exactly that after he got you drunk. The struggle is so real.
I also thought the whole sorbet execution was just laughable. First of all, what kind of ridiculous “code name”. You’re not fooling anyone and also you are not saving the world. Also, how are you going to write an NA romance almost exclusively focused on sex and then not show the actual sex? To be fair, there might have been some showing I didn’t notice because the sex came in the two very exclusive flavours of “boring” and “fade to black”. Yum. I think this could have worked as a movie because at least movie people would have had the sense to just show it as a two-minute sorbet montage and then move on to an actual story with characters who have more than three personality traits, one of which is “red curly hair”. THE DEPTH. Oh, and then there are these last few chapters involving a time jump and forced conflict that are dramatic as hell and both of them being major dickheads because. Hard pass.
I could get mean and say “Time left in book: 0 m.” but I actually have one memorable element I’d like to mention (though, understandably, I didn’t exactly mark quotes to commit to memory). At a certain point, one of Matt’s family members dies and he takes it pretty hard. I mean, I think you can guess how these two deal with that, but I’m glad it was shown that physical nearness and/or sex can provide a certain comfort. However big of a mess the rest of this book was, I’m glad that got included.