REVIEW: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus

In brief: Frankie is not having a good time. Single and scared to write again, she comes up with the idea to put books on public transport to find her soul mate. But maybe he’s already in the picture…

The good: Great idea for a novel – love and books!

The not-so-good: The characters were confusing and quite annoying at times. I also had issues with parts of the plot.

Why I chose it: Thank you to Simon & Schuster for the ARC.

Year: 2018

Pages: 337

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Setting: Melbourne, Australia

Rating: 4.5 out of 10

Oh, The Book Ninja. How desperately I wanted to like you, love you. Such a brilliant idea for a story, dropping favourite books on public transport in a hunt for Mr Right. Bookish dialogue abounding, in-jokes about plots and reminiscing about the great reads of our lives. I’m sorry, but I just wasn’t that into you. Maybe you were too much for me, like eating an entire bag of salt and vinegar chips. Maybe I’m not bookish enough for you. Maybe…

The Book Ninja is a great sounding story. A writer, the unfortunately named Frankston (Frankie) works in a bookshop and has writer’s block. She’s single while best friend Cat is loved up with the perfect Claud (handsome and talented with a pair of knitting needles). Her ex has moved on, but Frankie is stuck. In an attempt to start writing again and find Mr Right, she starts dropping copies of her favourite books on public transport with notes to contact her at the end. It’s a perfect idea, sifting through commuters to find only the ones who are bookish. Frankie starts blogging about it and of course it’s a hit. But in the meantime Sunny Day (I kid you not) has walked into her life. Sunny is deeply into YA, which is unthinkable for a classics/literary fiction devotee like Frankie. But something clicks between them. Of course, the road to true love is never smooth when you have differing book tastes, a banana phobia and a secret dating blog.

There is a lot jammed into The Book Ninja which I felt made it lose its way somewhat. All of the characters are very quirky, which had me craving someone average. It also made for subplots that weren’t explored. Was it truly necessary to the plot for Cat to have a fling with her K-Pop dance teacher which turned into a huge drama/reveal only to fade away at the end? Claud is meant to be the handsomest, nicest man on the planet but he turns into a stooge for jokes about knitting. The background of Sunny’s ex could have been a driving force for tenderness but it turns into something Sunny does so he can meet up with Frankie at random times. I understand that the people Frankie dates should be odd for the blog’s sake but when everyone is so unique it got a bit old for me.

There are also a ton of book references here, which Cat, Frankie and Sunny trade off frequently. At first it’s cool, like sharing a secret joke. But it tended to grate on me after a while. Yep, I get the characters are bookish. But I bet they have other hobbies, right? Sometimes it seemed like the characters were a bit confused themselves. Frankie runs off in multiple directions, confused about life, love, parents, writing, fidelity etc. Cat could have been a great character but the reasons for her infidelity and lies were never explained. She was languishing at the back, a target for pregnancy jokes, book references and sly comments on Frankie’s love life. Are we meant to hate her? Likewise, Frankie’s mum seemed to be there for jokes only about new age changes, spontaneous youth and being clueless about her daughter. And Seb? His declaration at the end of the book was weird and didn’t fit in with what we knew about him. Then it was brushed off and not discussed again.

One thing that made me start a lunchtime rant was the medical stuff. I understand that not everyone is a medical expert, but there were some errors here that really should have been picked up. For example, Frankie meets Sunny at The Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne. In the lift is a male patient. It’s a women’s hospital. The second is Sunny’s description of Hazel. She is in accident where her ‘kidneys are crushed’. Sunny states she dies because of the lack of kidney donors. She appears to die within hours of the crash. If Hazel’s kidneys were too damaged to function, she could have been put on dialysis. It’s likely she would have been critically ill, so continuous veno-venous haemo dialysis/filtration would have been an option initially, available at any tertiary hospital. She could then have been put on haemodialysis to await transplant – some people stay this way for years. Plus, it’s not like donors grow on trees or hospitals keep a supply of organs in a fridge. Not everyone can be a donor, even if they want to – the way someone dies is important, as are their comorbidities which may render some/all organs unusable. Organs are also not a one size fits all – there must be the best compatibility between blood typing, tissue typing and cross matching otherwise the recipient’s body will reject the donor organ, despite immunosuppressants.

In the end, I just couldn’t get past these. Great idea, just not so well executed for me.


One thought on “REVIEW: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus

Add yours

  1. It is so very sad when authors do not correctly research things they are not knowledgeable about. I’m sure people are only too willing to help. I personally know of an author who has requested information from a specialist when they are unsure of facts.

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