In brief: Jess is a bit of a stress head with a penchant for wild thoughts. So when her boyfriend takes her on a spur of the moment trip to Cape Town, she immediately thinking wedding bells. But that is totally the wrong end of the stick…
The good: Hilarious in parts.
The not-so-good: Sad and serious towards the end – I wasn’t expecting that!
Why I chose it: I was looking for something light hearted to read – thanks to Simon & Schuster for the copy.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Setting: Cape Town, South Africa and London, England
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
I’ve been reading a lot of books that require concentration lately, something that doesn’t always translate well midweek when work and life are busy and you want to escape it all. Make or Break sounded like a fun read, so despite the size (nearly 500 pages), I decided to pick it up. It’s definitely madcap humour in some places, but takes quite a sombre turn towards the end as very difficult decisions are made. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, but be prepared for your feelings to go all over the place.
The story is told to us by Jess in the first person. Jess is 29 and works in the music video industry. (Unfortunately, there’s very little about the music industry here). Jess reminded me of Becky Bloomwood from the Shopaholic series as someone you’ll either adore or find irritating. Jess is a way better decision maker than Becky, but she does have the tendency to let her thoughts run away to the most extreme situations. That has mixed results, such as thinking she will be eaten by a snake on Table Mountain to being convinced that her boyfriend Pete will propose in South Africa. It also makes it difficult for her to get through some major life events in the book. I kind of liked Jess more in the sadder parts of the book. I know that sounds mean, but her thoughts didn’t seem so wacky to me. But then Jess’ family is not exactly typical either. Her sister Annabelle has a penchant for men that love, impregnate and leave which has caused Jess and their mother to ‘protect’ Annabelle at all costs. Jess’ mother is into natural therapies in an extreme way – think mono mealing (eating only one thing at a time) and silence retreats to remove guilt. Boyfriend Pete is a bit obsessed with his assistant teacher role and flatmate Dave lives for zombies. All these quirks add up to some incredibly funny moments.
The majority of the book is set in Cape Town, which seems like Jess to be the epitome of sun and warmth. Until her world comes crashing down. The new characters that come into her life here are my favourites – Jimmy, Diego and Ian. They are more settled and a good grounding point for Jess. That’s not to say that they don’t have their quirks but I found them much more fascinating. After Jess’ holiday ends, so does the sunshine in this book. The tone becomes much more serious. It wasn’t completely unexpected, as things had been hinted at, but the fun was over as Jess needed to face the music in more ways than one. That’s not to say that Catherine Bennetto doesn’t do it well – she handles a very, very sticky situation with grace and without failing any of the characters. It was just a bit of roller coaster ride with that sinking feeling like the end of a holiday. There are some sparkles of wit here, but one character getting a cheeky comeuppance from a sartorial error.
I did enjoy this book, and it gave me the fun times I wanted plus some serious parts. My copy has a blurb for How Not to Fall in Love, Actually which sounds like a fun read. Catherine Bennetto writes well, getting to the heart of the matter with character growth with some laugh out loud moments.