I have a personal grudge against the romance genre.
To be fair, the romance genre never did anything to me, besides being a constant disappointment and a blight against humanity. I promised myself long ago that I would never, under any circumstance, stoop to the level of reading romance. Any other genre, sure, I’ll try it. But romance? That sickeningly insipid stuff? I’d rather read a book about Denethor.
I kept this pledge for almost 21 years.
Only to fall.
To a bandwagon, no less.
Dearest Josephine is a growingly popular little book about a girl named Josephine De Clare who finds a stack of letters from the 1800s, written by some angsty dude named Elias Roch. Modern day Josie reads the letters, realizes they were written to a girl who shares her name, has numerous mental breakdowns that may or may not include wandering dark corridors like a banshee, and — you guessed it — ends up falling passionately in love with Elias Roch.
Who died, like, 200 years ago.
How could I not read this. It was practically begging to be roasted.
Two things to note before we get into it: 1.) This post doesn’t contain spoilers, so you can rest easy if you haven’t read it, and 2.) the story is written through a series of letters and emails, so the narrative will switch between emails/texts between modern-day Josie and her friends, and Elias’s letters from the 1800s. The way to tell who’s speaking is primarily the font, so keep your eyes peeled.
With no further ado, we’ll begin with Josie.
Oh my goodness she’s so unrecognizable.
(I wonder what she’d think of me, who thrifts clothes from an actual thrift store like an actual normal human being.)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you’re a girl in the romance genre, you must be in want of a career in fashion. Disregard the fact that none of us have actually met anyone who’s pursuing a career in fashion, but if the genre is to be believed, they’re out there, and in plenty.
Moving on, we have our first encounter with Elias, the guy from the 19th century whose letters are being snooped through by modern day girls. The next few lines are an accurate summation of his character.
Hilariously, his letters are supposed to be the peak of romance.
Maybe I’m getting too old for YA, but I fail to see the romance in an emotionally-unstable, sleep-deprived 18-year-old caught in an eternal state of existential dread while venting his mental breakdowns in a bunch of letters to some girl he met once.
The boy needs therapy, not romance.
Me every time I crawl into my writing mentor’s emails.
This is my new motto to live by.
Oh, what a loathsome bother it is to be hot…
Me when I eat my ice cream too fast.
She… she kinda sabotaged herself with that one.
As a youngest child, this question jumped off the page and personally attacked me.
Just so we’re clear, Josephine is about 5’4″, and a meter is approximately 3 feet. Elias is now viewing her as an 8′ goddess.
Take notes, short people.
I think he needs some new pick-up lines.
That’s it. That’s the entire book.
Or maybe, possibly, they’re just hurt because you’re so full of how “changed” you are (those crop tops, by golly) that you’re spurning every nice thing they try to do for you. Did you ever think of THAT, you self-obsessed sandwich fanatic???
When my mom buys me a sandwich I’m not crazy about, I eat it anyway because I love her. Alas, this was not a theme Dearest Josephine decided to explore.
That’s it. That’s the entire book.
Try your grandmother’s house.
Or better yet, Goodwill.
But I forgot. She thrifts from online boutiques, not normal thrift stores like the rest of us pagans.
As was demonstrated by Tolkien book purists and Peter Jackson trilogy fans coming together to bash the Amazon LotR series.
A nice sentiment, but then two pages later she’s like–
–yeah. It’s your breakdown, honey.
(And FYI, talking about insurance is always a great way to stave off existential dread.)
I think he’s becoming self-aware.
Elias, your millennial self-love Instagrammer is showing.
(As an aside, I really hate when authors use historical characters to propagate modern day thinking. There are ways to do this naturally and in keeping with the time period, but alas, the above sentence does not fit the bill.)
Oh NOOO, not the HAM AND STOTTIE CAKES!!!
I have, in fact, no clue what a stottie cake is.
He has a point.
You know how back in the day, if the doctors didn’t know how to diagnose an illness, they just called it consumption and shipped the poor soul off to the seashore? I think a “regal brow” is the beauty equivalent of that.
If you don’t know how to compliment her, tell her she has a regal brow! No one actually knows what a regal brow looks like and therefore everyone wins.
Elias, your inner teenage emo TikToker is showing.
I’m going to use this one the next time I’m trying to get out of a social gathering.
Said no toddler ever.
You know, I’m starting to realize so much of this book could have been avoided if Josie stopped every once in a while and actually… thought about the things she was saying.
Similarly, so much of this book could have been avoided if Elias just took a nap.
Case in point.
I say this at least eight times a week.
Flirting, 101: Stare at your crush’s eye bags. Don’t say anything. Just stare.
s t a r e.
Did he say something romantic? Is this an actual, honest to goodness, poetically sappy, genuinely romantic line? Is he learning? Is this maturity? Is this a character arc I spy upon the horizon–
But every once in a while, a golden nugget of truth comes from his pathetically melodramatic brain.
This will be me at the end of this post, when the fans of this book start coming after me with pitchforks.
I hate to admit it, but the further into this I get, the more I realize how relatable Elias is.
And now she’s relatable.
To be fair to Oliver, who doesn’t?
How dare she dismiss my unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Said every book protagonist ever, blissfully unaware they were a walking cliche themselves.
Aaaaand we’ll end with this little bit of wisdom — a persisting theme that made the book endurable.
My takeaways from Dearest Josephine:
- If you find a stack of letters from the 1800s that are addressed to you, burn them immediately.
- Elias Roch is the true representation for introverts and I appreciate that.
- Melodrama. So much melodrama. And for what. (We still don’t know.)
- Everyone falls in love with everyone and it’s confusing.
- Crop tops have the ability to change your entire personality.
- I want to know what a stottie cake is.
I found an in-depth Goodreads review that mostly sums up my thoughts, which you can read here.
Now, I have a confession to make. Despite my somewhat acidic thoughts, I actually didn’t hate this book. Shocking, I know. While the characters are a little dumb, which is hard to get past, the plot is interesting and eventually took a route I wasn’t expecting, ending with a romantic theme I support and appreciate. So. It’s not a waste of time. Just be prepared to cringe a lot. Go into it thinking of Elias as a sulky little kid instead of an emotionally attractive, highly romantic man, and you should be fine.
That’s all for today, folks! Have you read Dearest Josephine? Do you agree or disagree with my pronouncement? Let’s discuss!