I’m going to preface this post right from the beginning. I’m approaching this book from two different perspectives. One, the representation it provides via it’s characters and plot lines. Two, it’s quality of writing, characters, and plot development. In Daria ‘s case, these are two different categories.
I’m being very clear, or at least trying to be, because I imagine what I have to say will ruffle some feathers. From what I’ve seen, people are overwhelmingly thrilled with this book. And they should be!
To a point.
And that point is in its diversity and representation. You Had Me at Hola is the story of a budding romance between soap opera star Jasmine Lin Rodriguez and telenovela star, Ashton Suarez. The two play leading characters in a new show called Carmen In Charge.
The show is about a Lantinx woman, Carmen played by Jasmine, who runs the family’s PR firm and her ex-husband, played by Ashton, who is a famous Latin singer. Life is turned upside down when he’s Carmen’s best chance to keep the company afloat.
This fictional show’s set up means that the writers, crew members, and cast are an incredibly diverse group of people. At one point, Ashton notes that nearly every single person on the team is of a different decent. They represent a Hispanic Miami population, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic. Jasmine is half Filipino.
Not only that, but they have a range of gender and sexual identities. Which is wonderful, if rather unrealistic.
So yes, I love the book for those elements. The characters in the book are diverse, and they play diverse characters on the show. #meta. It’s wonderful to read a solid, real story of non -white people who are happy, and living their lives. They struggle some – sure – but ultimately triumph.
Unfortunately, if you take away that element, the book isn’t very good.
The plot is fine, predictably on par with a contemporary romance. But for me it was the way Daria handled the characters that wasn’t quite up to snuff.
Jasmine is super aware of her issues and limitations, we see that during a family brunch, but she doesn’t attempt to change or grow. Even when she creates a list of what a ‘Leading Lady’ does and doesn’t do it doesn’t come from a place of genuine personal growth. It seems like she’s just doing what she thinks she should. Which makes it super annoying that she’s obsessed with this arbitrary list and talks about it all the time.
And it doesn’t even work out since she regularly berates herself for not following it.
Additionally, Ashton is so stuck in one place emotionally that I didn’t believe it when he and Jasmine do get together. He had a traumatic event in his past and that understandably makes things difficult. But he’s refused to talk about it or seek help for like, 8 years and then suddenly I’m supposed to believe Jasmine was able to heal him?
Not to mention that the conflict of the story was based on the classic romance miscommunication loop. Daria doesn’t even switch it up at all. Eventually Jasmine finds out Ashton’s big secret (after he was pretty clear about boundaries) and she FREAKS out. She refuses to talk to him. What little growth she achieved is nearly thrown out the window when she packs her bags and plans to refuse participation in a second season of Carmen in Charge.
Then, she randomly realizes oh yeah, I guess this guy who I like but I’m not actually dating didn’t owe me all the personal details of his life.
Then they live happily ever after.
It just didn’t land for me. Which is so unfortunate because I loved the diversity! I wanted to see these characters given full, fleshed out journeys by Daria. I wanted them to succeed! But it just didn’t come together.
Regardless of my feelings, this message is true:
Speaking of Brad, and we should always speak of Brad, I’m like, 14 movies away from having seen off of his. And can I just say, this was absolutely my best decision of 2020.