“Recommended For You” is a staff pick

October 9, 2020

Fall has come and that means that it is officially Jewish holiday season! To put myself in the spirit, I decided to read “Recommended For You” by Laura Silverman, a short young adult contemporary about two co-workers in a bookshop. As expected, it was an easy read full of proud Jewish overachievers. What I was not expecting was a delightful rivals-to-lovers story full of snarky quips, friendship struggles and deep conversations about everything from cooking to financial trouble. 

In true Laura Silverman fashion, main character Shoshanna Greenberg’s life falls apart in the span of a few days. Her car breaks down, her moms are on the verge of divorce, she’s fighting with her best friend and her happy place, a bookstore named “Once Upon,” is infiltrated by a new, insanely attractive employee that is determined to step on her toes. The fact that it’s the week of Christmas, aka the pinnacle of shopping and emotional craziness, doesn’t help either. It’s like her equivalent of the start of midterm season at Brandeis. These problems make for a surprisingly intense read, one that breaks your heart but also forces you to read on. 

Though I went into this book expecting a happy ending, there were times when I doubted that Shoshanna was going to be able to fix her situation. All of her best laid plans go awry. Her main goal involves winning a competition at “Once Upon.” Whichever employee can sell the most books earns a special holiday season bonus. Shoshanna is determined to win so she can fix her car, but she is met with an unexpected foe: Jake Kaplan, who neither reads nor likes Shoshanna. He is a direct contrast to Shoshanna’s loud and easily excitable energy. The two immediately get off on the wrong foot, but that all comes to a change when the two are forced to take an early shift together. It’s charming to watch the two go from sworn enemies to reluctant friends within a single car ride. Who knew that homemade roasted almonds were such a good conversation starter? Though they come to a sort of truce, their competitive spirits do not dim. 

The antics that Shoshanna and Jake pull in an attempt to win the bookstore’s competition are as hilarious as they are clever. The two are neck and neck throughout the entirety of the competition—which takes place over the span of a week—forcing them to come up with more and more elaborate schemes to win. I am so impressed by Silverman’s ability to create fantastical scenarios and pass them off as reality. From coding a quiz to face painting to a mall-wide scavenger hunt, the hijinks are so much fun to read. 

However, the book isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Shoshanna’s life is collapsing around her; she’s managed to alienate her best friend, Geraldine. Shoshanna thought she was being supportive by uploading a video of Geraldine doing makeup to YouTube, but in doing so, she accidentally started a war between Geraldine and the beauty community. On top of that, her home life is also a disaster. Silveman really won’t let this poor girl catch a break. As good of a distraction the “Once Upon” competition may be, it’s not enough to block out the chaos of the relationships crumbling around her. Despite her best efforts, Shoshanna alone cannot save her parents’ marriage. She describes her moms as one of the most loving couples, yet this year they can barely speak without fighting. The two even forget their anniversary. My heart broke as Shoshanna started to realize that her home life might be irreparable. You know it’s really bad when one of her moms goes out for milk even though Shoshanna had gone to the grocery store earlier that day. 

Despite these harsh realities, “Recommended For You” is overall a light-hearted and wholesome read. It’s light, it’s fluffy, it leaves you in a good mood. At less than 260 pages, it’s a quick and easy read—I read the entire novel in just one sitting. I’d highly recommend “Recommended For You” to anyone that likes dynamic characters, wholesome love stories, Jewish leads and, of course, happy endings. 

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