Review of ‘No Experience Required’ by Kimberly Cooper Griffin
Izzy Treadway is a 47-year-old user guide writer for a tech company in California. She has no love life, but she is exceptionally good at offering relationship and love advice to her friends. With some prompting from her best friend, she embarks on a journey to passing this wisdom along by writing ‘An Idiot’s Guide to Love’. In the meantime, Jane Mendoza starts working for the same company. She is a professor trying out the company’s intern program on behalf of the university. Interest is mutual, but they are unable to share all of their baggage with each other. Will lying by omission end their relationship?
The novel is narrated in third person from Izzy’s point of view. Chapters are arranged with the current story followed by ‘An Idiot’s Guide to Love’ book entry. I liked that arrangement and felt it served the story well. That is, until later in the book when the advice given by Izzy in the entries did not match her actions in real life, or simply started getting cumbersome and interrupted the flow of the story.
Since the story is narrated from Izzy’s point of view, we know right away what her baggage is. Izzy is bipolar and was diagnosed in her 20’s after her girlfriend broke up with her and sent her on a downward spiral. Now set on a good management routine for her disease, Izzy does not want to risk falling in love and triggering an episode. I do not have personal experience with this disorder, but if true to what the author attempts to portray, she did a phenomenal job at conveying it. I think that is the highlight of the novel.
The reader gets a glimpse at the mindset of someone with bipolar disorder symptoms. All the questions that can surface with sometimes the simplest of dilemmas. Like when Izzy gets a scone and her mind rambles about Jane possibly not liking scones to being a glutton if she eats both of them. When Izzy was being a ‘chatterbox’, the reader could easily pick up on it. Same when Jane was distant. One could readily see it through the dialog and scene description. It was eye-opening how all-consuming the disorder can be and the struggle by an individual to not be defined by it. Of course, that opens the door to the stigma associated with mental illnesses in our society.
On the other hand, the most aggravating issue was how much Izzy preached communication in her guide’s entries but then would do the opposite in her life! All the issues could have been easily addressed if communication was indeed something the characters did. And yes, I said characters since Jane was also to blame. For example, one of the big issues in the relationship was Izzy’s need to keep up with her running schedule. If Izzy would have simply explained how running was part of her routine to help with depression, Jane would have been fine with it. For two women in their 40’s, wow, talk to each other guys!
On a side note, the guide mentions moving in with your partner because it provides an economic advantage. Well, I couldn’t stop laughing because that was exactly what my mother said when I told her I was moving in with my now wife of 15 years!
Overall, a mostly straightforward lesbian romance book showcasing a main character with bipolar disorder. 3.5 stars
ARC generously provided to me by BSB via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.