Review: The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

Monday, October 14, 2013
Title: The Bookstore
Author: Deborah Meyler
Genre: romance, contemporary
Series: none
Pages: 352
Published: August 20, 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 1/5

A witty, sharply observed debut novel about a young woman who finds unexpected salvation while working in a quirky used bookstore in Manhattan.Impressionable and idealistic, Esme Garland is a young British woman who finds herself studying art history in New York. She loves her apartment and is passionate about the city and her boyfriend; her future couldn’t look brighter. Until she finds out that she’s pregnant.

Esme’s boyfriend, Mitchell van Leuven, is old-money rich, handsome, successful, and irretrievably damaged. When he dumps Esme—just before she tries to tell him about the baby—she resolves to manage alone. She will keep the child and her scholarship, while finding a part-time job to make ends meet. But that is easier said than done, especially on a student visa.

The Owl is a shabby, second-hand bookstore on the Upper West Side, an all-day, all-night haven for a colorful crew of characters: handsome and taciturn guitar player Luke; Chester, who hyperventilates at the mention of Lolita; George, the owner, who lives on protein shakes and idealism; and a motley company of the timeless, the tactless, and the homeless. The Owl becomes a nexus of good in a difficult world for Esme—but will it be enough to sustain her? Even when Mitchell, repentant and charming, comes back on the scene?

A rousing celebration of books, of the shops where they are sold, and of the people who work, read, and live in them, The Bookstore is also a story about emotional discovery, the complex choices we all face, and the accidental inspirations that make a life worth the reading.

Reviewed by Danielle

This entire review contains detailed spoilers. Please be warned.

Truly one of the most bizarre reading experiences I’ve had. The Bookstore is a romance without romance. Self-fulfillment without fulfillment. A look into a quirky shop that takes place almost entirely elsewhere. It is frenetic, yet depressing. It’s poorly written with a distinct lack of plot.

In the first few chapters, there are a lot of stilted, uninformative lines, like “[The cat] slinks around my legs while I sort it all out.” and "...there is a night manager called Luke who often wears a bandana." This did improve as the book wore on, however, the plotting did not. For example, Esme is told she has chlamydia. This is never, not once, mentioned again. She never discusses this with Mitchell, her boyfriend. She never urges him to get tested. She knows he sleeps with other people, unprotected, and suggests that she needs an STD test. She never gets one beyond the vaginal swab during her pap. No HIV test. That’s safe.

Speaking of Mitchell, he is the most bipolar, schizophrenic character with an utter lack of development. It seems like every time the author tried to introduce something with him, she immediately backpedaled into a two page soliloquy instead. Observe.

They visit Mitchell’s family. There is a bizarre scene where he takes his supermodel/PhD ex-girlfriend for a walk on the beach and Esme accidentally sees them in a romantic moment. She confronts the ex. The ex says it was nothing, just Mitchell having a drama. Esme goes home alone. Mitchell wakes her up to confess to this walk on the beach, but says the ex is still in love with him and he was letting her down easy. She is never seen again. This scene is pointless.

Mitchell dumps Esme for not being sexually adventurous enough. They get back together. She attempts to initiate sex by waking him up with a handy. He has a complete meltdown that he’s not ready and he values purity. Later, Esme almost loses the baby. Mitchell tells her how sexy she is on bed rest in her cupcake jammies, because she looks so innocent. He gives off pedophile vibes. He then sexually embarasses her in front of his mother and subsequently propositions her for a threesome with a stranger. He dumps her again when she denies him.

Despite all of this, Esme continually utters lines such as, “If I am with him, I can make him see that I am worth loving.” “No, [my allegiance] is to you,” “I can help you, Mitchell, I can save [you]”, and “He is still radiant to me, and without him everything is dark.” Holy shit, that is some Twilight/50 Shades levels of codependence. Esme doesn’t need a baby, she needs a therapist and a spine.

The love triangle is very strange. Luke, the bandana-ed manager, seems to despise Esme, right up until it becomes obvious that he’s madly in love with her. Esme never sees it. They do not end up together. He pulls some kindergarten level flirting by insulting her musical taste or telling her how spoiled she is. Maybe later he can pull her hair and kick sand at her. She certainly doesn’t need to rush into another relationship after the hot mess that is Mitchell, but it’s deeply unsatisfying that there’s not even a confession of attraction or a hint that it may work out in the future.

Very little of the book actually takes place in the shop. I would say it’s 80 percent drama with Mitchell and the baby, 20 percent Luke and the shop. The quirky regulars in the blurb are seen once or twice. This is not an interesting look at bookstore patrons, no matter what they try to sell on the back cover. There is a subplot of Esme learning not to be racist and classist to the homeless people who sometimes work at the shop, so I guess that’s something.

At the 42% mark of my copy, I noted that this was a “baby” book, not a “bookstore” book. But now that it’s over, I can’t even say it’s that. The last fifth is so depressing, so at odds with other parts, so rushed, (including a time skip,) I can’t say what genre this book is. All I can say that I don’t recommend it.


  1. Ugh, this sounds like a hot mess and not in the fun way. Will definitely avoid.

    1. Sorry Audra, I feel like I'm always putting you off books!

  2. SOunds like one to avoid and the premise seemed so good. What a shame.

  3. I had super high hopes for this one (being about books I was immediately intrigued) but after reading the SEVERAL bad reviews about this hot mess of a book I do believe I will skip this. I have plenty other books to waste my time on. Great review though, sorry this was a disappointment!


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