I’ve loved every one of Solomon’s YA novels I’ve read (Today, Tonight, Tomorrow and Our Year of Maybe) so you know I was so excited for this romance debut. Solomon is a phenomenal character builder. In her last release, I loved the witty and quick banter. If you also loved that, then you will find more of the same in The Ex Talk! Keep reading this book review to find out how much I loved Solomon’s romance debut!
Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.
When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.
As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
First off, enemies to lovers is probably my favorite trope. So we knew I’d love The Ex Talk right? My dad is also one of those people who always plays the radio when we’re in the car. It’s nostalgic for me to hear some of his favorite programs in the book! What I loved was how vulnerable Shay is on the page. How the dreams she’s given up on, the promises that have been broken, are in the past, but not forgotten. How we are haunted by the compromise we’ve made and the things we think we’ve given up. As I’m between dreams now, this dilemma hit extra hard.
And that brings me to the kernel of what I loved about The Ex Talk: Shay. I could relate to her struggles looking at her life and wondering about her previous expectations. You know when you think ‘adulting’ or even just life will be one thing. And then when you get to it, it’s never how you think it will be. It can feel like betrayal. That moment of disillusionment and the curtain comes down. At the same time, Shay is just this quirky ray of sunshine. Passionate about radio and story telling, she’s one of those characters who live and breathe their passions.
(Can I also just say I love that the love interest is Korean?! I want to see more Asian love interests please)
Sexism and Serious Topics
Another element I loved in The Ex Talk was the ways Solomon sheds light on the sexism. It’s not necessarily something that the book revolves around, like some of the other fiction I’ve read. However, it is present from the beginning. The micro aggressions and gas lighting. The ways that women are assumed to be the note takers, that they’re being too emotional. And while it may not be the central theme, it’s one that is discussed throughout the book.
I appreciated that it was woven into the story, because we live in a patriarchy, but also in a way that felt organic and seamless. Another element that was brought into The Ex Talk was interracial dating. This is another one where it’s not the central theme, but it is discussed. Worries about fetishization, dating preferences, and histories.
The Ex Talk has superb banter. You know the heat that rolls off a good exchange? Where the line between attraction and indignation meets? At the same time, The Ex Talk is very much a story about grief, moving on, and love. About the sacrifices and trade offs women have to make. About the importance of having an ally, to stop holding onto the past, and to finds ways to express our passions. Sometimes the thing we think we love can be holding us back.