IF YOU WERE HERE by Jen Lancaster [Review]

If you come over to my house on the weekend, odds are pretty good that the TV is tuned to HGTV. I’m totally addicted to shows like House Hunters International and Property Virgins. Mia, the main character in If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster, suffers from this same addiction, although hers is way worse than mine. She and her husband, Mac, have deluded themselves into thinking that buying a fixer upper and doing the work themselves is a great idea. Things are only made worse by Mia’s obsession with all things John Hughes. When she discovers Jake Ryan’s house from Sixteen Candles is for sale she pretty much loses her mind with excitement. Never mind that the house is practically falling apart, is at the upper end of their price range, and that they’re not exactly experienced at DIY home repair. The lure of Jake Ryan is too strong for Mia to resist.

While the home repairs turn Mia’s life upside down, she still has deadlines to meet for her day job. She’s the author of a popular YA series about teenage Amish zombies in love. There’s also a subplot involving their vapid ex-landlady, a wannabe reality star named Vienna. And then there are the new neighbors, who don’t exactly roll out the welcome wagon for Mia and Mac.

I had heard that Jen Lancaster’s books were funny, but I was not fully prepared for all the hilarity in If You Were Here. It’s laugh out loud funny. I loved all the references to shows on HGTV and, of course, to John Hughes movies. As a YA writer, Mia is jealous of Stephenie Meyer and takes every opportunity to snark on her, which had me cracking up (Lancaster assures readers in the prologoue that she actually loves Meyer). And just the idea of someone writing Amish zombie novels is hilarious to me.

If You Were Here is silly fun for anyone who has experienced the headaches of home ownership. Let me emphasize the silly part—the story itself is crazy ridiculous, but there are elements of truth in there that make it funny and relatable. My only complaint is that Lancaster is a big fan of footnotes, which I really liked at first, but they quickly became annoying to read on my ereader and didn’t always add to the story.

Apparently this is Jen Lancaster’s first novel, though she has written five non-fiction books. This was my first experience reading her books, and I look forward to reading more. I’d recommend If You Were Here to anyone obsessed with HGTV and 80s pop culture, as well as fans of books like Bridget Jones Diary or the Shopoholic series.

Here are a few quotes from If You Were Here:

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to make my design divine with Candice Olson or see if Carter really can. Mac and I both have a tiny, sexless crush on Holmes on Homes, and we’d adore having him get all self-righteous and blustery over shoddy masonry before he saved our bacon from the fire.

…Our income exponentially increased after my novel It’s Raining Mennonites unexpectedly hit the New York Times bestseller list, which meant my next book, Rumspringa-ding-ding, recently sold for a tidy sum. Like I said, teenage zombies in love are fairly lucrative. I mean, they’re not teenage-vampires-in-love lucrative, but I’m satisfied.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars | Publisher: NAL Hardcover | Pages: 320 | Source: Purchased | Buy on Amazon

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