The Operation Awesome theme for the #atozchallenge 2021 is book reviews. I had the chance to re-read some old favorites to see how my perspective has changed over time, as well as some new loves!
T is for This Will Be Funny Someday by Katie Henry
THIS WILL BE FUNNY SOMEDAY is a YA contemporary novel about the hapless, quiet high school student Isabel, who always thinks of something witty to say to people but can't ever bring herself to say it out loud. Her boyfriend is overbearing, she hasn't talked to her best friend in months, and her family seems content to leave her to her own devices. So when Isabel stumbles into a comedy club in downtown Chicago, she suddenly finds that she has a pretty good voice for comedy. Isabel falls in with a group of college students who think she's in college as well, and increasingly finds herself lying to everyone in her life to keep her comedy a secret. (Quick warning: this review contains some spoilers.)
If you liked The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, you may like this book - the "funny woman hides her comedy life from everyone" plot is pretty similar, and I've seen the book pitched as "Mrs. Maisel goes to high school." That said, my main criticism is that the reader never really sees Isabel be all that funny. She performs a couple five-minute sets and has an epic takedown of a bully at the end of the novel, but there's no sense of growth. She seemed as funny in her first set as she was in her last, and because we don't get to see her process of working through a joke like we do in Mrs. Maisel, I had a hard time believing that she becomes this amazing comic by the end of the novel, which is just a few months later. Isabel ends up beating out a bunch of college students to perform in a highly-exclusive college comedy showcase, which didn't make sense to me. She's been doing comedy for a few months; how could she really be that innately good that she could succeed over college students who have been doing this for several years? I just didn't buy it.
I also thought that the reveal of Isabel's secret comedy life to her family was a bit over-the-top: one of her bits, in which she mentions details about a lawsuit her high-powered lawyer mom is litigating, ends up being videotaped and sent to her mom as blackmail. Isabel's mom pays a lot of money to keep the video from ending up on the internet. I hate to keep going back to the TV show, but it almost seemed like a better reveal would have been Mrs. Maisel-style, where Isabel suddenly looks up and realizes her parents are in the audience. Her whole reason for not speaking up at home is that she constantly feels talked over and ignored - what better way would there have been for Isabel's parents to see her actually in her element, and then Isabel would have to deal with it in the moment while she's on stage? The blackmail plot was so quickly resolved that it didn't have as much weight as I would've liked.
The relationships in Isabel's life were what really brought this book to life for me. I loved the tension between Isabel and her (ex) best friend; I've been in similar situations and it truly felt real. When the two of them were paired up to do a project together, the awkwardness was so tangible that I actually cringed. There's bad blood between them about Isabel's boyfriend, and they dance around the topic in a way I think only us Midwesterners can truly accomplish. Isabel's relationship with her boyfriend was okay, but not quite as relatable. The summary in the book flap calls her boyfriend "controlling," which was disappointing because I wanted to find that out as I read. His controlling and gaslighting nature is blatant from page one. I would have liked for his character to be more subtle at first, so that the reader sees in him what Isabel sees - more like Nick Manter in Rainbow Rowell's FANGIRL. I wanted to be able to root for them as a couple and slowly be proven wrong, not be told before I even started reading that their relationship was doomed. What I really loved was Isabel's family dynamic. She slowly finds ways to engage with her older sister, who always seemed to pick on her and reject her. Isabel feels ignored and forgotten, and this feeling is bolstered many times throughout the novel as her family forgets about lunch dates with her or ignores her problems so they can talk about their own.
THIS WILL BE FUNNY SOMEDAY is a good read for anyone looking for something light and casual yet so compelling that they can devour it in two days.