... [a] charming, funny, touching, and relevant comedy ... Along with the love affair, Hornby covers the issues of the day with snappy take-no-prisoners commentary ... On every page, racial tensions abound ... And, of course, because this is a Nick Hornby novel, there’s plenty of music ... Throughout, the plot twists and turns; the reader laughs and winces ... As these scenes build toward a surprising, well-earned ending, Hornby continues to ask: Should we choose someone just like us, or take a risk? ... My only quibble, among such pleasures, lies in certain passages of dialogue, however crackling, that are unattributed, forcing me to backtrack to figure out which lines belong to what speaker, a slight irritation that, on occasion, interrupted the flow. Nevertheless, even if, upon finishing, readers might still not want to kiss their butchers, they’ll be all too willing to plant a smooch on the author of this delicious, prime-cut, filet mignon of a novel.
In this age of anxiety about cultural appropriation and suchlike, kudos to Nick Hornby’s bold move in Just Like You, He narrates one half of it from the point of view of a working-class black man in his early 20s and the other half from the point of view of a 42-year-old middle-class white mother. And, what’s more, he makes a social comedy of the two of them falling in love, one that gently dramatises their differences of class, race and generation ... By setting most of Just Like You in 2016, what’s more, Hornby stirs in that great exposer of fissures in class, race and generation: the Brexit referendum ... Hornby is surefooted around all these issues, amiable and forgiving ... Does he tell us much that we don’t already know or think we don’t already know? On this I’m not sure. Just Like You – as a comedy of class difference and of the soft racism of bien-pensant liberals – invites comparison with Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age and seems to me to lack some of that novel’s sharpness. I don’t think there’s much in here to challenge or discomfit ... But why should there be? It is frequently funny, consistently engaging and it’s not primarily a sociological treatise or a satire: it’s a love story. It may not have fire in its belly, but it has great warmth in its heart.
Hornby’s latest novel, Just Like You” sees him dispensing with other topics and focusing entirely on the relationship between his two lead characters and its impact on those around them. He doesn’t sell his reader short, for this love affair is like nothing we have encountered before in his fiction. Marked by significant differences and fraught with huge uncertainties, it requires both parties to compromise to make it work and resemble more than just 'something between things' ... Hornby writes about human connection and interaction with facility and acuity, and always in the most engaging prose. He makes us care deeply for his two protagonists as they follow their instincts—falling in love, falling apart, then making another go of it ... Hornby’s characters articulate their hopes and fears throughout expertly crafted dialogue and well executed scenarios. Astute and emotionally involving, this is a bittersweet tale about opposites attracting, then trying to stay together.
[Hornby] writes insightfully about the daily disappointments, both professional and personal, that haunt ordinary lives ... It’s not easy to portray an uneducated character without seeming patronizing, but Joseph’s intelligence shines ... Some of the Brexit references will translate better than others — and be more compelling — to an American audience...But Hornby’s readers across the Atlantic will certainly get that he’s using the referendum as a metaphor ... Readers may think they know how the plot will resolve, but one of the pleasures of Just Like You is how skillfully Hornby takes his unlikely lovers, and the novel, to a conclusion that’s both convincing and surprising.
While Hornby skewers this particular milieu – his home territory – with horrible accuracy, and is truly funny, creating an impressive portrait of the internal life of a woman in her 40s, his attempt to inhabit the point of view of a black man in his 20s sits uneasily. Amid all the unwinnable arguments about who is allowed to write about whom, or from whose viewpoint, this is a brave, well meant if sometimes jarring attempt. The youth-speak alone, the 'pengs' and 'lols', the DJ friend called £Man and girl called Jaz in her spangly top and face glitter seem at best dated, even for 2016 ... But the novel gallops straight into something that is immensely readable, sharp-eyed and at times hilarious ... Hornby pulls off that surprisingly difficult feat: creating genuinely likable protagonists. We are rooting for them throughout, longing for their age-gap, class-gap, interracial relationship to work despite obstacles ... Long discussions about Brexit, episodes of casual and overt racism, and constant ruminations about race and background fail to obscure the fact that this is, at heart, a light and enjoyable relationship novel that is thin on plot but entertaining in classic Hornby fashion ... The simple fact of their love is convincing; what is less effectively conveyed is just how this relationship works, neither the glue nor the chemistry truly apparent ... As ever, the true delight of a Hornby novel lies in his extraordinarily acute social observation, and in the sheer brilliance of exchanges that sing, zing and capture every nuance of real speech. The book seems almost TV-ready, as page after page of breathtakingly recognisable dialogue is laid out like a screenplay, and even texts seem lifted straight off the phone. The school quiz night with its Mexican buffet and entitled liberals treating Joseph like 'an unexploded bomb' is a masterpiece of farce ... The Brexit vote comes and goes, the arguments from both sides rehashed, but this is territory already so well covered by Jonathan Coe and others, and so well known by the rest of us, that it feels redundant. Just Like You could stand alone as the ladlit-meets-mumlit social satire that it is, its vicious wit paradoxically interwoven with tenderness and empathy. The Observer called Hornby 'the poet of the everyday', and this is exactly what he is. Little escapes his eye. Certain pleased-with-themselves tribes – indeed the metropolitan elite flushed out by Brexit – have rarely been so successfully pinned to a page and left to squirm.
The maddening thing about Nick Hornby’s writing is that it is so perceptive, it reads like something you could’ve sworn you’ve thought of at some point. But of course you didn’t, because there’s no way your inner monologue is as articulate, funny, clever and sensitive as are those of Hornby’s characters. That feeling persists throughout...Just Like You ... It's easy to root for Joseph and Lucy, because they both seem to be good. Their intimacy is described tenderly, and their unsaid feelings for each other get at truly knowing and appreciating someone ... It's a gift that Hornby decided to expose his writings to the world, including the highly readable Just Like You.
How should, for example, white novelists approach writing from the perspective of a black character to avoid this? Such is the challenge Hornby faces in his ninth novel ... Renowned for his brilliant portrayal of the interior lives of men struggling to survive in a society infused with toxic masculinity, it seems a brave and bold move for Hornby to create two protagonists that are not Just Like Him ... We know Hornby is brilliant at writing about men not unlike himself ... Hornby is a writer who has proven himself time and again to be hugely empathetic ... His trademark observations of human beings and their doings deliver the reader properly funny moments ... The connection between the couple reads completely authentic ... Where Hornby’s prose becomes truly electric is his searing portrayal of the effects of alcoholism on a marriage and a family ... just what we need: good company, great laughs and a gentle poking reminder of the humanity of those we think we don’t understand.
The capable crackle of his dialogue...propels the domestic drama forward at an easy pace, particularly effective in the voices of the children ... Lucy and Joseph are ambassadors for...a world, crammed with virtues ... Yet there is a problem: while it is clear they can overcome the prejudices that might drive them apart, Hornby never shows us exactly what draws them together. In his effort to illustrate his point, he leaves a hole where the heart of the novel should be—where a prudish author might draw a veil over the couple’s sex life, Hornby’s own coy fade-outs come whenever they are in danger of giving us an insight into their feelings for each other. As a result, the relationship feels allegorical and somewhat bloodless ... It is hard to reconcile this feeling of weightlessness with the emotional acuity of Hornby’s earlier work ... In the end, perhaps Just Like You is too much a novel of its times. After all, for those still mourning the shocks of 2016, waiting in hope and without much reason to expect a happy ending has come to feel like an end in itself.
... a juicy plot that’s both vintage Hornby and totally contemporary ... Hornby has built a career on capturing emotional nuance. This book finds him in forensic observational form—from paranoid introspection to tortuous drinks parties; from the unsavoury undertones of customers’ attempts to flirt with Joseph to the thinly veiled racism of policemen. The looming referendum haunts the novel, which depicts with rueful irony a complacent elite sleepwalking into Brexit ... With the confidence of a pro, Hornby delivers an entertaining tale of modern romance and the value of living in the moment. The canvas is strikingly domestic and the tone wry, intimate, bittersweet. Its success hinges on protagonists so vivid and self-aware that their relationship seems inevitable ... There are clichés—Lucy’s teacherly pedantry, Joseph’s aspirations to be a DJ. But overall, Just Like You is a thoughtful story about love against the grain in a Britain divided by political tribalism and identity politics.
Hornby crafts an artful narrative about love and living in the moment ... While a contemporary romance at its surface, Just Like You offers a glimpse into British politics, existentialism, and social stigmas, making it more than your average chick lit novel. The prose moves with quick-witted pacing, and the interactions between Joseph and Lucy provide humor as well as warm fuzzies. The unpredictable ending offers numerous implications for readers, again taking it one step beyond the expectations for a novel of this genre. Overall, an interesting and fast read that will give readers something to chew on, even days after finishing the book.
...an endearing love story that defies convention ... the novel is a breezy read, grounded in just enough realism to make it all feel, well, real ... Hornby’s knack for dialogue and the crackling wit he gives his characters makes the chapters fly ... It’s touching and lovely and all the things that honest relationships should be in this day and age ... The novel is full of exchanges like that about race and Brexit, as these seemingly incompatible lovers figure out that maybe, just maybe, there’s a place for their relationship in this modern world.
Exploring race, politics and class in Britain, Hornby is in volatile and controversial territory ... Sadly, Just Like You squanders this potential; despite the effortless quality of the prose and the flashes of warmth and humour emblematic of vintage Hornby, there is an inauthenticity at the novel’s heart which seeps through even in the opening pages. At times, Just Like You is trying so hard to be a 'woke,' 'political' novel that it ends up being one-dimensional and tone-deaf ... Though some of Hornby’s depiction of racism is thought-provoking and well observed, the confidence with which he writes about an experience which, as a white author, he can never fully understand, is at times unsettling ... Despite having clearly set out to write a Brexit novel, Hornby’s discussion of Brexit is stuffed awkwardly into exchanges between the characters ... his infamous talent for everyday observation sparkles ... Hornby’s inimitable style is not enough to save this novel, which flounders under the weight of the political topics.
Not much happens in Just Like You, as the warmth in Lucy and Joseph’s relationship helps them navigate potential but mostly drama-free romantic pitfalls ... Outside of the Brexit vote, most of the events in Just Like You are rather low-key, but the charm of Hornby’s main characters carry the book through the potential flatness of its middle pages. Unfortunately, Hornby occasionally falls into clichés in his dialogue ... a hopeful, compassionate read.
The maddening thing about Nick Hornby’s writing is that it is so perceptive, it reads like something you could’ve sworn you’ve thought of at some point. But of course you didn’t, because there’s no way your inner monologue is as articulate, funny, clever and sensitive as are those of Hornby’s characters ... Topics of police mistreatment of Black people and the fetishizing of people of different races are covered, but not in an in-depth way that puts Hornby's credibility to discuss them into question ... The story also contains plenty of wry commentary ... It's a gift that Hornby decided to expose his writings to the world, including the highly readable Just Like You.
As well as the precision of Hornby’s emotional triangulation, there are plenty of other hooks. Credible dialogue, of course ... for all the comedy of seeing Islington liberals squirm over seemingly innocuous racial faux-pas, Hornby adroitly shows the ubiquity of micro aggressions and how quickly they can spiral out of control ... Hornby has had a good eye for the way we live now ... Perhaps he makes more than he needs to of setting his novel at the time of the Brexit referendum, but even this cannot spoil such a well-told, thoughtful, tender and occasionally devastatingly funny love story.
The charm of Hornby’s previous books has been the way they balance middlebrow uplift with enough emotional truth to make the fantasy feel grounded. Here, there’s something underimagined about the two main characters. Tackling the intractable subjects of race and Brexit, the author seems constrained to make Lucy and Joseph exemplary and consequently rather bland ... Though there’s a lot of dialogue — internal and external — we’re not permitted to see much. It feels as if the leads have yet to be cast and the fictional world awaits the vision of a director. The characters’ thoughts linger on innocuous subjects and hurry past potentially awkward ones. The sex is obliquely described and the question of whether Lucy is fetishizing her handsome young Black partner is raised for an instant, then dashed ... While it’s never a disagreeable book, it’s hampered by a flatness that comes from our feeling that the author has deliberately wired things so the conflict will never rise above a certain voltage. And in the fraught times in which the novel has arrived, its bonhomie comes off as strained and false ... in the end, the child-proofed world of Just Like You can’t tell us much about difficult negotiations. Conflict-averse, it seems to endorse Joseph’s approach to the Brexit referendum: Check all the boxes so no one has a reason to dislike you.
... especially good at observing the sweet caution and recklessness of early attraction: the almost-empty messages sent with the breath stopped in your throat, half from fear the other won’t understand you and half from fear that they will ... has plenty of witty observation, zeroing in on the cringe of white people fishing for black approval and the adorable embarrassment of the age gap ... One of the problems with the rash of Brexit novels is that novelists as a group tend to be Remain-inclined. Robust and sympathetic pro-Leave characters are consequently in short supply. Joseph is hedging his bets, but so is Hornby: it’s as though he doesn’t trust his readers to stay onside with a full-blown Brexiteer hero. Given his savvy portrayal of Lucy’s self-righteous social circle, perhaps that’s a reasonable judgment for him to make, but it lowers the stakes and makes the relationship between Lucy and Joseph at times feel glib ... In other ways, though, it’s a quietly brave novel ... Hornby is making a modest argument for his art, sliding into the consciousness of two people who are not like him and showing how their mutual affection can cut through the seemingly fixed lines of society. On that point, Just Like You is an endearing success.
This book by Nick Hornby is so 'woke,' it’s as though the author is writing an opinion piece more than a novel. All the PC bases are covered and, probably because of that, it all feels so contrived ... If all of this sounds fairly amusing, it isn’t really. There are any number of endless conversations Lucy and Joseph have about their relationships and, after a bit, you feel like you’re trapped in a private conversation you care nothing about. They drone on and on but never seem to advance and it gets tiresome and tedious, two adjectives that don’t make for a compelling novel ... There’s too much slog and not enough snog, as the Brits might say.
All of the characters in this wonderful novel are endearing. Most of them, including Joseph’s judgmental mother and Lucy’s guileless, sports-crazy sons, are also smart and funny. A few minor characters are racist and provide some timely #BlackLivesMatter moments ... Filled with laugh-out-loud charm, Hornby’s movie-ready follow-up to State of the Union is a hopeful balm for our unsettled postpandemic times.
Hornby...lives up to his reputation as bard of the everyday in this thoughtful romance that crosses lines of race, age, and class ... Hornby is good company on the page and offers insights on his characters with aplomb, demonstrating an investment in each of their voices and an interest in the forces that draw people to one another. This is great fun.