Genre: Romantic Comedy
What would you do with a few days, a stranger, and a snowed-in mall? Spencer didn’t know that falling asleep in a dressing room would have such a drastic effect on her Christmas plans. Evan didn’t know that the boiler room door locked behind him when he ran through it to get away from a few jerks. Neither of them planned for any of this to happen, and with a freak blizzard locking them inside a mall with no power, well, you may as well make the best of it.
As a joke, I vowed I would read this book in a day. Me reading the book in a day ended up having nothing to do with the vow, and everything to do the entertaining story. Romcoms aren’t my genre of preference. I can’t tolerate the clichés and stereotypes. I can solidly recommend this book on the principle that it lacks everything I loathe about the romance genre.
Who doesn’t love being fictitiously trapped somewhere due to hazardous weather conditions? The possibilities depending on where you’re trapped with these characters are endless! Richardson let us live out a wintery storm in a shopping mall disregarding realistic consequences, and it was an honest-to-God blast! Not only did we enjoy a paint fight in a hardware store, a chainsaw jumpscare that made a man scream in falsetto, we bathed in a fountain, fine dined on an unconventional date, and drug a display mattress into a game store to create a makeshift bedroom; all of this vicariously fulfilled through Richardson’s main characters, Spencer and Evan.
Definitely not Mainstream
The entire story was carried by dialogue. There was no conflict (the storm doesn’t count because it didn’t threaten starvation or fatality from conditions), no character development, no traditional written elements. Once you realize the reluctant relationship developing between the two main characters is the only element to the story, you accept that simplicity with gratitude. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. Definitely not a romance based on mainstream style, which is what I loved the most. The originality of the story means you’ll never find another like it.
The main characters interacted directly with the reader multiple times. At first, I was thrown off a second by the nontraditional style, but it’s one of those broken rules you accept without complaint.
- Evan: “Well, we are book characters, so…” Spencer: “But still.” Evan: “And it is a fiction book.” (page 132)
- “I’m just kidding. Imagine if that was the ending of this story. Wouldn’t you just be a little bit pissed? Imagine if I had made you read that whole thing about being stuck in the mall just to have them end it like this.” (page 259)
Errors in Editing
Admittedly, I was confused by the editing from page 3 forward. Richardson uses “seen” instead of “saw” throughout the book which was distracting. Then I was confused by the ages of the female characters. Spencer, Mindy and Charlotte were all best friends. Yet Mindy stated she was thirteen, Charlotte was in college, and Spencer was identified later as an eighteen-year-old. All of this puzzlement was caused by a simple slip of the word “not” that belonged in this sentence on page 11: “The only reason people can tell that we’re [not] thirteen is that we got these” Mindy said as she grabbed her boobs.
Near the end, there were many typographical errors mostly involving dialogue missing beginning/ending quotations. Richardson mentions in his About the Author at the back of the book: “He [Richardson] finds the most challenging part of writing to be getting the motivation to keep going when you’re already halfway through a novel”. I believe the typos were related to rushed editing. Did it discourage me from reading? No. Mildly bothersome, but the story was worth enduring having to double read sentences for comprehension.
Praise for Richardson’s Writing
The banter between Spencer and Evan is some of my favorite conversation of all time:
- Evan: “I have to hit you low. All of you is low” (page 41) (because Spencer’s 5′ 1”)
- Spencer: “I’m exhausted.”/ Evan: “You did one and a half push-ups. Come on, now.” (page 113)
- Spencer (female) jokingly said during the paint war: “I had sex with your brother.”/ Evan: “Jokes on you, I had sex with yours.” (page 142)
The only problem I had with their teasing was the constant “shut up”. I think Richardson meant it in a Mean Girls way (almost playful), but with the smacking and pushing and bossing Spencer was already doing to Evan, the shut-up jab was a little over the edge for me.
Never will my biased opinion reduce the rating of a book as I respect the diverse opinions of others, but I will mention that I personally couldn’t tolerate how lazy Spencer was. That’s just me as a workaholic, me as a human being who contributes, me as a partner in a relationship. Her being unmotivated to participate in anything drove me crazy! But like Richardson Tweeted: “Not every character has to be likeable. Sometimes characters are meant to be unlikeable.” Spencer is that character for me.
On the flip side, I so greatly enjoyed the realism and consistency of the characters. Spencer stayed a sassy gingersnap the whole time, and Evan remained a nice guy despite Spencer’s attitude. What I loved most were what I call “human moments”; you know, those that we’d rather not mention to spare embarrassment or conceal flaws. Spencer had some laugh out loud human moments:
- Spencer: “I climbed over the edge of the hot tub and sort of just plopped down into water with a pretty excessive splash of water. I accidentally swallowed a little bit, which caused me to start coughing. “After I finished dying of pneumonia and sat back in the hot tub…” (page 129)
- Spencer: “I carefully spilled water all over the place as I filled the cups.” (page 136)
Richardson also had some lovely written language:
- “Wrapping my hair up in a towel, mostly to avoid having wet hair tickling my back like they were the hands of a pervy Poseidon.” (page 134)
- “Star-studded skies.” (page 180)
The slightly clichéd twist (no spoilers) was delivered in an optimistic light without it being an all-consuming plot. The twist in and of itself could be entirely removed, and the story would essentially be exactly the same. It had no affect on the relationship of the characters as far as we saw, and could be nonexistent in the story without altering anything.
Entirely unrelated to the story itself, but the matte jacket of the book felt so wonderful being unboxed, and even better while reading. There was a smoothness to it that made the read personal. I loved holding it in my hands all day, cradling the spine in my palm.
Overall, I was satisfied I read it in a day, but I was more satisfied that I enjoyed reading 23:59 all day.
Purchase 23:59 here:
Be sure to follow d.i. richardson on Twitter @coda_cola_ because nothing’s cooler than being able to interact with the author behind the book, and Richardson’s Tweet feed is full of engaging comments and questions.
Check out his other books here! He’s got nine publications, and there’s actually a sequel to 23:59 called 00:00 (or Midnight), so that’ll be my next buy. If you’re up for fun in an abandoned shopping mall with a cute boy and a feisty ginger, don’t hesitate to make 23:59 your next purchase!