Socially Awkward: A Novel, by Stephanie Haddad

Socially Awkard Book ReviewHave you ever wanted to be someone else? Did you ever try? Jennifer Smith spends most of her time wishing she had a more exciting name, lived a more exciting life, or that she could just become someone else for a while. With her sister Claire’s help, Jennifer channels her life’s desires into the perfect graduate research program: a fake Facebook identity that allows her to “study” the world’s reaction to perceived beauty. Making up a new name, designing a new personality, and doctoring a photo or two seems like the perfect plan; how could it possibly backfire? Especially if it helps her get the attention of a long-time school crush… Lost in her new-found “popularity” as Olivia Saunders, Jennifer’s real life starts to slip out of her grasp piece by piece. Before long, she finds herself caught in a love square–where one of the four corners is an imaginary person. While Olivia’s life has all the glitz, glamor, and guys she could ever have wanted, Jennifer has to decide if she can walk away and learn how to be okay living life as herself.

Paperback: 198 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 20, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1466452781
ISBN-13: 978-1466452787

About the Author
Stephanie Haddad’s earliest works featured unicorns and talking pumpkins who overcame adversity, evil, and the threat of being baked into pies. With age, her writing has evolved to more grown-up topics, like love and the complicated relationships between people. As a life-long lover of cheerful fiction, she strives to tackle real-world issues with wit, hope, and lots of humor. Her short stories have spanned many genres, but her full-length novels stay firmly planted in happy endings, via both romance and women’s fiction. In 2009, Stephanie joined the Romance Writers of America to celebrate her addiction to perfect plot resolutions with other writers just like her. Combining a passion for the human condition with a penchant for the romantic, Stephanie strives to write every story as though it is a conversation shared between friends. As she balances new motherhood, a freelance writing workload, and an independent publishing career, Stephanie continues her work on a planned three-book women’s fiction series, a collection of romantic urban fantasy short stories, and several single-title romances. Her first novel, A Previous Engagement, was released in July 2011. She lives, loves, and writes near Boston, MA, the home of all of her novels.

I have read Stephanie Haddad’s previous novels, Love Regifted, A Previous Engagement: A Novel and Love Unlisted. Like those prior novels this one takes place in Boston, Massachusetts. I really loved the other novels being set in Boston and the fact that Haddad references previous characters from those novels in her newer ones. However, this novel, “Socially Awkward” besides a one line throw away to a previous character can stands on it’s own with no mention of previous characters.

Haddad begins the novel in medias res. When you begin reading all you know is that the main character, Jennifer Smith, is having an ugly fight with her sister Claire which causes their mother to intervene to get them to stop yelling at each other.

After Claire storms out, Jennifer than sits down with her mother and begins to tell her what happened to cause the fight which causes Jennifer to begin her story from the beginning. We learn that Jennifer was born with a hearing disability that requires her to wear two hearing aids that she is self conscious about. Additionally, she is apparently overweight and after a final warning from her doctor decides she will lose the thirty pounds she recommends.

On top of all of that, Jennifer, a graduate student is working on obtaining her masters in sociology. After some time she hits upon the perfect subject for her thesis paper, to study how people react to a beautiful person on Facebook versus her own Facebook profile.
Jennifer with the help of her sister Claire creates the perfect fake woman named Olivia Saunders which Jennifer starts to use to connect with her old high school crush Sean.

I still find that Haddad is a very good writer. She always writes characters that I can sympathize with and root for most of the time. However, when you delve a bit deeper into Jennifer’s psyche you start to see her as immature, jealous, and at times selfish.

Jennifer is constantly suspicious of anyone that likes her feeling that they are using her to get to her sister Claire. We find out that there is good reason for Jennifer’s reluctance to trust people.

Also I felt that Jennifer’s constant jealously of her sister Claire was getting tiresome. Jennifer whines a lot about how gorgeous Claire is, how popular, and how come Claire couldn’t have left anything for her. It was a pretty ugly side to her and with one selfish act she and her sister become estranged.

I wish that Haddad had provided more details about their relationship and how they reconciled. Also I wish that Haddad had spent more time on Sean and Jennifer’s interactions in high school. Also I guess I call shenanigans on Sean’s current relationship with Jennifer and Claire considering what we find out that occurred between all parties in high school. I was so confused about certain things and re-read this novel twice to make sure I hadn’t missed a key scene. Instead she fast forwards to an undetermined time and we have Jennifer enjoying her happily ever after.

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