I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Friend Zone is a debut with chapter switching povs between the heroine and hero, laughs, serious life issues, and a easy paced flow. Kristen suffers from uterine fibroids that cause her to have long heavy periods with extremely painful cramps and other intensified pms symptoms. Even though she feels she would eventually want children, her medical condition makes it implausible, so she is considering a hysterectomy. She's currently dating Tyler, a Marine overseas who is not planning on re-enlisting and coming home to live with her. Tyler doesn't want kids, so even though Kristen isn't sure she loves him, she thinks they are a good match.
Josh just broke up with his girlfriend and is moving from South Dakota to California to work with his bestfriend Brandon, they're fireman. He comes from a large family, six sisters, and has always wanted kids. He's not looking to get into a relationship until he feels settled in but Brandon's fiancee's maid-of-honor captures his attention.
“Fine. Stay. But don’t go catching feelings. I mean it. We are not a thing. Got it?”
“Using me for sex. Got it.” He pulled me closer and kissed my shoulder.
I could tell he was smiling.
Kristen and Josh definitely have chemistry on the pages, they have similar tastes, attitudes, and sense of humor; I enjoyed the playfulness between the two. There's a little bit of love triangle with Kristen dating Tyler but being extremely attracted to Josh. At first I liked how the author didn't immediately demonize Tyler, but about halfway through Kristen gets an easy out solution and the love triangle conflict lost a lot of its umph.
The main conflict of the story is Kristen knowing that she probably will never be able to have children, knowing Josh wants them, and so feeling she isn't good enough to be with him. Kristen is a sassy, tell it like it is character, easily discussing or mentioning her period issues but clams up and refuses to tell Josh that it could lead to her never having children. This creates a situation where Kristen is constantly pulling Josh in, because she is incredibly attracted to him and doesn't want to admit to herself that she loves him, but then harshly emotionally pushing him away, it started to get a bit exhausting and annoying. Lack of communication becomes part of the premise of the story and with two leads who otherwise have no problem communicating, it felt somewhat forced.
Josh for his part, plays a pretty understanding sensitive guy. He constantly bends and makes way for Kristen's needs, so often and completely that while he is definitely sweet, I didn't feel they had an equal relationship, how was Kristen meeting Josh's needs? Kristen is twenty-four and Josh twenty-nine, I felt this had a bit of a New Adult feel to it, Kristen came off young and immature at times and Josh felt a bit stand-in for Fairy Tale Submit To All Your Wants and Desires placeholder hero.
But being with her wasn’t even something I had to think about. I did want kids. But I wanted her first. Everything else was just everything else.
I thought it was great that the author showcased Kristen dealing with the health issues she did, we don't often get to read heroines with these issues but the ending had a bit of a surprise to it that I know will leave some readers feeling betrayed, it almost felt like a bait and switch to me.(show spoiler)
There was also an ending heavy emotional situation that came off feeling somewhat manipulated, it was shocking but I wasn't completely invested in the secondary character because they weren't fully fleshed out and it ended up feeling more set-up for the second in the series than adding to the emotional fabric of this story.
Overall, this author has a very easy reading style that does keep you reading the pages. There was some “cool girl” vibes going on with Kristen that I could have done without, women who eat cheeseburgers aren't necessarily cooler than those who don't; comes to close to the manic pixie girl vibe promoting for me. The main conflict of the story ended up feeling bait and switch, Kristen's push and pull with Josh started to drag, and there was some layers and depth to characters I was missing that kept me from fully sinking into the story. This is an author I'm going to keep an eye on though, there's some charisma to her writing.