Izzy Brown is an aspiring Instagram influencer who makes a deal with the devil, a.k.a. her coworker Luke, to fake a relationship to boost their profiles. Their plan works, but the longer it goes on, Izzy starts to wonder whether this fake life is worth it. When she reconnects with Aidan, a mysterious stranger who looked after her the day her brother died, Izzy’s dilemma comes to a head: does she want true love with Aidan or the picture-perfect life and perks of internet fame?
I want to start this review initially by registering my disgruntlement at the title and cover of this book because it is massively misleading. The title We Just Clicked implies that clicking, and by extension phones or internet-y type things would play a role in the main romance. However, this is definitely not true. Izzy and Aidan’s relationship has nothing to do with “clicking”: they build up to a relationship quite slowly, they have NO interaction online, and the main things that bring them together are a) grief (understandably not chosen as the theme for the cover) and b) enjoying 80s movies. Given that the book talks a lot about how much Izzy loves The Princess Bride, among other classic and endlessly quotable films, there are SO many fun covers and titles that they could have conceived of.
And while I’m at it, the tagline ‘Could it be love at first like?’ is even worse! No one falls in love after “liking” something in this book at any point! Why are there hearts on the phone screens? And hearts in message bubbles? These could, I curmudgeonly suppose, stand for “likes”, but I’m afraid that requires rather the eye of faith. All in all, this cover makes no sense: all of the imagery implies a romance built around online dating or some kind of online interaction that just never occurs in this book. If the book is all about how misleading the perfect image of social media is, then why does the cover do the exact same thing?
I’m aware that the cover is not something we’re supposed to judge things on, but I think that’s nonsense, and a poor cover, like a poor film trailer, should absolutely be called out. Most especially so when the cover image is shared on social media to encourage people to snap it up; the cover is vital and I feel foully misled! It also suggests that no one involved in the artwork and marketing of this book had actually read it and that’s … not a great advertisement.
‘Sophie, why are you so cross about the implications of the cover; what about the book itself?’, I hear you ask. Well, the book itself is fine. But it spends so much time talking endlessly about Instagram and how to frame a photo that I feel that the cover should reflect that in some way. It also doesn’t help that it feels like the author doesn’t totally understand how Instagram works, but she either completely despises it, or desperately wants to be famous on it. It also says a lot that if you remove the social media storyline, it wouldn’t make much difference to the core romance plot which is irritating.
In the interests of transparency, I have to admit (if it’s not already glaringly obvious) that I’m not a huge fan of romance novels that revolve around social media anyway, mainly because they almost always end up sounding like a supply teacher who thinks that talking in hashtags is the best way to communicate with teenagers (see Netlix’s Never Have I Ever for the perfect example). But this one felt particularly clunky and patronising. By the third “Izzy and Luke set up a picture that the author saw on Pinterest and then have an argument” scene, I’d definitely had enough, and I would have preferred more time with Izzy and Aidan’s relationship.
Izzy and Aidan are a cute couple, if rather boring (perhaps because we don’t spend a huge amount of time with him?), and there is never any chance that Izzy will start showing genuine romantic interest in Luke. As I touched on in my review of Rosie’s Travelling Teashop, while I love the love triangle trope when it’s done well, I am not a fan of how it’s used in popular culture to appeal to readers without any follow-through. In We Just Clicked, I felt like Bell was trading on our expectations of love triangles, and even of the fake-relationship-turned-real trope, to create non-existent tension. I personally love the fake-relationship trope so this lazy gesture in its direction made me a bit cross, especially as the blurb had implied it more than once. Luke’s introduction signposts his self-absorption and villainy – no romantic hero would ever be introduced as quite that vain (unless we were in a Regency novel, in which case the period demands it). Because of all this, the tension we’re clearly supposed to feel just never arises: Izzy noticing Luke’s hair/arms/height/whatever in passing is not enough to trade on.
Romance novels are built on conventions for a reason and the conventions produce a literary obstacle course that the plot has to make its way through. To continue the metaphor in the world of We Just Clicked, you can’t just walk past the obstacle course, taking selfies with each obstacle in the frame behind you, and then expect a finisher’s medal (do you even get finisher’s medals for obstacle courses?)!
The big tension in the plot is because Izzy doesn’t tell Aidan about her whole Instagram set-up purely because, as far as I could tell, Aidan’s ex was super into her phone and Izzy didn’t want to be like that. Putting aside the fact that the whole “oh girls are all obsessed with their phones” thing is predictable, bog-standard misogyny, it’s also just a dumb reason to keep such a huge secret. Plot-points like this in romance novels often require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief but it’s the book’s job to create the world in which certain actions are logical; Bell never convinced me that Izzy’s decisions were at all logical, even within the world of the book.
Many of the Goodreads reviews, and a lot of the marketing, also mention the humour of the novel, but I’m afraid it didn’t hit the spot for me. It all felt very contrived and I found the dialogue quite cringey and not really how real people talk. It was all quite slow-paced and I kept forgetting who people were because there weren’t enough differentiating features. The supporting cast of Izzy’s coworkers seemed vaguely terrifying rather than comic relief, and I’m not sure Izzy’s friend group quite came across as “girl-power” as it felt like they were meant to.
Izzy and Aidan may have clicked, (or Izzy and Luke may have clicked but, like, in a fake way? THE TITLE MAKES NO SENSE AND I’M STILL CROSS) but the Kindle deal for this book is one that I rather wish I hadn’t gone for.
You can buy it here.