Monday, May 4, 2015

Book Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Quick Facts
My Rating: 4 stars

Series: N/A

Date Read: April 15, 2015

Source: Purchased ebook

Publication Date: April 1, 2014

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Genres: Adult fiction, contemporary

A.J. is a rather grumpy man, especially after the death of his wife. Although he runs a bookstore, he keeps a distance from the locals, even those who are attempting to help him. This changes when a baby is left in the store, along with a note asking the owner to take care of her. Because A.J. knows little about children, but quickly grows attached to this one, he finds that he is forced to take the help offered to him.

I have mixed feelings about this one, because I really loved the first half of the book. Unfortunately, the second part felt dull and almost unnecessary in comparison, like an unneeded sequel to a perfectly good standalone. While part one could not completely stand on its own, I still felt like I would have enjoyed the book more if it ended there.

I have to admit that a lot of that has to do with my own preferences, though. Part one could have been written just for me - I love the trope where a child comes into someone's life who knows nothing about kids, and I loved the bookish references made throughout the story. Authors and books are discussed frequently, and I am a writer (and of course a reader/book blogger). So it matched really well with both my interests and my reading preferences. A.J.'s character was the kind I enjoy reading about - the kind that come across as grumpy and tough, but are actually great people on the inside.

So when part two began, it just felt lacking. I don't know how to be more specific without going into spoilers, but it went in a direction I wasn't fond of, and I think it made me pickier about everything else. Things I took easily and actually really liked about the first part, suddenly felt sort of unrealistic and I was constantly aware that I was reading a book. (Which of course I was, but most times when a reader is absorbed in a story, they can forget that they're reading instead of experiencing, which is how I felt during the first half.)

I really enjoyed the chapter openings, and into the second half they became one of my favorite parts. But when someone would, for example, go into detail about their reading preferences in casual conversation, including even tropes and character types they liked, I then saw it as something that would never happen - when before, I just took it as something that happened, and enjoyed seeing into the character's personalities through the books they enjoyed.

So I'm not saying that things like that didn't work for the book - they definitely added to the experience, until I began thinking too hard. As I said, I felt much less attached to the story during part two, and I think my mind started wandering to other things, making me more critical than I had been at the beginning.

Despite my complaints, I did not hate part two or think it was awful - just that it wasn't for me. In the end, I still think this was a good book and don't regret reading it at all. While I had my own issues that stopped it from being a five-star book for me, I can see how others would really love it the entire way through. The character development and the writing really were spot-on, and I think most book lovers will appreciate the story if only because the characters are book lovers themselves, and the story as a whole is quite bookish.


  1. This is one of my favorite tropes too! It's just so sweet to read about a grumpy character getting attached to a baby. But I hope there isn't a time skip between the two parts, because that's an automatic dislike for me.

    1. If I remember right she ages a bit during part one, but not too much - then in part two, she is fourteen or so. So yes, unfortunately there is a time skip!

  2. I like Gabrielle Zevin. I never heard of this one but sounds like an interesting read. Great review!

    1. I haven't read her other books, but might look into them! This one was definitely good.