Although Ellen has a very comfortable life and a nice family, she is very unfulfilled. Deciding she needs a change, Ellen first starts with her exterior, eating healthy foods and running miles on her treadmill. At her cousin’s encouragement, Ellen decides to try her hand at writing again and enters a blog competition through a popular women’s magazine. At first, Ellen doesn’t take the blog too seriously, even though winning would earn her $10,000. Soon Ellen begins turning to her blog when she needs an emotional outlet to vent about her imperfect marriage and her yearnings for “something new”.
When Ellen befriends her cousin Jill’s handsome next door neighbor, Ben Campbell, she has no idea what she is getting herself into. Their relationship begins with innocent flirting, but rapidly develops into something more. Both of them are married with kids, and Ellen must decide if her relationship with Jonah is worth salvaging, or if she wants to start a new life.
By the time I reached page 37 in Something New by Janis Thomas, I had firmly determined Ellen Ivers was a total b**** and I didn’t care what happened to her. She complained about everything from her husband to her three children, and I couldn’t understand why. Jonah was hard-working and her children were all healthy and normal, yet she resented them all. In my opinion, she didn’t deserve any of them and I was looking forward to watching her husband throw her out on her derriere. How could any reader possibly root for a main character who gleefully admits she “…whipped up his favorite carb-rich dishes at dinner just to punish him” (page 35) after he had lost weight and she had remained slightly overweight (because she hadn’t tried getting healthy)? This was just one of many admissions which made me hate Ellen; the references she made about her children were even more horrifying. But if there is one positive thing I could say about her, it’s that she is completely honest. She’s not anyone I would ever want to be friends with, and that made it all the more difficult for me to make it through Something New.
However, in the latter half of the book I began to see Ellen a bit differently. Her flirtation with Ben made her a happier person, though it didn’t improve things at home with Jonah. At first, I was completely sympathetic to Jonah; then there was one specific conversation between Jonah and Ellen that made me dislike him almost as much as I disliked her. At that point, I decided I didn’t mind any longer if she decided to have an affair. As perfect as Ben seemed, though, I began to have a funny feeling about him, and turned the pages faster and faster just to see if they would or wouldn’t give in to their sexual desires.
Overall, I’m pretty conflicted with Something New. I started out hating Ellen, and by the end thought she’d grown up a little and become less selfish. I still don’t want to be her friend, though. The biggest issue I take with this book is the message it leaves readers about marriage; it’s a very jaded outlook, and seems to suggest that people in unhappy marriages should just suck it up and try to make it work because it’s not likely there is anything better out there for them.
Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Berkley Trade. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.