If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster

Lancaster’s sassy and witty novel about married couple Mia and Mac comes to life in the audiobook version read by Jamie Heinlein. Mia, a YA author of an Amish-zombie series, decides to take on the task of renovating a mansion in the high end neighborhood of Abington Cams in Illinois.

Far from the downtown hustle and bustle of the city streets of Chicago, Mia believes that she can finally live out her dream. The area in which she buys her new home happens to be the setting in many John Hughes movies that she and her sister grew up watching as teenagers. Hughes’ movies had such a large impact on her life that it feels like fate when the one and only Jake Ryan’s house comes on the market (as seen in the film Sixteen Candles).

With their love for everything DIY and HGTV, Mia and Mac plan on renovating the mansion themselves, but they soon find that there’s a reason why projects of this magnitude are usually left to the pros. After the long line of contractors they had interviewed seem to disappear almost overnight, it looks as though their beloved 1890s Tudor doesn’t stand a chance of being saved from its water damaged bathrooms, ant infested rooms, and horrible 1980s wallpaper.

When Mia returns from a work trip, she finds that there was a reason Mac had been sounding so distant during their phone calls. He had been planning her ideal homecoming with a little help from some HGTV magic all along. *Cue the Thompson Twins’ song*

I really enjoyed the pacing of the book. It shows the love that the author has for HGTV by referencing many of the shows the network had in the early 2000s. This book was published in 2011 so it does show its age when comparing Mia’s Amish-zombie series to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, but the references to John Hughes’ movies feel timeless and I think that’s what makes this book a “feel-good” story.

We all have that one story, movie, or book that defined our teenage years and I think Mia’s love for a movie director who created such relatable stories is comforting when she decides to tackle the unforeseen money pit of a home with her husband.

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