Forest, Kristina. The Neighbor Favor. New York: Berkley, 2023.
ISBN-13: 978-0593546437 | $17.00 USD | 416 pages | Contemporary Romance
A shy bookworm enlists her charming neighbor to help her score a date, not knowing he’s the obscure author she’s been corresponding with, in this sparkling and heart-fluttering romance by Kristina Forest.
Shy, bookish, and admittedly awkward, Lily Greene has always felt inadequate compared to the rest of her accomplished family, who strive for Black excellence. She dreams of becoming a children’s books editor, but she’s been frustratingly stuck in the nonfiction division for years without a promotion in sight. Lily finds escapism in her correspondences with her favorite fantasy author, and what begins as two lonely people connecting over email turns into a tentative friendship and possibly something else Lily won’t let herself entertain—until he ghosts her without a word.
Months later, Lily is still crushed, but she’s determined to get a hold of her life, starting with finding a date to her sister’s wedding. And the perfect person to help her is Nick Brown, her charming, attractive new neighbor, who she feels drawn to for reasons she can’t explain. But little does she know, Nick is an author—her favorite fantasy author.
Nick, who has his reasons for using a pen name and pushing people away, soon realizes that the beautiful, quiet girl from down the hall is the same Lily he fell in love with over email months ago. Unwilling to complicate things even more between them, he agrees to set her up with someone else, though this simple favor between two neighbors is anything but—not when he can’t get her off his mind…
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own.
I read a YA book by Kristina Forest last year, and really enjoyed it. So, I was hyped to hear she was releasing an adult romance, The Neighbor Favor. And while transitioning from YA to adult can be hit-or-miss, Forest managed it with ease, and with a trope that can often be hard to pull off, even for veteran romance writers.
I love how Lily and Nick bond over emails she sent to his mostly defunct author email, and what started as an author/fan interaction quickly turned into something more. It perfectly replicates the vulnerability readers and authors have in being able to share parts of themselves online, even if it is from a different angle than I’ve personally experienced. And the way that translates to their real life encounters, with her being burned both when he ghosts her and later when she finds out the truth, and him struggling when he finds out who his new neighbor is, I truly felt the tension.
Nick has believable reasons for initially wanting to keep his identity private, related to his relationship with his father. And while I did sometimes question how he could let things go on for as long as they did with Lily in the dark, I also understood his own insecurities and fears. The narrative also gave him enough time after his reveal to prove his genuineness to Lily, as well as begin the road to healing, which helped massively.
As for Lily, I really liked how her own struggles to measure up within her family were rendered. She’s an editor for nonfiction, but she desperately wants to break into children’s publishing. She also faces a lot of pressure from her family to compete with her sisters with regards to both her job and her love life.
With both protagonists in the book industry in some capacity, there’s a lot of book talk. It’s mostly fantasy genre oriented, but there are a lot of familiar industry issues, from the more serious, like the struggles publishing professionals deal with, to the more mundane, like why every fantasy by a woman is miscategorized by YA.
This is a charming first adult romance, and if the excerpt at the end is any indication, it’s hopefully the first of many for Forest. If you’re looking for a fun bookish Black romance, I recommend checking this out! out!
Kristina Forest is the critically acclaimed author of romance books for both teens and adults, including I Wanna Be Where You Are, Now That I’ve Found You, and Zyla & Kai. Her adult romance debut, The Neighbor Favor, will publish with Berkley on February 28, 2023. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing at The New School and she lives in New Jersey, where she can often be found rearranging her bookshelf.
Bookshop (affiliate link)