The Make-Up Test – Jenny L. Howe

Genre: Romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Pages: 336
Release Date: September 13, 2022

Allison Avery loves to win. After acing every academic challenge she’s come up against, she’s finally been accepted into her dream Ph.D. program at Claymore University, studying medieval literature under a professor she’s admired for years. Sure, grad school isn’t easy—the classes are intense, her best friend is drifting away, and her students would rather pull all-nighters than discuss The Knight’s Tale—but she’s got this. Until she discovers her ex-boyfriend has also been accepted. Colin Benjamin might be the only person who loves winning more than Allison does, and when they’re both assigned to TA for the same professor, the game is on.

What starts as a personal battle of wits (and lit) turns into all-out war when their professor announces a career-changing research trip opportunity—with one spot to fill. Competing with Colin is as natural as breathing, and after he shattered her heart two years ago, Allison refuses to let him come out on top. But when a family emergency and a late night road trip—plus a very sexy game of Scrabble—throw them together for a weekend, she starts to wonder if they could be stronger on the same team. And if they fall for each other all over again, Allison will have to choose between a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and what could be a twice-in-a-lifetime love.

Charmingly bookish and unequivocally fat positive, The Make-Up Test embraces the truth that people can sometimes change and grow, even when you least expect it.

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I requested The Make-Up Test because Ali Hazelwood recommended it and because of its academic setting. Unfortunately, The Make-Up Test is driven by lack of communication and the main characters have little to no chemistry.

Almost all of the drama of this novel could have been avoided had the love interest, Colin, been honest and communicated with Allison. Their first break up and the third act break up could have been avoided entirely.

Colin is not a swoon worthy character, nor is he a good person. His reason for what he did before they broke up the first time was insufficient and, personally, I think Allison deserved better. Their third act breakup was just ridiculous.

I can’t tell you how many times Colin’s hair gel and cardigans were mentioned. I also can’t think of a more unattractive smell to smell like than hair gel. Yuck.

In their time apart, Colin becomes a better person. Instead of making Allison cower to fatphobic comments, he suddenly became some approximation of a white knight. This change wasn’t earned, nor was it necessary. Colin should have been a better person from the beginning and not expect Allison to put up with verbal abuse.

One of the only interesting relationships in this novel was Allison’s friendship with Sophie. There comes a time in every friendship where careers and growing families pull friendships apart and force them to adapt to new realities. I would have loved to see Allison and Sophie try to navigate their developing friendship, but instead Howe turns Sophie into a terrible friend through her actions and her (correct) opinions regarding Colin.

The Make-Up Test also briefly touches on strained and toxic familial relationships. I applauded Allison’s choices regarding her father, but Howe included a slight redemption for him then never develpped it further making it completely irrelevant and, again, not earned.

Overall, The Make-Up Test was a disappointing romance with no chemistry, terrible people, and lack of communication as the primary source of tension.

*** I received an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

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Will you be reading The Make-Up Test?

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