Hot Desk (2021)

by Zara Stonely
ASIN/ISBN: 9780008436278
Publication: August 31, 2021

**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Although working from home might be nice for some people, it’s not exactly conducive to Alice’s productivity. She shares her house with other people. She shares her clothes with her sisters. Only her cubicle and her desk at work can be called her own, so she is more than ready to be back at work. Her excitement is short-lived when she learns she now has to share her desk with Jamie, someone she has a crush on but also irritates her incessantly with his teasing. Her feelings for him are…complicated.

I didn’t think I would be able to read a post-COVID book so soon. It helped that there are only mentions of the pandemic and nothing that was particularly triggering for me. Hot Desk was difficult for me because the romance takes a long time to get started and it’s slow. The book mostly focuses on Alice learning to stand her ground and saying no. She wants a space of her own that she has control over, without roommates interrupting, a sister always taking her clothes, or an ex-boyfriend insists on tidying it against her wishes. She wants to create boundaries to discourage people from walking all over her. For the most part, this is captured fairly well, especially Alice’s worries about being perceived as mean. She keeps second-guessing herself because people aren’t used to her being assertive nor are they used to her saying no. I completely understood where she was coming from because I can be a total pushover as well, and I hate conflict. Those conflicting feelings of wanting to stand your ground but feeling bad and being seen as mean are all too real.

Miscommunication plays a pivotal role in the potential romance, and it hurt my brain a lot because Alice rambles on and on about it in the first part. Part of the pain came from the rambles being all internal, which I normally enjoy. There was no other person to help break up the conversations she had with herself to give her brain a rest so I could also give my brain a rest. The other part of it was that it was mostly rambling. She was worried about everything and particularly confused and in a twist over Jamie. Her anxiety gave me anxiety. Once this finally passed, I was able to enjoy the book. However, I’m not sure how I feel about the events of the second half. Life is messy, and the second half gets it down well. I did, however, like how Alice slowed down her internal conversations and worries, which decreased my anxiety.

The book’s content does bring to mind Mhairi McFarlane and McFarlane’s books. Hot Shot doesn’t have the same emotional impact nor provide insight on life as effortlessly, but the book is not devoid of them. It just doesn’t evoke them to the same magnitude. Fans of McFarlane may enjoy the book but will need to overcome the internal ramblings of the first half to do so.

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