There are some books that I never really know how to take, and I Regret Everything was one of them. I tend to go for fantasy, so books that are completely grounded in reality are oddly foreign to me.

Before getting into the book, I wanted to tell a quick aside. I bought this book almost a year and half ago when I was in New York. It was my second time in the city, and I love wandering around Manhattan. The first time I went, a friend had given me a list of places to see, including Strand Book Store. As the kids say, the store was amazeballs. It had great selection, it had character, and it had multiple stories (never discount the importance of multiple stories in a book store). My second time in the city led me there again, and I always try to buy a book when I’m in a book store, so I picked up I Regret Everything. The title had me in an instant, and it would fit in my jacket pocket so I wouldn’t be lugging around a plastic bag all day.

Fast forward more than a year, and I hadn’t been able to make myself actually read the book. I finally gave up on reading it the conventional way of sitting on my end table and opted instead to make it the bathroom book. I got a few pages in, but progress was slow (in fairness, the first chapter is slow). I wanted to finish out the chapter, so the book vacated the bathroom, and then I was hooked. It wasn’t Twilight/Harry Potter-hooked, but I wanted to see where the story went. In reading the book, I ran across a part that mentioned the Strand. I was reading a book that mentioned a bookstore where I bought the book. That was cool.

But back to the book itself. The book follows a lawyer who secretly writes poetry under a pen name. Everything is hunky dory until he meets his boss’s daughter and finds out he has cancer in a short time frame.

At this point, we’re going into a light spoiler zone because there’s no info on the girl: She’s 19, recently discharged from a mental institution, and found out the lawyer is really a poet (though you never receive an explanation for how she figured it out; or I wasn’t paying attention).

The book has its humor, but it’s largely a gritty book about a world that’s absent humor. The story unfolds from alternating perspectives, which is interesting. The author even uses different ways to represent dialogue between our leads’ narratives. Structurally, I liked the book, though I felt like a few too many things are left unsaid, so you don’t always know how we got from point A to point B.

I don’t really know how to classify the book. It’s not a death book, though there’s cancer. It’s not really a love story because the love story feels like more of a catalyst for life than anything else. And maybe that’s it: This is a life story. A big arc in the book is to live life under your own expectations, not those of others. Then you meet the one you love and find out you have cancer. Maybe that last part wasn’t the moral.

Either way, I’d say try it out if you’re looking for something grounded in reality. This was a nice break from my normal reading, but I still prefer my novels to have fantastical elements, even if it’s just a ginger with two friends.

Side note, I totally bought Cursed Child on day 1 even though I won’t get to it until I finish rereading the series.