What One Plus One Taught Me as a Writer

While I feel like I’ve been reading a lot lately, I also feel dismally behind on what was supposed to be my summer reading list. As usual, I got sidetracked by the new and shiny book… the one not  on my reading list. But you know what, in times of stress and baby-growing, let’s throw caution to the wind.

Jojo Moyes’ One Plus One was exactly what I needed, when I needed it, as both a reader and a writer.

one plus one review

The book centers around single Mum, Jess, who is an eternal optimist, scraping by with multiple minimum wage jobs. She’s guardian to Nicky, a son from her ex’s previous marriage, who struggles with being different, especially compared to the homogeneity of the other counsel estate bullies. Tanzie, her ten year old, is a maths genius with a love of sparkly clothes, not exactly ‘in’ with the popular crowd.

Ed is a software geek that made it big with his business, only to have it all dangle on a thread thanks to insider trading. Jess is his housekeeper, and their lives intertwine when he offers her and her family a lift to Scotland so that Tanzie can compete in a maths competition, the winnings from which could send her to the private school that could change her life.

What I Loved About the Book

What didn’t I love about the book would be a better question… one that I can’t really answer!

I had no idea it was going to be a road trip novel, something I’m used to seeing in movies and less in fiction. Putting the optimist and the pessimist in close quarters for days was a genius move on the part of Moyes.

I love that Moyes takes my expectations and flips them. For example, in the first couple of chapters (so very little spoilers here), we find out that Ed has given the woman he was dating some information on their stock price that will lead to a major financial win for her. My assumption was that he did this for the pretty woman so that she’d like him more, but in reality he wants rid of her, and money seems the way to do it.

While it’s a simple example, Moyes does a consistent job of taking my expectations and spinning them. As a writer, she’s taught me a lot. Often my brain will go to some of the clichés when writing, but I’m going to use One Plus One as inspiration going forward.

At the heart of it, One Plus One is a love story, but Moyes weaves in such strong issues of class struggles, bullying, difference and fairness that it’s not strictly a romance. This is exactly what I want to achieve in my Girl Tries series, and it took reading a couple of Moyes’ books to figure out how I can proceed in revisions going forward to get to this point.

Moyes’ has an incredible sense of humour with witty one liners or stranger than fiction moments that you can absolutely relate to. The loveable, huge dog, Norman, farting in the backseat particularly stole my heart, having lived those moments many times with our oft smelly dogs.

While she can bring you up, she can also bring you down. As the reader, you share rock bottom with Jess, Ed, Tanzie and Nicky. None of them are clichés, none of them are perfect people, yet when they are at their worst, you are right along there with them, simultaneously rooting for them and terrified that they won’t be able to climb out of the hole.

I’ve cried more reading Moyes’ books than with many other authors, and getting a reader like me to cry (albeit I cry regularly in real life!) is a hard feat. Me Before You… I was a mess. A ridiculous, raccoon-eyed mess. But read it, will you?

There’s nothing I didn’t like about this book. It was five stars in my opinion and as a writer it has taught me so much. I’ve learned how to better intertwine my issues, theme, point of view, descriptions, dialogue and how to turn the expected on its head. Having dug into many interviews with Moyes, it was also extremely heartening to know that a bestseller doesn’t just happen overnight. Moyes had published many books before Me Before You hit it big. This is not to say those books didn’t sell well, they did, but it took many publications before she became a household/Goodreads-adored name.

Perseverance, good ideas and strong skills will lead to great novels. There’s hope for me yet.

Have you read One Plus One, or anything else by Jojo Moyes? What did you think? What are you reading right now?

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