The Best Thing I Never Had is the new novel from author, Erin Lawless. It’s published by Harper Impulse and was released in March. We are delighted to welcome Erin to Novel Kicks today as part of her blog tour for her new book and we ask the question, who’s side are you on?
I’m asked quite a lot: #TeamHarriet or #TeamLeigha?
Most people find it quite straight forward. “Team Harriet!” they cry. “Who would ever be on Team Leigha??” My editor at Harper is, I answer with a smile. “But Leigha is such a BITCH!” they answer, appalled. Indeed she is, but then again, Harriet is a selfish idiot whose actions cause a hell of a lot of drama, so why should she be championed over her brittle best friend? #TeamDemi, I usually say, avoiding the question entirely – he’s the only halfway decent character in the whole book!
One of my all-time favourite reviews of Best Thing states that “when a writer can make you feel sorry for the novel’s antagonist, she has great talent”. The novel’s antagonist is undoubtedly Leigha, but that’s not the same as saying she’s “the bad guy”. Leigha hurts, and is hurt in return. A brittle, nervy over-achiever from a broken home, an erstwhile ugly ducking who has been suffering under the weight of unrequited love for as long as she can remember – the now gorgeous, popular Leigha seems from the outside to have everything she wants. Unfortunately, the only thing she ever wanted was something she could never have. And she’s just coming to terms with it all when the same scenario hits her again – bam! She’s left reeling and lashing out. Leigha’s no monster; she’s someone who deserves your pity.
I imagine a lot of it is down to the reader’s personal experience. If you’ve suffered a bully, or the torment of a false friend, you’re never going to be sympathetic towards Leigha. If you see shades of someone who once caused you pain in her, you are never going to agree that she has cause for the way that she reacts. I’ve had lots of messages from readers telling me about “their personal Leigha” and how difficult that was for them. These people are decidedly Team Harriet.
But, I would argue: it’s all Harriet’s fault, isn’t it? She’s an ostrich with her head in the sand, too milksop to make a decision and that failure to act fractures the lives of an entire group of people. She knows how her best friend feels about the man she is secretly sleeping with. “I just wanted to shake Harriet!” say some reviewers. “She should have just stood up for herself.” These people are invariably not the same as those who suffered under the “personal Leighas”. After all, there would be no bullies at all if extricating yourself from these situations was that easy.
“I think the real love story being told here is the one between Leigha and Harriet,” one astute reviewer once noted. “Watching their beautiful friendship disintegrate broke my heart.” I would never want a reader to enter the book prepared to hate Leigha, or to despair of Harriet. There is no heroine here, just as there is no bad guy. They are both just people, with flaws and weaknesses, as are the other five protagonists who help tell the group’s story. Try to remember that, and stay ‘teamless’ – at least for as long as possible!
Because sometimes it’s not possible to stay on the fence; if pressed, I can’t help but be a romantic, and declare my allegiance to Team Harriet!
Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.