Love and Other Words
by Christina Lauren
Spoiler Alert: Macy’s dad died on the same night she found out that Elliot “cheated.” (Don’t worry, he didn’t actually cheat.)
Insight Into Love and Other Words
Like many modern readers, the majority of my recommended books come from BookTok—the subsection of TikTok that is largely dominated by authors such as Sarah J. Maas and Colleen Hoover. Christina Lauren, the author of Love and Other Words, is also highly popularized. However, this novel departs from the well-loved BookTok trope of enemies-to-lovers, choosing instead to focus on the relationship that forms between two childhood friends: Macy and Elliot. Herein lies the birth of my obsession for the friends-to-lovers trope.
Spoiler-y Plot Summary
Love and Other Words follows Macy, a young girl who we see grow into womanhood with a deep appreciation for books, in a dual timeline simultaneously taking place in the past and present. In the past, Macy and Elliot meet following the death of her mother, become best friends, and fall in love. In the present, they are strangers to each other and have not spoken in over a decade.
As they grow up, they spend their summers as neighbors in Elliot’s rural hometown and when Macy returns to the city during the school year, they keep in touch through email. Over time, they become best friends, preferring each other to anyone. Their bond is built upon a love of reading, quiet days in Macy’s closet-library, and conversations about what it’s like to grow up. It’s only when time they spend with other people creates jealousy that they transition into becoming more than friends late into their teen years. At this point in the book, it seems as if everything is where it should be given the evolution towards their budding relationship. However, with a sense of foreboding, the reader knows that something will soon go wrong to reach a point where Macy and Elliot are no longer friends in the future. This happens quickly as things turn downhill.
It all starts to fall apart after Elliot drunkenly confesses his love and proposes to Macy in a single phone call. After reaching an unsatisfying conclusion to the conversation, Elliot hangs up and Macy leaves from her home in the city to her summer house so they can continue their conversation in person—only to find him with another girl! Heartbroken, Macy forgets to tell her dad she safely made it to the house before falling asleep, prompting her dad to worry and drive out to find and console her. The following day as Macy and her dad are driving back to the city as she studiously ignores Elliot, they get into a horrible accident that leads to her father’s death. Between her grief and the blame she places on Elliot for betraying their relationship and inadvertently leading to her father’s death, their decade of silence begins.
Fast forward to the future, we then learn that Macy is emotionally stunted from the deaths of her parents and the heartbreak of finding Elliot with another girl. It is before heading to her job as a resident physician that she and Elliot reunite by chance for the first time in a decade. In a truly swoon-worthy moment, Elliot immediately breaks up with his current girlfriend after seeing Macy.
Their renewed relationship is slow to recover as they avoid having the dreaded conversation about the past. It takes the wedding of Elliot’s brother for the truth of their stories to resurface. It is then revealed that 1) Macy’s dad had died that night and 2) Elliot hadn’t known he’d cheated until days later. It turns out, Elliot had been so drunk that another girl was able to take advantage of him. Once the reality is finally revealed, Elliot and Macy are finally able to continue their lives together, ending with the sweetest quote knowing their history of asking each other’s favorite words in the closet-library of their childhood:
“’Favorite word?’ he whispers.
I don’t even hesitate: ‘You.’”
This book, while lighthearted for the majority, delves into heavy topics, including how to love despite grief. In both the past and present, Macy is dealing with the death of one of her parents. In the past her mom’s death is the catalyst for her relationship with Elliot Petropoulos, whereas in the present it is her father’s death and the blame she places on Elliot that keeps them apart. This story also lightly touches on sexual assault, though the effect on Elliot is never fully discussed by the conclusion.
Analysis: Should You Read It?
Overall, Love and Other Words is a heartwarming novel about a couple who is able to push past hardships and a main character who learns to open up her heart (in the past and present) in spite of her continued grief. This novel does a fantastic job establishing the characters, lining up the timelines, and providing an impressive arc for the main character. There wasn’t a dull moment and Elliot Petropoulos is truly an amazing love interest…what reader wouldn’t love a bookworm?
Other than providing an exceptional read, with a solid five-star rating, Love and Other Words has established my love of friends-to-lovers. Sorry to all enemies-to-lovers diehards, but I cannot be swayed. Christina Lauren’s buildup to the pinnacle moment of this relationship was flawless. Their transition into being a couple was bumpy and realistic, but their love for each other can’t be doubted.
If you enjoy this novel, I recommend Every Summer After by Carley Fortune which is another childhood friends-to-lovers story. This book also takes place during the summer and is a fantastic beach read. I would also suggest The Summer I Turned Pretty, a YA novel about a teenage girl and her relationships with the sons of a family friend.