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The Cubicle Next Door by Siri L. Mitchell
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The Cubicle Next Door

by Siri L. Mitchell

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[This is an old review, and I had to guess at a rating.]

I bought this book during a moment of "I have nothing to read" boredom - that was a fairly long time ago, before I built the TBR mountain in my living room.  I knew nothing about it, other than that the cover looked kind of fun (although I have an urge to attack the hair of the woman on the cover with a brush) and the description on the back sounded interesting.

Unfortunately, this book was a real slog for me.  I did not like Jackie.  At all.

For one thing, she was the most judgmental person in the entire book.  I can understand her not wanting to share her space, so I was willing to forgive her initial determination to dislike Joe.  However, she was judgmental of everyone.  There was Estelle, who she disliked for not being very computer literate and only really got to know better because Joe was friendlier to Estelle than Jackie has ever been and told Jackie what he'd learned about her.  There was Oliver, who Jackie disliked because it felt to her like he was taking her grandmother away from her.  Then there was everyone in the U.S. who is not exactly as environmentally-conscious as Jackie thinks they should be.  The SUV drivers.  The plastic straw users.  People who buy individually-packaged snacks.  People who don't recycle.  This list could go on.

Which brings me to the next thing I didn't like about Jackie - her environmental leanings that came across as not only being annoyingly strong, but also a bit hypocritical.  She lectures Joe about the SUV he owns and the plastic straws he tries to use.  She rants on her blog about everything Americans do that hurts the environment.  She makes her own shampoo, and her grandmother's house (which Jackie also lives in) is the only place in the neighborhood with a xeriscaped yard.  And yet.  When Joe goes on a trip and leaves his SUV in Jackie's care, Jackie drives herself, her grandmother, and her grandmother's friends to Cripple Creek in it, marveling at the convenience and how safe she feels in it.  She eats out at fast food places with Joe all the time, instead of telling him "no" and eating the lunch she packed on her own or, since she knew Joe would do this every day, just packing him a lunch too to get him to shut up.  Even if you only consider things like sandwich wrappers and paper cups, there's plenty of waste going on when you eat fast food.  When she's getting ready to go to a dance with Joe, she lets her grandmother and her grandmother's friends dress her up.  Not only do they use old hairspray on her (ozone-depleting aerosols), she also allows herself to enjoy a fox fur wrap.  I probably wouldn't have found all this quite so annoying if Jackie hadn't made such a big fuss about being environmentally-conscious all the time.

Examples of Jackie's charitable behavior (sponsoring orphans, cleaning up trash, supporting microloans to help those in poverty-stricken areas make better lives for themselves, etc.) did not make me like her more - actually all that did was make me dislike her more.  Even though she didn't really advertise her goody goody behavior, there was still something about her that made me think of people who do good things mainly so that they they can feel better about themselves.

It's really hard for me to enjoy a romance novel (or chick lit - I suppose this book might be more accurately called Christian chick lit) when I don't like the heroine.  It especially doesn't help when I don't even like the hero.  I found Joe to be a wee bit too pushy at times - he hardly ever took "no" for an answer, figuring that, deep down, Jackie really wanted to do all those things he dragged her into doing and would probably later thank him for forcing her to do.  True, she did enjoy herself, but still - when a girl shows that much reluctance to do something, sometimes a guy should just accept that "no" means "no."  Joe was the kind of guy who would just exhaust me in real life - other than showing up for Jackie's grandmother's poker nights, he was more a "go out and do stuff all the time" kind of guy than a homebody.

For the most part, though, I did like Joe more than I liked Jackie, and I had a lot of trouble understanding why Joe continued to pursue her.  The only thing about Jackie that provided him with any kind of encouragement was that it usually wasn't too hard for him to get her to agree to do thing with him - even though she didn't really want to, she went skiing with him, saw a Bollywood movie with him, participated in a race with him, and more.  She was so unpleasant and negative most of the time, however, that it was really difficult to tell why he persisted in liking her and wanting to be with her.  It wasn't until the "big reveal" at the end that it became a little clearer why he didn't just give up.  But still.  I'm not sure if, had I been in his position (and if I were a guy), that I would have continued to pursue her, even with a few blog posts saying what she really felt as encouragement.

There were a few things about this book that I liked.  First, I liked the setting.  It's rare for me to actually come across a book set someplace that I've been before, and, with this book, I constantly had the pleasure of saying "I know that place!" and "I've seen that before."  Colorado Springs icons and locations were everywhere in this book.  The Air Force Academy stuff was also pretty interesting - I had no idea that stuff like that "mock class session" happened.  Second, I liked that the Christian stuff wasn't overwhelming - in fact, there was so little of it in this book that I could imagine that someone who wanted to read a Christian romance/chick list book might be upset.  Third, I enjoyed the "big reveal" at the end of the book so much that even I, who hated Jackie's blog posts and the accompanying comments, found myself flipping through the book so that I could reread those comments from a new perspective.  I had figured that at least one of the comment writers was someone Jackie knew (I had thought philosophie was Jackie's grandmother), but I had never figured thatJoe was theshrink.  Looking back at theshrink's comments, though, it made perfect sense - most of theshrink's comments were jokey, some were serious, and one comment even told Jackie who he was.

The few things I liked about the book weren't enough to overcome my overall dislike of it.  I couldn't stand Jackie, I didn't really like Joe, and I didn't find Joe's interest in Jackie to be believable.  The nationwide interest in Jackie's blog wasn't believable, either - why would thousands of people eagerly read blog posts as vague as the ones Jackie wrote about Joe?  And the comments on the blog posts - has Mitchell ever read blog post comments before?  Mitchell's comment writers weren't real people, they were one-note jokes who wouldn't shut up.  Only occasionally did the comments feel like something real people would write, rather than something Mitchell thought sounded insightful or funny.

(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Jun 2, 2014 |
The story starts off fun enough, but about 7 or 8 chapters in it started getting harder for me to keep reading. I flipped ahead through the book, to see if it would pick up/I was just in a slow part, but ended up flipping through all the way to the end without feeling inspired to actually read my way through it. I hate when books do that to me ... Possibly it's because I've been reading more "complicated" storylines this summer, and this was just too simplistic to be coming after that. But I think it was more the fault of the heroine -- I wanted to slap her and shake her and tell her to get over herself already. Sometimes there are characters in books I just do. not. like. and Jackie Pert Harrison was one of those. Ah well ... ( )
  RivkaBelle | Aug 3, 2010 |
First off, let me say how totally and completely aggravated I was with Jackie's uptight personality. Listen, I eat organic, recycle, and try to conserve, but her neurotic behavior and piety about her choices made me crazy at times. At first, because of her actions, I couldn't understand why her cubicle mate Joe would even want to be her friend. It seemed bizarre to me that Joe would continue to ask her to lunch, to run errands, etc., but he did! However, I have to give Mitchell credit in that, over time, we continue to learn more about the insecurities riddling Jackie (her mother abandoned her at birth, and her father died before she was born, in Vietnam). Through a series of blog posts, examining her confusion over what she wants for her life, I began to feel sorry for her. I did think the popularity of the blog, so much so that it was featured repeatedly on TV, was a bit far-fetched. As the writer of this blog, I doubt that if I whined about my job and my love life, that this alone would draw readers by the thousands, right? So, I could be wrong, but that's just a guess. Therefore, that part reminded me that it was all fiction.

Overall, I do think that with development the ridiculous moments blend away. I became so caught up in wanting to see how saintly-man Joe would handle this pain-ridden woman, that I really got sucked into the story. It is a clean story, with no sex scenes to jar your reading, and the intimacy is really of the strong relationship kind--deeply emotional at times. The storyline is playful, emotional, and gut-wrenching, all at the same time, and on a scale of escape reads, I would say it's pretty good. ( )
  mjmbecky | Feb 26, 2010 |

I enjoyed this book except for the fact that I didn’t like Jackie. How can I like a book and dislike the main character? Well first the writing was good and the story was excellent. I just found Jackie annoying and I didn’t like her. It’s kind of like the co-worker that does a great job, is a team player ect, basically the perfect co-worker but you just can’t stand them personally .

Synopsis: Jackie is thirty year old self described geek. As the systems administrator at the Air Force Academy she is going through life perfectly fine until she is all of a sudden forced to share an office with the new instructor Joe. She begrudgingly divides her office into two cubicles and turns to the internet to vent. Everything is all good until her blog highlighted on the evening news and everyone including its subject Joe begins to read. Will Joe catch on that the blog is about him and will Jackie ever open her eyes to what’s right in front of her?

I mean how am I supposed to like a girl that doesn’t like football? At that point I almost put the book down for good (just kidding... kind of*). Plus all that damn environmentalism talk got on my last damn nerve. I’m all for saving, conserving recycling but I HATE when people push it down your throat. I think a lot has to do with this whole “Green is in” trend BS the media and Al Gore is feeding us. (My views can be summed up here). Also, Jackie was way to naïve for me. It was obvious that Joe was interested, but I detested the way she acted. Like when she was getting ready for the ball I wanted to shake her and say get over it. Do people really act that childish for no reason? So I didn't really like Jackie at all, she just annoyed me too much.

But here is where I believe good writing and a good story saved me. Both were so good, that I kept plunging back into the book (albeit more slowly than usual). In the end I enjoyed the story and have to give kudos to Ms. Mitchell for a creating a unique character, one you typically don’t find in chic-lit be it Christian or otherwise.

The topic and location were also interesting and different. The Air force Academy/Military- Civilian angle was cool (coming from an Army Brat). Of course there is the idea that most endeared me to the book- the blogging aspect and while it was a little underplayed for my taste and blogging expertise, I still enjoyed it. For instance the blog wasn’t really that interesting to me. Second I think that it is unbelievable to think that Jackie could start a blog and not get caught up in the blogshpehere ( especially checking stats). As a blogger for the last 3 years, the blogshpehere is addicting from reading other people’s blogs to updating your own ( sometimes obsessively) and Jackie did none of that. Part of me thinks Ms. Mitchell made it that way so those who are not as technologically savvy could still enjoy and understand the book.

So, if you are looking for an interesting, unique story from and interesting and unique point of view with a cute ending, than The Cubicle Next Door is for you. ( )
  sunshine608 | Oct 18, 2007 |
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To Tony
Without you, this book could not have been written.
Even more than the wind beneath my wings, you are the rhythm of my heart.
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"So what do you think, Jackie?"
What do I think? Funny Joe should ask me. He's just finished reading my blog. He's just quoted me to myself.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0736917586, Paperback)

Siri Mitchell’s insightful, funny chick–lit style shines in this story of putting up walls and tearing them down—all for love.

Jackie Harrison, a computer administrator at the Air Force Academy, is a self–proclaimed geek who must share her cubicle space with the new guy, instructor and former pilot Joe Gallagher. She turns to her online journal to vent and eventually to express growing feelings toward this office neighbor who is everything she is not—fun, happy, and social.

But when her blog is featured as a top pick on primetime news, everyone reads it—including Joe. Will he figure out the words of adoration and confusion are written about him? And will Jackie ever risk expressing her heart offline?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:44 -0400)

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