Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon
First Publication Date: February 2nd 2021
I received an advance copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Make Up Break Up (MUBU) is a romcom by the author of When Dimple Met Rishi (WDMR), and it’s Lily Menon’s first adult novel. It follows Annika, CEO of Make Up, an app developed to help people improve their relationships by finding a kinder way to talk to each other, and Hudson, CEO of Break Up, an app which does the exact opposite, helping people break up with each other with minimum to no emotional effort.
This is a romcom for fans of enemies-to-lovers, second chance and the very specific “love interest has a profession that goes against the main character’s moral code” trope. I am not a big fan of any of these, so maybe that made me enjoy this book less than I would have otherwise, but I was quite let down by this book. From the beginning I got the feeling that this would be a rather generic romance, with the usual Girl-Power-energy main character and the “sexy, rich bad boy who actually is really soft” and the two of them were just… meh. I did not feel the chemistry and frankly I was more curious about how the apps worked & how sustainable their businesses were (which we did not get as much as I wanted) than I was about any of them, or their relationship. This is similar to how I felt about WDMR, where I wanted so much more from the tech part of the book, but in WDMR at least there was so much fluff, summer-y vibes and the love interest was so adorable I could not help but grin all the time and cheer for them, overlooking any of my complaints. This was just not true for MUBU, where we got Dimple-but-adult and some bland white bad boy.
I detest when characters communicate like they’re five years old. Annika spends a good chunk of the book furious at Hudson for copying her idea and then bastardizing and acting quite jealous of his success, which made it hard for me to really want them to be together. And Hudson himself was such an annoying character. I was annoyed together with Annika and honestly have no idea how she had any sort of feelings for him. I would have detested somebody like that, history between us or no.
I also had issues with the ending (see below, marked SPOILER). The big conflicts were: Hudson’s app being So Evil and the EPIC competition – but I never felt there was really any real tension about either of these because… Annika has June AND her dad offering to solve the money issues, so the EPIC was mostly a pride thing and not necessarily about needing the money. The Hudson’s app thing I discuss below in the spoiler section.
All in all, this was cute, somewhat steamy but rather too generic and lacking any real tension both in the plot and between the characters for me to really like it. I was speed-reading by the end of the book and it made me wish I had DNF-ed it.
Okay so the ending includes Annika’s dad getting into a terrible accident and her not being able to perform at EPIC the way she wanted to, but then Hudson “does the right thing” and decides not to pitch his company so as not to get the prize. I found this ending not only emotionally manipulative – when books have this kind of Very Dramatic Coming From Nowhere plot twists, it makes me wonder if it’s simply the case that the plot did not contain enough tension and substance to hold the story without some super dramatic twist – but also really disappointing. I wanted to see Break Up vs Make Up and a discussion about how Make Up was about helping people achieve emotional maturity and Break Up was really a bro app, but that was not discussed as deeply as I hoped for. It was simply established that Break Up was clearly Evil App and Make Up the Righteous App. I guess I hoped for more nuance, I wanted to see Hudson (and his team,) really defend his app and present maybe make the reader think maybe, just maybe, the app is not all evil and in fact makes people’s lives better somehow.
I did not like either how the moral of the story was everyone going like “Annika was right!” and so Hudson closes Break Up and her dad goes like “I nearly died and it made me see actually you should do what you love and not medicine”.
Also, we never really get any closure about whether the Make Up app really solves the financial issues – they had to technically pay until July 1, so… did they? Does the prize money arrive in time? Tiny complaint, but would have been amazing to have a scene where the bank guy is flabbergasted about them winning EPIC, after he bullied Annika and June throughout the whole book.
Generally the whole ending was cheesy and it deducted a whole star for me.