Everything's Not Fine. Here's Why | An Honest Look at the Debut Novel by Cecilia Rabess
Updated: Mar 14
Title: Everything's Fine
Author: Cecilia Rabess
Rating: ?? I Really Don't Even Know
Release Date: June 6th, 2023
Hi friends. I'm back to talk your ear off about the latest books I've read. This one is due to release in June 2023, and I am interested to see how it does. I first heard about it through the grapevine on BookTok (Tik Tok for book lovers) and the feedback was not great. Black women all over the place were up in arms about this story. So naturally I was curious. Why was a book written by a fellow black woman causing so much outrage?
I wanted to talk about it, but I didn't want to speak on something I wasn't familiar with. So, I headed over to NetGalley to request it. I honestly didn't think they would accept my request, but they did, and I nervously began reading. The snippets of the book I had heard about on TikTok were triggering and upsetting, so I was apprehensive about what the rest of this story would be.
Full honesty moment: I had trouble reading this book. There were moments I had to actually put it down because it was getting under my skin so badly. I kept wondering what the point of the entire book was. I even reached out to the author to see if she would be willing to let me pick her brain about it. Just to get an idea of what her thought process was behind it. After a week of no response, I deleted the message. Because after finishing this book...no response might have been a good thing.
Jess and Josh are polar opposites—she’s Black, he’s white; she’s liberal, he’s conservative—whose mutual hatred transforms into mutual attraction and love in this hilarious, thought-provoking novel about whether love really can trump all.
When Jess Lands a job as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, she’s less than thrilled to learn she’ll be on the same team as Josh, her old sparring partner from college. Josh Loves playing the devil’s advocate and is just…the worst.
But when Jess finds herself the sole Black woman on the floor, overlooked and underestimated, it’s Josh who shows up for her in surprising—if imperfect ways. Before long, an unlikely friendship—one tinged with undeniable chemistry—forms between the two. A friendship that gradually, and then suddenly, turns into an electrifying romance that shocks them both.
Despite their differences, the force of their attraction propels the relationship forwards, and Jess realizes maybe it’s more important to be happy than right. But then it’s 2016, and the cultural and political landscape shifts underneath them. And Jess, who is just beginning to discover who she is and who she as the right to be, is forced to ask herself what she’s willing to compromise for love and whether, in fact, everything’s fine.
A stunning debut that introduces Cecilia Rabess as a blazing new talent, Everything’s Fine is a hilarious, poignant, heartfelt look at whether, in this day and age, love trumps all.
My first thought was: "I am confusion." I tried to save my judgements for the end because I kept hoping there would be a lesson hidden in here somewhere. After having successfully reached the end (through much effort) I'm still not even sure if there was a lesson.
I thought that maybe it was unchecked self-hatred coming out in the form of a book. Then I thought it was a black woman that had a preference for white men and white culture (Is that a thing?) trying to justify her preferences in an unnecessarily long book. If that were the case, it could have stayed in the drafts.
But then I realized, the core of the story was about a black woman trying to find her voice in a sea of people telling her to be quiet. A woman of color navigating predominantly white spaces. As a black woman who grew up in mostly white schools and had mostly white friends, I fully understand the struggle that comes with that. The microaggressions that you find a way to laugh off because you don't want to cause trouble. The underlying need to water yourself down and make yourself invisible to fit in even though you know you that against the rest of the white background, you will always stand out. I understand the need of wanting to just be seen as equal and to be understood in a group of people that were committed to misunderstanding you and where you come from. And the awkward, confused smiles you get when you try to speak out against something you know isn't quite right but don't always have the words to accurately explain to people that just won't get it.
I get that.
I've been there.
But I do believe this story could have been told without trying to shove the romance down our throats. I don't understand how romance came into play AT ALL. They disagreed on the most basic human rights. He told her to her face that she couldn't articulate her point on Affirmative Action because she was a direct beneficiary of it. He told her that black people have low IQs. He gaslit and belittled her in every conversation and she was still able to look at him and say: "Take my pants off."
Make it make sense.
There was a moment there when I thought she was coming to her senses. I thought she was finally starting to recognize that she was constantly screaming to be heard and he was just patting her head and telling her to stop overreacting.
I THOUGHT she was beginning to realize that at the end of the day, a relationship with a person who does not believe you deserve to exist will always fail. I was exhausted, but I was momentarily happy. I texted my friends who I had been venting to about this book and told them that I was starting to see the possible point. I thought to myself: "Okay FINALLY. Now we get to the point of the story."
She hops right back into bed with her literal oppressor after making so many strides in the right direction. She couldn't let this man go and for the life of me, I could NOT figure out why. It's not like they had good conversation. He was constantly telling her that she was doing too much. Their sex had no chemistry. Felt dry and completely boring. I was SO CLOSE to actually liking this book. Choppy and awkward prose aside, I thought there was a reason for all of the underhanded racism and sexism in the pages of this book. Super disappointing.
Everything's Fine is filled with instances of invalidating black feelings and experiences to assuage white guilt. It's upsetting. It was hard to read. I had to keep putting it down to clear my head. I can usually get through a book in a day or two but this one was like nails on a chalkboard. I see why so many people are in an uproar about it.
Even if the story itself wasn't as triggering as it was, the prose was awkward and unlikeable. Characters were unlikeable in every version of the word. They seemed almost like caricatures of people. Maybe they are loosely based on people the author has met in real life. Maybe. Either way, if I had the ability to reach into a story and smack a character in the face, I would reach in and slap Jess with the power of our ancestors because girl what was the reason????
I don't think I recommend this one. Only because it feels like it was an "ode to white people" written by a black woman. I have nothing against the enemies to lovers trope but not when it is the oppressor verses the oppressed.
The "love story" (if you could even call it that) was forced and awkward. Like trying to stick a square peg in a round hole. It would have made more sense if he was actually willing to change but he wasn't even interested in trying to understand why his views were harmful to people of color. She knew in her gut that the relationship was wrong, which is why she kept fighting with her inner self about whether or not she was making the right choice. If your decisions are causing this much internal conflict, then baby you need to do something different.
Clearly Jess is a glutton for punishment, which is exactly why she kept going back to this relationship that made no sense. It also explains that why, like a dummy, she kept eating strawberries even though she knew she was allergic. Even going as far as to put herself in the hospital because she won't remind him (because she has told him before) that she is allergic to strawberries. It's giving self-hatred and masochism.
Save yourselves the trouble Babes and put this book on the bottom of the TBR list. I hate to say that. Especially during black history month. I wanted to badly to shield this sister from the backlash and be like: "No! This is what she ACTUALLY meant!" But I can't even do that.
To answer the question in the synopsis about whether or not love trumps all, NO it does not. I don't believe you can truly love someone you think you are better than, just because of the color of the skin. Anyway, if you do decide to read it: please, please, pleaseeeeee come find me and tell me what you think. I'm dying to know if you found it as harmful as I did.
Happy Reading Babes!