REVIEW: The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project by Lenore Appelhans

I received a review copy of this book through Netgalley; all opinions are my own and honest.

Summary: Riley lives in TropeTown, where everyone plays stock roles in novels. Riley, a Manic Pixie Dream Boy, is sent to group therapy after going off-script. Riley knows that breaking the rules again could get him terminated, yet he feels there must be more to life than recycling the same cliches for readers’ entertainment. Then he meets Zelda, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (Geek Chic subtype), and falls head over heels in love. Zelda’s in therapy too, along with several other Manic Pixies. But TropeTown has a dark secret, and if Riley and his fellow Manic Pixies don’t get to the bottom of it, they may all be terminated.

Genre(s): YA, Romantic Comedy, Meta Fiction
Representation: F/F, general diversity of cast

Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Release date:
March 5, 2019 
Book links*: Goodreads | Book Depository | IndieBound

*These include affiliate links, which means that if you click through and buy a book I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. [Full disclaimers here.]


4.5 flames.

I knew from the title and cover that this would be one of The Best or else one of The Worst books I read this year, and I am so excited to announce that it turned out to be the former!

When have you ever heard of two Manic Pixies in love? I mean, wouldn’t the universe explode from an overload of quirky cuteness?

This is so delightfully meta and so delightfully cute, self-aware and playful and ironic and whimsical. It has cute scenes, and heartbreaking scenes, and some … colorful references to pop culture. (Though I will say that I think the John Green shade goes a little far at times; I had a little snicker at some of the punchlines, but I do actually like a lot of his books, not to mention his other work as a YouTuber and general public figure.) And it’s funny — I actually laughed out loud several times, which is rare for me! — with both multifaceted slow-build jokes and “bathroom” level humor. As a writer myself, I felt so called out by certain lines and scenes, but in a way that made me feel like I was in on the joke: #soaccurateithurts.

It’s always something with these Authors. Why can’t they just sit their butts down, do the nine-to-five grind like everyone else, and write in a linear fashion? Is that so freaking hard?

One of this book’s greatest strengths is that there’s something new around every corner, whether it’s a bit of worldbuilding, a “different” Trope, an unexpected insight on emotional health and/or identity, or a development in one of several simultaneous storylines. It’s an adventure in the truest sense of the word: there’s travel between different parts of TropeTown (oh, and a fun map of Riley’s world!), as well as moments of self-doubt and self-discovery, but there are (slightly) calmer moments where we get to just hang out with the characters in group therapy, getting to know them and vicariously enjoying all the different kinds of pie provided. 

It’s important to me that you like me. Because the more you like me, the more you’ll care about what happens to me, and the more likely it is you’ll continue to read my story. And I want you to continue because I don’t exist otherwise.

Riley and the other Manic Pixie Tropes really exemplify “show, don’t tell” — beyond their character sheets (which we get to peek at!) and flashier quirks, they each have so much personality and so much heart. (Or, well, varying amounts of heart. You’ll see.) They have unique hopes and dreams and talents, and it’s so easy to forget that they’re supposed to be Tropes following their Authors’ scripts.

This book definitely isn’t for everyone, as the Goodreads average rating and some early reviews demonstrate. But if you like your romcoms with snark, a vivacious (and sometimes petty) friend group, and some crises of existentialism, I really think you’ll like this one.

Quotes are taken from an Advance Reader Copy and may change upon publication.

(This was a buddy read with Fictionally Sam! I swear I wrote this review before I read hers, but apparently we really do share a brain 😂)

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10 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project by Lenore Appelhans

  1. Well, I love the cover of this book!
    I’m glad to see that you loved it since I’m particularly excited to read this book! The humour seems nice, and well, something I usually enjoy!
    HOpe I get to pick this one up soon!
    Great review! xx

    Liked by 1 person

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