10 Books With Characters Who Don’t Have It All Figured Out—Because We’ve All Been There


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Remember when you were 18 and heading off to college? Remember when you were 22 and starting your first real job? You thought you knew exactly what your life would look like. But now you’re 28, 32, 36, and you’re more confused about your life than ever. Maybe you are the only one of your friends who isn’t married yet, or you have been a bride, but you have never been a bridesmaid. Maybe you’re not quite sure how you ended up with this career, or you love your job, but it doesn’t pay you enough to support yourself, nevermind buy that house or take that European vacation. Thankfully, no matter what you are dealing with, you are not alone.

The characters in these 10 books are going through the exact same things. They aren’t where they thought they’d be personally, romantically, professionally, or some combination of the three. Jo Walker from Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships by Sarah Grunder Ruiz hasn’t accomplished what she thought she would before turning 30. Dani Porter from Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins has discovered that her fiancé is sleeping with their real estate agent. And Franny Doyle from In a New York Minute by Kate Spencer has just been laid off.

So when you are feeling like you don’t have it all figured out, reading these books will remind you that you’re not the only one going through hard things. And seeing these characters come out on the other side will remind you that whatever you’re dealing with now won’t last forever. Because the best books validate your feelings while also teaching you how to navigate them. Here are 10 books to read that do this perfectly:


Emily Henry
Book Lovers

Nora Stephens is a successful literary agent known for always getting the best deals for her clients. She lives in a city she loves and gets to see her sister and her nieces whenever she wants to. But Nora’s professional and personal lives aren’t as good as they appear to be. She is still grieving the loss of her mother, and she has felt intense pressure to support herself and her sister since her mother’s death. Plus, she is perpetually single, having been dumped by boyfriends who chose to leave New York City for small-town life (and love) not once, not twice, but four times.

When Libby asks Nora to go on a sisters’ trip to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, Nora’s first thought is of work. But it doesn’t take Libby long to reassure Nora that she can work from Sunshine Falls and that this trip could be exactly what both sisters need. But instead of starting her own romance with a local hotel owner, Nora keeps running into Charlie Lastra, a brooding editor from back in the city. Over a series of run-ins pulsed with the constant question of "will they or won’t they," Nora and Charlie begin to edit the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

I did nothing but read Book Lovers since the second I bought it. It’s a beautiful story about balancing pay and passion in your work, discovering where you fit in with your family, and finding romance through the witty banter that Emily Henry is known for. This book will make you laugh, and it will make you cry. It will break your heart and put the pieces back together again.

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Kate Spencer
In a New York Minute

From the first sentence of In a New York Minute by Kate Spencer, we learn that things aren’t going well for Franny Doyle. She has just been laid off from a job she didn’t find terribly exciting but thought was stable. Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, the subway doors rip Franny’s favorite silk dress, and when the train arrives at the next station, her unmentionables will be on display to everyone waiting to board.

Thankfully, a dashing stranger comes to the rescue by giving her his Gucci suit jacket. Not so thankfully, Franny’s entire interaction with the man was recorded, and now the whole of Manhattan is referring to Franny and Hayes as the #SubwayQTs. Thankfully, in a city of eight million people, they never have to meet again. Not so thankfully, Franny and Hayes keep running into each other and are surprised to find that they enjoy each other’s company more and more each time.

In a New York Minute follows Franny as she starts her own interior design business, embarks on a relationship with Hayes, and balances time with her two best friends and her family. As Franny deals with change after change, she will need to learn to trust herself in order to build the life she has always wanted.

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Jennifer E. Smith
The Unsinkable Greta James

Greta James had done it; she had succeeded as a musician. But right after the sudden death of her mother, Greta falls apart on stage. The footage quickly goes viral and Greta stops playing, putting the career she worked so hard for in jeopardy.

With no excuse not to, Greta reluctantly agrees to accompany her father on the Alaskan cruise her parents had booked to celebrate their 40th anniversary. While there, Greta will be faced with continuing to grieve her mother, determining if she can ever have a relationship with the father who has never approved of her career, seeing if she’s even still capable of being a musician, and discovering if there’s room in her life for romantic love.

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith is my favorite kind of book to read because it has it all. It’s about creative pursuits versus stable jobs, being a child and being a parent, and the good, the bad, and the in-between of romantic relationships. Like all of us, Greta must confront the choices she’s made, the heartbreak she’s suffered, and the family hurts that run deep in order to forge her path forward.

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Melissa Ferguson
Meet Me in the Margins

Savannah Cade doesn’t hate her job as a low-level editor of high-brow titles at Pennington Publishing, but she doesn’t exactly like it either. Her salary keeps her stuck living with her perfectionist sister and her ex-boyfriend who is now her sister’s fiancé (yes, you read that right), and she would much rather work on the types of books she likes to read. But Savannah has a secret: She’s writing her own romance novel, and she’s doing so in the Book Nook, a secret room in the Pennington building.

After leaving her manuscript behind one afternoon, Savannah is offended by the editorial notes she finds in the margins. But when she has the opportunity to land an editor if she improves the book, she realizes that these notes are exactly what she needs. With her deadline looming, Savannah will need to finish the book as her relationship with the mystery editor takes a turn for the romantic and the pressure to please her family grows.

Meet Me in the Margins is the perfect book for anyone whose family puts them through a bit more than should be considered normal. You’ll be rooting for Savannah as she rewrites her story, both literally and figuratively.

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Shauna Robinson
Must Love Books

The only thing Nora Hughes ever wanted to do was work with books. And when she landed a job as an editorial assistant at Parsons Press, she had succeeded. But five years later, Nora is more overworked and underpaid than ever. She is bored by the business books she works on and has lost her love for reading fiction. She has never been promoted, even though she’s taken on more and more responsibility as those above her have left for other companies and not been replaced. And worst of all,
Parsons has just cut her already unlivable salary.

Feeling like she has no other options, Nora accepts a freelance acquisitions editor role at a rival publisher while continuing to work for Parsons. She knows she is taking a huge risk, but if she can get one of the publishers to offer her a higher role, she’ll be back to being able to make ends meet with one job.
Things are complicated enough, but they become even more so when Andrew Santos, a bestselling Parsons author the company can’t afford to lose, is thrown into the mix.

Must Love Books is a heartbreakingly honest read that explores mental health, financial challenges, and the promises and myths of dream jobs. Anyone currently struggling with their career will see themselves in Nora.

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Rachel Lynn Solomon
Weather Girl

Ari Abrams has her dream job as a TV meteorologist. The problem? Her boss, legendary Seattle weatherwoman Torrance Hale, is too distracted by her tempestuous relationship with her ex-husband, the station’s news director, to give Ari the mentorship she wants. Ari has been in the same role for far too long, and she fears that if she can’t get time with Torrance, she’ll be stuck in that same role forever.

Enter sports reporter Russell Barringer, who reports to Torrance’s ex and completely understands what Ari is going through. In the aftermath of a disastrous holiday party, Ari and Russell decide to team up to solve their bosses’ relationship issues. Between secret gifts and double dates, they start nudging their bosses back together. But their well-meaning meddling backfires when the real chemistry builds between them instead.

Weather Girl is one of my all-time favorite romance novels because it reminds readers of what romance really is all about: having someone by your side to have fun with when things are good and to help you make it through when they’re not. You won’t be able to help but fall for Ari and Russell as they navigate work, family, depression, body image, and more.

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Anna E. Collins
Love at First Spite

Having wallowed on her cousin’s couch after discovering that her fiancé is sleeping with their real estate agent, Dani Porter knows it’s time for a change. She has a plan, and that plan is revenge. Dani buys the vacant lot next to her ex’s house and decides to build a vacation rental on it, blocking the views from her ex’s house and forcing him to deal with all kinds of construction noise.

Things get even more complicated when the only architect available to draw up the blueprints for the vacation rental is the handsome-but-haughty Wyatt Montego. Dani thought she had Wyatt figured out, but as they spend more time together on- and off-site, Dani realizes that she may have been wrong about him. As things with both her revenge against her ex and her relationship with Wyatt progress, Dani will be forced to confront if winning revenge could mean losing something infinitely sweeter.

I had such a fun time reading this book. The mix of Dani’s revenge plot with her ex and her budding romance with Wyatt is the perfect match for someone who is still working through a breakup but starting to feel ready to embark on something new with someone else.

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Sophie Cousens
Just Haven't Met You Yet

Growing up with the story of her parents’ epic romance has made Laura Le Quesne desperate for her own life-changing love. The problem? She just hasn’t met him yet. But when Laura picks up the wrong suitcase after arriving on the Channel Islands for a business trip, the contents of the suitcase convince her that she’s found her man.

In order to write about her parents’ love story and locate the suitcase owner, Laura commissions surly cab driver Ted to ferry her around the island. But as Laura’s mystery man proves hard to find and she discovers the truth of the story she’s always believed in, Laura is forced to reimagine the love—and the life—she thought she wanted.

Just Haven’t Met You Yet is a funny and charming but serious novel. I loved traveling with Laura as she discovered what she needed from her family, her romantic partners, and her work.

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Sarah Grunder Ruiz
Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships

Jo Walker loves that her job as a yacht stewardess allows her to travel the world and that she has a condo on the beach to come home to. But her world is forever changed when her nephew dies, causing the bucket list of 30 things she wanted to accomplish by her 30th birthday to fall to the wayside.

When Jo’s nieces show up unexpectedly with plans to stay for the summer, they discover Jo’s list and insist that they help her complete it. With only 12 weeks to go until Jo’s birthday, the three get creative as they check off items like #15 Run a marathon and #30 Visit 10 countries, all with the man from #5 Kiss a Stranger by their sides.

Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships is the perfect novel for anyone who isn’t feeling great about that whole turning-30 thing. As Jo grapples with the loss of her nephew, she discovers a renewed sense of love for her own life and the people who will always be a part of it.

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Angie Hockman

Henley Evans never has time for herself, nevermind family, friends, or dates, thanks to her job as a marketing manager for a cruise line and the night classes she’s taking to earn her MBA. But when she’s up for a promotion, all her hard work finally seems worth it. Now, all she has to do is ensure she gets the job over Graeme Crawford-Collins, the lazy social media manager she can’t stand working with.

Henley and Graeme are tasked with going on a company trip to the Galápagos Islands to draft a proposal on how to boost bookings to the cruise. The best proposal wins the promotion, but Henley is finding it hard to focus on work with her sister tagging along and her longtime rival beginning to look like something else entirely. As the cruise makes excursions to more and more breathtaking locales, Henley will need to learn to balance her work with her life.

What I loved most about Shipped is that it has something for everyone. It’s about work, it’s about love, and it’s about family. Plus, the Galápagos Islands are the perfect setting to discover something new about yourself.

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