Nobody’s Cuter Than You: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship
Tyndale House; April 2015
Paperback; 256 pages
There is nothing as precious in life as a friend who knows you and loves you in spite of yourself. Yet over the last couple of decades, we’ve substituted the joy of real friendship with cheap imitations. We settle for “community” on Facebook and Twitter and a series of text messages that allow us to communicate with someone without the commitment. We like each other’s beautifully filtered photos on Instagram and delude ourselves into believing we have a community. But real friendship requires effort. It’s showing up, laughing loud, and crying hard. It’s forgiving and loving and giving the benefit of the doubt. It’s making a casserole, doing a carpool pickup, and making sure she knows those cute shoes are 50 percent off. Written in the same comedic style as the New York Times bestsellers Sparkly Green Earrings and The Antelope in the Living Room, Nobody’s Cuter than You is a laugh-out-loud look at the special bond that exists between friends and a poignant celebration of all the extraordinary people God had the good sense to bring into our lives at exactly the right moments. From the friendships we develop over a lifetime to the ones that wounded us and the ones that taught us to love better, Melanie Shankle reveals the influence our friends have on who we were, who we are, and who we will become. And on a day when our jeans feel too tight, our chins have decided to embrace hormone-related acne reminiscent of our teen years, and our kids have tested the limits of our sanity, they are the ones who will look at us and say, “Nobody’s cuter than you!”
I’m going to be 200% honest right now. I picked up this book because of The Pioneer Woman told me to. I couldn’t help it. And of course her pitch was great, and the synopsis (see above) was convincing, and the book trailer was poignant. Honestly, her memoir raises a lot of reflections and questions on our friendships with female friends.
And–somewhat related side note–while I’m neither a fan or non-fan of Lilly Singh, I did find find her recent video about #GirlLove to be inspiring, equally poignant, and somewhat parallel to Melanie Shankle’s memoir’s premise. Girls need girls as friends and companions to help shape and build each other’s confidence and empathy.
With that being said, I’m going to share key quotes that stood out to me:
For every thing you may envy about a friend, she probably has an equal number of things she could envy about you. And while it’s been said that comparison is the thief of joy, I’ll add that it can also be a destroyer of relationships. (p. 53)
You hear so many people talk about finding their soul mates only in relation to who they marry, but I think that, as women, our real soul mates are often found when we recognize some version of ourselves in someone else. (p. 63)
“But that’s the beauty of walking through life with a friend. When you realize that one stage might be ending and another one beginning, she helps you look at the bright side.” (p. 158)
Melanie Shankle starts this memoir with a story of how her preteen daughter came up to her, crying, saying that she’s not sure who her friend is and shares her fear of not finding a lifelong best friend like her mother. Hearing that from her daughter made Melanie reflect on the friendships she’s had, literally, throughout her life.
Melanie starts with her first childhood best friend, but how it ended because she moved, and what that feeling of isolation meant for her. Then, of course, come the grade school, middle school and junior high years, when classmates are still transferring in and out or when hormones and popularity get the best of each other. And, if that’s what junior high is like, wait til she gets to high school. When some friendships strain because of a bruised ego or a misunderstanding, it’s difficult to repair it back to how it was, and I think reflecting on that takes courage to realize each other’s faults and wanting to grow from it.
It wasn’t until she got to college when Melanie met her best friend Amy Gulley, who is forever referred to as Gulley. Melanie, Gully and two other friends became their own Fantastic Four in college and have been inseparable ever since. Each of these girls have very different personalities–super studious to super lazy to regular Bible study group attendee–and yet they somehow all clicked. And no matter where life took them–professionally, academically, socially–they kept in touch and found a routine or tradition that kept them in touch with each other.
What I liked about Nobody’s Cuter Than You is Melanie’s lightheartedness in her narration because without it, I don’t think this memoir would’ve kept me engaged; her humor–and with a ton of 80s references and stories about high school fashion, her college diet and college logic, there were some literally laughs had out loud; and her story about how she met her husband because her college logic kicked in (it involves leaving raw chicken outside his apartment door…in the sun… and not in a malicious sort of way).
Things that I didn’t really care for was that at the end of a few chapters, Melanie’s reflections on stories from the Bible felt abrupt in her narration. Not every chapter ends with a religious reflection, maybe less than a handful did (I have no problem with this), but there were times they felt added after the fact. Side note: She does occasionally talk about a youth group or Bible study (where she met her future husband), which I did enjoy. Melanie doesn’t go in-depth about it or mention it zealously, but it’s nice to hear about a social circle outside of school that shaped her. While I love a good 80s reference, sometimes there were too many and her ramblings went on slightly longer than preferred. They helped move the story along, but then they sometimes were a distraction too. And, personally, I’m not a fan of plugs to past publications, but she plugged her other books. It made sense in the context, but it stood out to me because I think it happened twice in one chapter.
Otherwise, the premise of the book is great, and I think every woman should take time and reflect on her friendships past and present. While I was reading this, I was thinking about how I should get in contact with friends who I’ve lost touch with or who I haven’t seen recently due to our busy schedules. Work/social media/etc… it all comes and goes, but friends are forever.
3.5 out of 5
This review is part of the B.Y.O.B. Reading Challenge 2016.
This is Book 2 of 148 unread books I own.