Have you ever felt that you were wired differently than those around you? Or that there were parts of life closed off to you because you were socially inept? The Rosie Project allows readers to see the world through the eyes of Don Tillman, a genetics professor with Asperger’s syndrome, and accompany him on his search to find the perfect life partner. Along the way he meets Rosie, a brash, sarcastic woman who is the opposite of what Don envisions as the ‘perfect’ wife. Rosie is trying to locate and identify her biological father, and Don decides to assist her on her journey. They get into all kinds of adventures and develop a relationship that Don struggles to comprehend, until he realizes that what he feels for Rosie, the girl that is completely wrong for him, is love.
To star off, I want to applaud this book for its humor. It was interesting seeing how others examines social situations that are normal for those without disorders but obscure to themselves, and this often made for some of the funnier moments. Simsion creates entertaining dialogue between characters and humorous scenarios that made me want to both laugh and cringe. Whether Don was entering a gay bar, giving a lecture, climbing out of a bathroom window or dancing horribly in front of a crowd, there was never a dull moment in the story.
I am also pleased to say that I misjudged this book. Many people are familiar with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trop, and sometimes you can see it coming from a mile away. I thought I would see this here in the Rosie project because all the elements are there: a protagonist who is dissatisfied in some way with his life and could use ‘fixing’, and a girl who is wild and spontaneous and could potentially lead Don on all sorts of crazy adventures in which he finds himself. Fortunately, this book diverges from this cliché. We see Rosie struggling with her own internal conflict, the predicament being that her father is not her biological father (or so she thinks, more on that later) and she is seeking out evidence that could point her to her real father. Don helps her out, all while continuing his search for a wife, a project her calls “the Wife Project”, and dealing with his own anxieties and difficulties.
The two leads of this story had an interesting and enjoyable dynamic, and the book had a unique supporting cast: There is Don’s womanizing, rascal of a best-friend Gene, who is in an open-relation with his wife Claudia. Claudia is also a caring and supportive friend to Don and gives him advice on numerous occasions. There is also the dean of the university where Don works, Charlotte, or ‘Charlie’, who butts heads with Don a handful of times, and is also a lesbian. I understand that the story’s main focus was Don and Rosie’s quest to find her biological father, but I do wish I could have gotten to know these characters better. There were also times when I felt that I was not getting the entire story, from Don or Rosie. For example, Don has an entire family, consisting of a mother, father, and brother, who we hardly interact with, and there is also his deceased sister. It would have been nice to at least get more exposition on Don’s family life, especially his relationship with his sister as it seems her death took an emotional toll on him. Then there is Rosie’s *step*father Phil. He is extremely important to the plot because it is his distant nature and unconcerned disposition that drives Rosie in her quest to find her real dad, yet we see so little of Phil during this story. He is mentioned earlier on, but we don’t actually meet him until much later, and in general I wish I could have gotten more details concerning his relationship with Rosie.
Now, my final point is something that is more of a personal discrepancy. This novel, literally, claims to be a romantic comedy. There are a few examples of this occasion. Exhibit A: this blurb from the inside of the cover.
“This is a classic rom-com.” -The Washington Post
Exhibit B: This quote from our very own protagonist in the second-to-last chapter of the book.
“I had been living in the world of romantic comedy and this was the final scene.”
Well I have seen my fair share of rom-coms, and this statement is true, but not really. This book had the comedy, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and it had romance, albeit quirky and awkward and there is very little sexual tension. But there is one piece of the rom-com formula that I failed to see here: the satisfying ending. For me, the ending of The Rosie Project left something to be desired. Throughout the novel we see Rosie and Don getting into hijinks to seek out the identity of Rosie’s biological father, but all of that is essentially negated when they find that Phil, Rosie’s stepfather, is in fact her biological father. Huh? As soon as I read this part, I had to flip back a few pages and re-read it, just to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. What disappoints me is that the ending was great until that part. I really enjoyed the scene where Don rushes into the University Club and proposes to Rosie(again), and all his friends are there and the audience applauds and Don, Rosie and Phil take their tickets to Disney World and presumably have a great time. This is almost the definition of a perfect ending by rom-com standards, but then Simsion added that last part and it just left a bad taste in my mouth.
Overall, I enjoyed this book; it was fun, interesting and refreshing. The things I didn’t like about it were mainly determined by personal taste, so I give this book a general rating of 3.5 stars.