[Book Review]: Sloane Crosley’s Cult Classic

How far would you go to move on from your past?

It’s not quite a cult, but is it a scam?

We’re all patchworks of our past carrying through to the present and trying to carve out better futures, but how much time do you find yourself spending reminiscing and comparing the past? What would you give to be able to move forward without that pressure? Without the constant reminder of open wounds people leave on us when they leave? Without the constant drive to be the perfect version of someone you’re not just so someone might love you, only to have it fall apart so you get stuck in an endless cycle of rediscovering yourself? For Lola of Sloane Crosley’s Cult Classic, the answer is a little…complicated.

Lola is still a little attached to every man she’s ever fallen for, which means she sometimes ends up comparing them to her healthy, stable relationship with her fiancé Boots, even though each of them ended in uniquely catastrophic ways. After her job at Modern Psychology falls apart when her boss announces they can no longer keep the magazine afloat, she begins bumping into every man she’s ever dated. After enough encounters to establish it as a pattern rather than some freak accident, she confides in her best friend Vadis, who reveals the truth behind the astronomical coincidences. What unfolds from there is a unique, messy, complicated journey through Lola’s past that forces her to confront her true feelings about both her present and her future.

I did not at first expect to find so much beneath the surface of Cult Classic, but what starts as what may as well be my own personal hell soon develops into a surprisingly poignant meditation on the ways women often mold themselves to fit into the confines of society’s — and men’s — ideas of worth, and what kind of lasting impact that can have on someone. Lola’s history is peppered with both self-sabotage and genuine horror that feels all too common to the dating scene, where she by turns finds someone who doesn’t interest her enough, someone who can hardly see past their own reflection, or someone who felt almost star-crossed for a fleeting moment. The ways in which she handles each confrontation with each of her exes serve as excellent litmus tests for how connected she still feels to them, and how often she must confront that she is no longer the center of their world.

Perhaps the strongest thing about Cult Classic is its willingness to let Lola be as consistently messy, and selfish, and toxic as she is without trying to defend her, justify her, or demonize her. Her fixations on each of the men and what they think of her are tragically familiar signs of someone so marred by their history they cannot see the progress made in their present. Only through confrontation with the truth — that each person’s view of and emphasis on a relationship may not be as equal as we imagine — can she grow past her tendency to compare and embrace the person and circumstances in which she finds herself now. Because the truth is, despite their differences, her and Boots are truly matched for each other in ways she does not even begin to imagine for most of the novel, and he might be the first one on her level she’s ever had.

Readers will find humor, heartache, and — if your history is anywhere as checked as mine — an uncomfortable sense of horror and suspense, pulsing through the heart of Cult Classic, making it a propulsive and engaging read perfect for the heat of summer nights and the dawning push and pull of existential crises we find ourselves in more and more with each passing major event. It’ll have you laughing and pondering through your own past to wonder what kind of marks it’s left on you and what kinds of healing we all have left to do to move forward. Let the messy, complex Lola be your guide through the semi-toxic minefield of mindfulness culture and genuine growth.

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to receive an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Katelyn Nelson’s writing interests lean mostly toward pop culture analysis and representation. She tweets @24th_Doctor, mostly about horror.

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Katelyn Nelson

Katelyn Nelson

Katelyn Nelson’s writing interests lean mostly toward pop culture analysis and representation. She tweets @24th_Doctor, mostly about horror.

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