Book Reviews

How to Excavate a Heart by Jake Maia Arlow: Book Review

This is a spoiler-free review.

How to Excavate a Heart by Jake Maia Arlow

Published November 1st, 2022

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQ

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Kelly Quindlen meets Casey McQuiston in this sapphic Jewish twist on the classic Christmas enemies-to-lovers rom-com, as college freshman Shani’s internship is interrupted by a whirlwind winter fling.

It all starts when Shani runs into May. Like, literally. With her mom’s Subaru.

Attempted vehicular manslaughter was not part of Shani’s plan. She was supposed to be focusing on her monthlong paleoichthyology internship. She was going to spend all her time thinking about dead fish and not at all about how she was unceremoniously dumped days before winter break.

It could be going better.

But when a dog-walking gig puts her back in May’s path, the fossils she’s meant to be diligently studying are pushed to the side—along with the breakup.

Then they’re snowed in together on Christmas Eve. As things start to feel more serious, though, Shani’s hurt over her ex-girlfriend’s rejection comes rushing back. Is she ready to try a committed relationship again, or is she okay with this just being a passing winter fling?

Click for Content Warnings:

Contains a description of past sexual assault

Thank you to the publisher, HarperCollins Canada, for sending me an ARC of this book. All thoughts are my own.

I’m a roll reviewing holiday-themed romances despite the fact we’re fully into January now and the next book I wanted to shine a light on is How to Excavate a Heart by Jake Maia Arlow.

I should preface this review by stating that I am queer and Jewish and an avid romance reader. So I was thrilled by the idea of a holiday-themed romance between two queer Jewish women. 💖

How to Excavate a Heart was such a cute story. Reading it brought me right back to being a college freshman and all the messy feelings and situations I found myself caught up in at that time.

Shani was an enjoyable character to follow, even if I felt like shaking some sense into her a couple of times. While this book felt a little immature at some points, I liked how the story focused on more aspects of Shani’s life beyond her romance with May. Reading about her love for paleoichthyology was particularly unique and interesting. I appreciated seeing how she navigated both her increasing independence (and how to balance her priorities) as well as her relationships with her mother and her best friend, Taylor. Her budding romance with May was the charming heart of the story.

Have you read How to Excavate a Heart?

What did you think of it?

Let me know!

Liza is a twenty-something book blogger who spends way too much time with her nose in books and feels way too much. She loves cooking, baking, reality tv show watching and, of course, reading. She can be found most often with a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other. Her blog, Literary Liza, features bookish content like reviews, recommendations, and author interviews.

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