Review: The Flip Side by James Bailey

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The Flip Side by debut author James Bailey is a wonderfully crafted romantic comedy, following the hilarious and tragically unfortunate Josh as he slogs through life. When all goes wrong, he turns to a single 50p coin to decide his fate, because how could his life possibly get any worse when handing it over to fickle fortune?

At first, everything seems perfectly fine for our protagonist. He has a decently paid job, a long-time girlfriend he has moved in with and a rabbit to seal the deal with his would-be-fiancee. This all comes to an abrupt end when he loses everything; job, girlfriend and all expectation of a future. Like any rational guy going through a troubling period where he’s down on his luck, he decides to make every choice with a coin flip; because that’s what heroes do.

Told in the first person, James Bailey’s fluent and lean writing provides stylish flair to main character Josh’s thoughts and provides the reader with a witty internal monologue throughout the story. The premise is promising and prevails throughout the novel, providing the reader with a persistent sense of risk where Josh must abide by the coin in even the riskiest of situations. The idea may seem clumsy and work sluggishly in a comedy, but his writing works perfectly alongside.

Arguably the most substantial part of Bailey’s writing aside from Josh’s runaway thoughts, the characters that support him along the journey are entirely down-to-earth and have perfectly everyday lives that do not leave everything to chance. The Jakes (Jake and his boyfriend, Jake) provide funny comments and support him through the thick and thin while Jessie helps him with his chaotic love life. His family life is equally comical, and the close relationship with his father feels surprisingly tangible compared to the surreal experiences he shares with his mysterious love, the Sunflower Girl. Every interaction with other characters feels seamless, even the awkward discussions between him and his buddy Jesus (it’s a long story).

In conclusion, James Bailey’s debut novel is a brilliant romantic comedy that uses a creative premise to create a heartwarming and funny feel-good read. Even if the plot feels a little patchy at times and the main love interest is possibly too perfect, the joy of sitting alongside Josh as he spends a year trying to recover from heartbreak and exploring why it’s so important to make decisions truly makes this book the romcom of 2020. The all-is lost moment was structured well, and the ending played fantastically into the themes of the novel while also being delightful to read. The book is thoroughly enjoyable and is worth a read if the flawless execution of an intriguing premise and a fun plot appeals to the reader.

4/5 (Great!)