March 26, 2018 by readingoutside
36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You is an interesting book because it opens with two very unlikable protagonists and dares you to scratch the surface and figure out who they are underneath. Which is in fact the premise of the story. Two teenagers, Hildy and Paul, participate in a university study that seeks to determine whether a relationship can be made just by asking each other 36 thought-provoking questions.
I was originally drawn to the book just because of the style it’s written in: primarily back-and-forth dialogue, like a film script, and emails. I am a huge, huge, sucker for dialogue-driven stories. I love verbal banter, and trying to figure out the hidden meaning of what’s being said.
At first, though, I wasn’t too keen on Hildy and Paul. Hildy is a driven, type-A personality, and she comes across as smug and bossy during their first encounter. Paul is a blue-collar, rebellious tough-guy. He is participating in the study for the money, resents Hildy’s white-collar life, and is almost abusively rude to her.
This is the point where I almost walked away from the book, because I just didn’t see how I could ever warm up to them, or feel like they could be redeemed from the awful things they said to each other at first. As I say, I love banter, but not when it’s mean-spirited.
Everything changes when Hildy gets so angry she throws her fish at Paul, causing him to see her real side. (Don’t worry, the fish survives, although there are other fish deaths in the story, which I wasn’t happy about. It really upsets me when animals die in stories because of humans being mean and miserable. RIP, poor fishies).
Anyway, I stuck with the book and was glad I did, because once Hildy and Paul start to thaw, they become much more relatable. It turns out they’ve both been dealing with some really tough family situations, which slowly become revealed as the questions are asked. I also didn’t realize the story takes place in Halifax until over halfway through the book, when the characters go to the Freak Lunchbox (go Freak Lunchbox!). So, bonus points for that.
The dialogue gets more interesting and page-turning as the book progresses and becomes much more flirtatious and less mean-spirited. These are two smart kids, and you do start rooting for them to get together. I raced through the last third of the book, wanting to find out what happens. So I guess 36 questions really can change your mind about something.