Lucy Bexley has a beautiful mind. Not like that math guy Russell Crowe played in the movie, back when Russell Crowe was relevant. No, Lucy Bexley’s mind comes up with amazing things like puppet sex jokes, a cat named Ratatouille and accidental pot gummy ingestion. All of these and more make No Strings the first must read of 2022.
Elsie Webb is the creator and puppeteer for Fangley Heights, a popular kids show. The show is in its third year and Elsie’s contract negotiations are stalled. The latest contract offer from the network is insulting and she is done being undervalued. When the head of the network dies and his daughter is put in charge temporarily, a new contract is far from the only thing she finds herself wanting.
Jones Haelstrom flies back to New York for her father’s funeral and is only planning to stay a few days. But soon she finds herself taking care of her six year old brother when his mother needs some time away and also running the network. The more time she spends with Elsie and Bentley the more she begins to feel like she has finally found a home.
The first meeting between Elsie and Jones is a metaphor for their relationship. Jones braces for the worst, but then gets hit with the hammer Elsie throws at her, a prop hammer that bounces right off. Elsie constantly surprises Jones in the best way. Jones has dealt with anxiety, depression and hypomania for years and people either want to fix her or simply don’t understand her. Elsie washes her dishes, takes her for a walk and is just there for her.
Elsie is the perfect mix of serious and silly. She takes care of Jones while wrapping that care in a joke. Jones feels like she skipped childhood and went straight to middle age. With Elsie she can let go and have fun and begins to see life in bold colors instead of the boring gray she was existing in.
The supporting characters are wonderful. Bentley is adorable and you can’t help but feel for him. At six years old he loses his father and then his mother disappears. His sister, who is decades older is now taking care of him. He wakes up with nightmares each night, but with Elsie’s help, Jones and Bentley begin to forge an unshakable bond. Bentley gains a sister but also a fun, puppet making playmate in Elsie.
Elsie’s roommate and best friend, Avery, is the best. They tell Elsie when she’s being unreasonable and point out Elsie’s feelings when “casual” is no longer an option. And they also leave edibles lying around so we can experience Jones really letting go.
Lucy Bexley is absolutely hilarious, and I laughed so much reading this book. But what makes her special is how well she combines comedy with serious subjects. Jones depression and anxiety are handled beautifully, and Elsie’s reaction is how everyone should handle dealing with someone who has mental health issues. Elsie doesn’t treat Jones as a burden or someone she needs to fix, she treats her as if she’s perfect exactly as she is. She lets her be vulnerable while bringing out her delightfully absurd side.
I have had this book for a few weeks and have already read it three times. It makes me happy, and I know it will do the same for you. Thank you, Lucy Bexley for sharing your quirky, beautiful mind with us!
An ARC was provided by the author for an honest review.