One of the best things about my Spell the Month reading challenge is that I’m reading way more books that I’d never have known about. Having to search out certain letters is opening my eyes to titles I’d have never have thought about picking up. This is one of those books. I’m not a real YA fan anyway but a YA romance? Definitely not my usual kind of book. I thought I’d take the chance to step out of my comfort zone while also finding an easy read for the letter Y. Whatever the actual story was like, I could at least be confident that it wouldn’t take a long time to read.
I know that YA books are meant to convince us that there is nothing as strong as teenage love but I’d have to disagree. At least the love described in this book. It’s all so unrealistic that I couldn’t really find myself playing along. Of course, it doesn’t help that the characters don’t seem to be rooted in any kind of reality that I recognise. Or that one of the novel’s main love interests is a not quite as manic pixie dream girl. Really, this book just feels like all of those teen romance clichés all wrapped up in one really thin plot that never feels cohesive. It was an interesting idea to have two writers come together for this story but I don’t think it adds anything.
I guess that I should have expected this from a book with such a twee and quirky concept. The narrative is split between Katie and Mark, two students who are experiencing complications in their love life. Katie is in love with a girl she’s never met and is so overwhelmed that she runs away at the prospect of meeting her. Mark is sleeping with his closeted best friend, Ryan, and has developed feelings that aren’t reciprocated. When the pair meet up one night during Pride, they find that they have more in common than they could have ever believed. Agreeing to become friends, the two queer teens start a journey towards self-discovery.
For starters, I have to say that I’m not a fan of the dual narrative. I’ve never really been a fan and I think it’s a really overdone approach to storytelling. There are moments when we have to get Mark’s opinion on Katie’s suffering instead of getting her own opinion. It doesn’t give you any chance to really get to know either character because we’re constantly switching POV. Rather than add anything to the story, we just got bogged down by unrelated internal monologues. It might work for some people but, in my opinion, the double narrative was just messy and unnecessary. Of course, it also doesn’t help that I don’t either character is written particularly well. They lack any real depth. It’s all just superficial and basic. Yes, there are moments where mental health is mentioned but it’s all sorted out pretty quickly.
In fact, I’d say that everything about this book is rushed. The fact that this life-changing friendship is built in a matter of minutes is insane and I never really bought their connection. The idea that they just had this feeling about each other and suddenly couldn’t contemplate being apart was weird. This whole narrative just felt forced. This isn’t real friendship but the way Hollywood likes to present friendships. If anything, the relationship between Katie and Mark just had me rolling my eyes. Then there are the other friendships in the book. None of the other characters has any real development. They’re all just one-dimensional figures who skirt around the major action. Well, except for Violet, Katie’s dream girl. She’s still one-dimensional but in that Zooey Deschanel way that means she never really feels real. She is the girl that comes into Katie’s life to turn it upside down and she has no other reasons for existing.
Although, I guess she does represent one of the major positives about this book. It’s a very positive book in terms of LGBTQ+ representation. Pretty much every teen character that we meet is part of the LGBTQ+ community and there’s so much Pride within these pages. It’s a novel that really celebrates freedom and accepting your sexuality. It’s refreshing and the scenes that take place at Pride are the strongest of the whole thing. It’s not as if this is a dreadful book and it’s perfectly sweet in its own way. The problem is that it just doesn’t strive for anything beyond basic. It feels as though the aim was to do the least amount possible to tell this story.