I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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Another one of those books I devoured quickly, and then didn't review, dammit. Seriously, I should apologize to the author and the publisher for letting this linger on my "currently-reading" list for so long.
But hey, my procrastination allowed me to read this again, and I loved it just as much the 2nd time around.
Enemies-to-Lovers is a fabulous trope, and it's done really well in this book. Set in a fictional small high school in a fictional small town, we first meet Dylan, gay, out, proud, with his small but fiercely protective posse of Mel and Kai (Malachi), while trading barbs with resident homophobic jock Adam. The two of them have traded insults for many years, since 5th grade, and today is nothing new.
The plot could be something plucked straight from real life, with a few things, like Dylan's parents and the way Dylan talks to his long-suffering principal, perhaps being a bit on the not-quite-realism side. But I could overlook those things, like Charlotte being perhaps slightly too perfect, with her super-hot quarterback boyfriend who wasn't full of himself, as one might expect, the cheerleading girls who weren't mean to Dylan - it's like the author took my expectations and threw them all in the rubbish bin. There weren't actually all that many people in this book who acted like a cliche, and that was quite refreshing, I'd say.
The snark is strong with Dylan, and we are treated to a lot of one-line zingers that made me giggle more than once. But Dylan is also still a teenager, confused by feelings, blindsided by truths, and quite oblivious more often than not. He does have his moments, though, and those were awesome.
Now... this book of course has a bunch of politically incorrect stuff inside too. You know, where James, the quarterback, explains to Dylan how boys will tug on little girls' ponytails because they like them? Yeah. The feminist in me raged at that BS, but truth is, this does happen. Boys are stupid. Boys will do stupid shit, and the plot in this book is basically just another example of boys being stupid because of feelings.
Closeted hot jocks bullying the openly gay boy - not cool, either, amirite? And it wouldn't be cool at all, if it hadn't been clear early on that their verbal sparring was really not hurting Dylan. He gave back as good as he got, even if Adam is the stereotypical dumbass who bullies the gay boys so nobody notices he is gay himself.
What I had real trouble with in this book are two things:
1. The fling Dylan has with Malachi/Kai - I didn't like it. It felt as if Kai was using Dylan for sex, and didn't even realize he was hurting his supposedly best friend.
2. Adam leading on Tiffany, one of the cheerleaders, and trading spit with her to keep his jock friends from finding out how he feels about Dylan. I felt sorry for the girl, to be honest, and it made me mad that he was using her like that, especially since she turns out to be actually quite nice.
Then again, just because I didn't like it, doesn't mean that this stuff doesn't actually happen. I have a teenager at home right now, and I've raised another already, and I'm also not too old to remember the stupid shit I did when I was a teenager myself. Hormones and emotions are killer during those years, and it takes time (and many mistakes) to figure things out.
Truth be told, the antics in this book had me mostly in stitches. Mel especially is a fierce friend to Dylan, and she subtly or not so subtly helps him along. When she pulled him out of bed and dragged him into the shower, fully dressed, after he's been moping for a few days - priceless! Operation "Raining Bitches" - also hilariously executed.
Overall, this is a fun, laugh-out-loud book, with some serious undertones. While I loved Dylan from the start, it took me a little longer to like Adam, but he won me over in the end, right about that time he really pulls his head out of his ass.
Well done, dear author, well done.
NOTE: This is YA, but probably not meant for younger teens due to the explicit nature of the sex scenes. It does portray sexuality in a positive light, so there's that.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher many moons ago. A positive review was not promised in return. **