Monday, February 24, 2020

Book Review: "Only Mostly Devastated" by Sophie Gonzales

This book is all kinds of adorable!!

"It was late afternoon, on the very last Wednesday of August, when I realized Disney had been lying to me for quite some time about Happily Ever Afters. Because, you see, I was four days into mine, and my prince was nowhere to be found. Gone. Vanished."

Ollie and his parents moved to North Carolina from California for the summer when his aunt becomes ill. He spends most of his summer at the beach, taking care of his young cousins. There he meets Will—handsome, kind, athletic, and fun—and it's not too long before the two have completely fallen for one another. But after Will leaves the beach to head home, Ollie never hears from him again—no calls, texts, nothing.

As if that's not enough for Ollie to deal with, his family has decided to stay in North Carolina to help care for his aunt for a year. Now he has to do his senior year in a completely new school, which seems like the worst possible scenario. Then he discovers that it's the same school Will attends, which is fantastic...until he discovers that no one knows Will is gay, and worse than that, this version of Will—the cocky, clownish, closeted bro—isn't someone that Ollie likes at all.

Ollie makes friends with a circle of girls, each with their own challenges to deal with. Will is torn between wanting to spend time with Ollie and overcompensating whenever one of his friends from the basketball team comes by and could possibly suspect the truth about Will. It gets to the point where Ollie is tired of being treated like dirt by Will, tired of being jerked around so Will can maintain his reputation.

Meanwhile, as things with Ollie's family get tougher and tougher to deal with, Will's on-again, off-again feelings become a challenge for Ollie, too. He understands what it's like not to be ready to share your sexuality with others, but Ollie doesn't deserve to be an afterthought. But how many times can he be the butt of a joke from Will's friends or, worse, Will himself? How can he stand by and watch as Will pretends to be someone he's not at Ollie's expense?

Only Mostly Devastated is a really sweet and funny book, with an added layer of poignancy. I like the complexities that Sophie Gonzales gave her characters, so this was a little bit more than just a high school rom-com. Once again, when I read this book I found myself wishing something like this existed when I was younger and wondered whether there was anyone else out there who felt the way I did, and once again I'm grateful we live in a world where books like these are plentiful.

I've got to question the marketing of this one, though: it's being billed as Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets Clueless in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease. The only similarity I see between any of those and the book is when Will's new friends realize that the boy he's been talking about is someone from their own school—a slight parallel to that scenario in the movie Grease.

As with many rom-coms, there's nothing earth-shattering about Only Mostly Devastated, but Gonzales' writing is so engaging, and its story is one you want to root for. Can you ask for much more than that?

NetGalley and Wednesday Books gave me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

Only Mostly Devastated publishes March 3.

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