Monday, February 10, 2020

Book Review: "This is Kind of an Epic Love Story" by Kacen Callender

This is Kind of an Epic Love Story is a book about the often-blurry line between friendship and love, and how hard it can be to let yourself be vulnerable.

Can a book touch your heart and annoy the f—k out of you, simultaneously? I'd answer "yes" resoundingly after reading this book. (More on that later.)

Nate is a huge movie fan and dreams of becoming a screenwriter but he doesn’t believe happy endings are possible in real life. Ever since his dad died leaving his mom grieving even years later, he has equated love with getting hurt. It also hasn’t helped that his best friend Florence, whom he dated for a while, broke up with him and yet still seems unsure whether she did the right thing. But she wants him to find someone else, someone to make him happy.

"I don't really know what's worse: living without love so that you don''t get hurt, or getting hurt repeatedly in an attempt to find it."

Nate’s emotions are further thrown into turmoil with the return of Ollie, his childhood best friend, on whom Nate had an intense crush before he moved away. Ollie reawakens those feelings again, although he returns from Santa Fe in the middle of a long-distance relationship with a boyfriend. Regardless, Nate is unsure of what he wants—Florence? Ollie? Nothing?

As he tries to write his first script and juggle his feelings, he wonders whether love is even worth pursuing if in the end someone winds up getting hurt or grieving over the end of a relationship. Why risk your heart just to feel pain and sadness? If he keeps pushing people away, what happens then?

I thought this book so perfectly captured the jumble of emotions when you are falling in love with your best friend. It’s really beautifully written.

My issue with the book, however, is that so much of the plot dealt with the characters not telling each other how they felt, but instead pushing people away or lying until someone got angry. Every chapter had one character mad or hurt because of the actions of another, and after a while that got frustrating. I know this might be realistic, particularly among teenagers, but how many times can you read essentially the same thing, where a character doesn't tell another the truth, and everything blows up?

Other than their tendency to avoid conflict and telling the truth, I enjoyed these characters and their complexity. I also loved the way Kacen Callender simply made the characters' sexuality a non-issue. Nate went from Flo to Ollie and no one ever said, "Wait, now you're into guys?" What a wonderful world it would be if things worked that way...

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