G. Bianco, 2019
In this young adult Grease-meets-Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda story, Sophie Gonzales’s newest novel Only Mostly Devastated tells the story of two boys figuring out how to love each other when circumstances change.
Ollie and Will were meant to be a summer fling—casual, fun, and done. But when Ollie’s aunt's health takes a turn for the worse and his family decides to stay in North Carolina to take care of her, Ollie lets himself hope this fling can grow to something more. Dreams that are crushed when he sees Will at a school party and finds that the sweet and affectionate (and comfortably queer) guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. Will is more than a little shocked to see Ollie the evening of that first day of school. While his summer was spent being very much himself, back at school he’s simply known as one of the varsity basketball guys. Now Will is faced with the biggest challenge of his life: follow his heart and risk his friendships, or stay firmly in the closet and lose what he loves most.
The best word to describe this novel is cute! At first, it seems like just a copycat of the musical, Grease, but Gonzales makes the story her own and puts a modern twist on the musical classic. Ollie and Will aren’t exact replicas of Sandy and Danny, but the resemblance is there. The supporting cast of characters also resembles the rest of the Grease cast, but modern adjustments are made to make these characters more of parallels than doppelgangers.
This YA romance touches upon a lot of the plot points you'd expect: making new friends, adjusting to a new life, kind-of- unrequited love. But there is the underlying theme about learning how to be yourself and also how to be in a relationship with someone. Ollie learns that he can’t force Will to be with him and that relationships are a two-way street. Similarly, Will realizes that keeping his and Ollie’s relationship a secret because of his fear of being outed isn’t fair to Ollie. However, it takes him a LONG time to realize that he’s being unfair to Ollie and it gets a bit trite after a while.
Ollie must also deal with family drama and loss amidst the school and relationship drama. He learns that sometimes life is unfair and too short, so to make the most of it while you can, which helps him to work on his romance with Will.
High school cliches and YA tropes run rampant in this book, so if that's not your thing, then you might want to pass on this book. However, lovers of YA and retellings will really enjoy Ollie’s story and relate to his sarcasm and nervousness about figuring out life and love. Overall, it was an enjoyable read, but nothing quite stood out to me to set this story apart from other YA romances.
*I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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