Genre | Contemporary YA Fiction
Page #s | 343
Publishing Date | August 2022
Just days before spring break, Neil Kearney is set to fly across the country with his childhood friend (and current friend-with-benefits) Josh, to attend his brother’s wedding—until Josh tells Neil that he’s in love with him and Neil doesn’t return the sentiment.
With Josh still attending the wedding, Neil needs to find a new date to bring along. And, almost against his will, roommate Wyatt is drafted.
At first, Wyatt (correctly) thinks Neil is acting like a jerk. But when they get to LA, Wyatt sees a little more of where it’s coming from. Slowly, Neil and Wyatt begin to understand one another… and maybe, just maybe, fall in love for the first time…
I love a book with a fake dating trope, and there were elements of this story that really worked for me. Unfortunately, its extremely unlikeable protagonist, combined with some highly dubious personal development, made it impossible for me to sink fully into the joy of the trope.
Neil is a classic self-hating teen who pushes people away when they get too close. He’s uncomfortably rude and selfish, but multiple people find him charming to the point of falling in love with him. I mean, this guy deliberately tracked mud into his dorm room when his roommate specifically asked him to be cleaner, and this roommate apparently is harboring a secret crush on Neil. WHY?
Anyway, Neil wants to show his hookup Josh just how little he cares about him by pretending to date said roommate Wyatt. Despite JUST being terrified by relational intimacy, he falls in love with Wyatt while fake dating him for approximately three days. He does become marginally nicer, largely because Wyatt insists he be treated with kindness. His character growth also applies to his family, who he loudly complains about throughout his brother’s wedding week until realizing that perhaps they are complex human beings. BUT THEN! Neil attempts a supposedly romantic gesture that just made me think he was as selfish as he’s always been, resulting in an entirely unsatisfactory ending.
I didn’t love this, if you couldn’t tell. But I did read it quickly, and it’s got some wonderful queer representation and themes in the form of Neil, a trans man, and Wyatt, a pansexual genderqueer kid. We also get some heartbreakingly accurate family dynamics between transphobic grandparents and parents who don’t do enough to defend their kid. That stuff was all great. The plot? Less so.
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