Continuing this incredible publishing week, I’m reviewing Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales, which I was lucky enough to win a signed ARC of thanks to an author give-away!
Trigger warnings: death fo a loved one, grief, cancer, outing, fat-shaming, bullying, biphobia, homophobia, slut shaming and bi erasure
When Ollie meets his dream guy, Will, over summer break, he thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After. But once summer’s ended, Will stops texting him back, and Ollie finds himself one prince short of a fairytale ending. To complicate the fairytale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country—Will’s school—where Ollie finds that the sweet, affectionate and comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted—and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.
Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship. But as Will starts ‘coincidentally’ popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, Ollie finds his resolve weakening.
The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again.
I was so sold on the pitch of an LGBT+ retelling of Grease that I had to request it on Netgalley (and then I won a physical proof, so I can always hold this beautiful tale near). Luckily, the book more than lives up to its premise, crafting an adorable contemporary YA romance, whilst also dealing with themes of grief and terminal illness in such an amazing way.
When I first started reading, I wasn’t expecting the topic of cancer to come up and this is something which unfortunately I’ve lost some family members to, so it always hits home for me. I thought that Gonzales showed this horrific illness really well, showing both the hope and devastation that you experience watching a family member struggle with it. The experience of grief is so multi-faceted and she showed this brilliantly, bringing me close to tears. Ollie’s experience was something that I could strongly relate to, making him an even more memorable protagonist.
Speaking of characters, all of the main characters and supporting cast felt so realistic and fleshed out. Ollie is an imperfect, funny and awkward protagonist that sounded like he could fit into my classes. I also loved Lara, Juliette and Niamh so much. They felt like such a good group of friends, being able to call each other out but ultimate coming together to support one another. All of the dialogue felt natural and flowed really well, never feeling forced.
Then of course, we have the romance that lies at the core of the book. I really liked this romance and how we got flashbacks to their summer, combining the past and present to show just how strong their relationship could be. It felt like it naturally progressed and Will’s journey of being able to accept himself was incredibly emotional to witness, though I also got Ollie’s flashes of anger at being something to be hidden.