The Love Interest (2017) by Cale Dietrich was on the same “summer reading that will keep you up” list where I found Do Not Become Alarmed. What drew me in was the promise of the same, old love triangle turned on its head. The blurb for this book states:
“This sci-fi young adult novel is the answer to all of our cliché love triangle woes. Caden, the kindhearted boy-next-door, and Dylan, a brooding bad boy complete with dark poetry and a leather jacket, are in competition for the genius Juliet’s heart. The winner gets the girl, and gets to live out his life in peace. The loser gets incinerated. This fight to the death gets upended, however, when the boys start developing genuine feelings — not for Juliet, but for each other. If you’re looking for something funny, action-packed, and romantic this summer, then this is your next read.”
When I began this novel, I was curious about how Dietrich was going to set up this world and interested in how she would make this unusual love triangle work. I was hoping that it would be different than the love triangles I’ve seen in most young-adult novels since the beginning of time. In fact, I even appreciated that Dietrich may have been poking fun at the genre by playing so explicitly with the good and bad boy stereotypes.
My main problem with this book is that it does not make any sense. Since I couldn’t buy the premise, I couldn’t get into the book. The characters and the plot were all over the place.
The book is from Caden’s point of view and begins with him in a single, spartan room, waiting to see if he will be called out for the next target. Caden is a prisoner of a group that romantically attaches people to potentially famous or influential people. His whole life has been building to this point. And after training and significant plastic surgery, he is deemed ready to go out into the real world and woo Juliet–a high school genius. That way they have someone on the inside who knows everything about them? This knowledge is important and other people pay lots of money for it?
Every target is sent a stereotypical “bad” boy and “good” boy (for those interested in boys). They each try to win the target’s affection, and the loser is murdered. Caden has been groomed as the good boy and Dylan the bad boy. The two begin a relationship as they fight over Juliet’s heart.
So, how are Caden or Dylan supposed to court Juliet when they’ve literally grown up alone in a sterile room? Why does one of them have to die? Who would pay money to have control over a high schooler’s date? Why would they assume that Juliet will stay with whomever she dates in high school? The price of this program cannot even begin to be worth whatever information they may get in the future. Why couldn’t Juliet have been a better character–even if she isn’t the main love interest? This story did not work for me. I don’t understand why they would put it on a reading list.
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