I have to preface this review by saying that I haven’t read anything by either Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera though I did watch (and enjoy) Love, Simon. The premise of this YA novel is cute as is its origin story. The two authors didn’t know each other but their debut novels were sold and published at about the same time and they connected and bonded over e-mail and social media. They decided soon after to collaborate on a novel and this is the result.
The novel is told in alternating chapters by Ben and Arthur and tells the story of their relationship over one summer in New York. Arthur is from Georgia but is spending the summer in New York, interning at a law firm (thanks to his mother) and living in his uncle’s apartment. In a meet-cute scene out of a movie, Arthur encounters Ben at the post office, where Ben is attempting to put a box of his ex-boyfriend’s stuff in the mail. They make awkward small talk, sparks fly, but then, before they can exchange names and numbers, they are separated by a sudden flash mob that includes a marching band and a marriage proposal.
What is the universe trying to tell them? That is what both Ben and Arthur wonder as they try to find each other and once they do, try to make their relationship work but the path of love does not run smoothly.
I think my feelings about this book suffered because of what I read just before—a novel that made me connect with the two main characters so strongly. I liked both Arthur and Ben but I felt like some of the challenges they faced were manufactured while the real differences were glossed over. I found myself skimming and then felt bad. On paper, I love the idea of a romantic comedy featuring two high school boys but the execution here didn’t quite come together for me. The writing felt cluttered and often too screenplay-like.
That said, I’m fully aware that I’m probably not the target audience and that this novel may be just the optimistic representation that some young teenage boy (or girl) needs. Therefore, I’m happy it exists.