The problem with stories about losers is that they’re almost never about losers. They’re about winners in loser’s clothing. We don’t love stories about underdogs so much as we love stories where the discrepancy between the start and the finish is as large as possible. We love underdogs when they WIN.
I mean, with a book where 3/5ths of our characters are LGBTQ, I certainly don’t WANT anything truly traumatic to happen to them (real life is bad enough, thanks), and England does a fantastic job of not tokenizing her characters or making the future so idealized that her characters aren’t relatable to her LGBTQ readers (for instance, in echoes of the supreme court decision including gay and trans people as protected from being fired solely for being trans or gay but without eliminating at will employment (meaning you’re not fired for being gay, you’re fired because… uh… you didn’t file that report on time), our trans character isn’t prohibited from entering school because she’s trans, she’s excluded because her birth documentation doesn’t match her current gender. Well played, England.) But the characters just aren’t flawed enough to earn their “disaster” moniker, which makes for a fairly straightforward story arc.
I am pulling the Roger Ebert card and saying I’m only reviewing based on my preferences and my experience reading, not reviewing for the YA audience this was explicitly written for, but I just found this pleasant instead of the amazing book it would have been for an early teenager.