I have been waiting for this book for months and am extremely happy to report that it does not disappoint.
This is only my second Dade book (Teach Me was also highly enjoyable), but I can already say my favorite thing about her writing is how relatable and human her characters are. The two leads in Spoiler Alert are at a point of change in their lives – and actively seeking it – and the layers of their lives that push them towards, and in some cases make them afraid of, change (and to a small extent each other) are baked into the story from its inception.
Our leads are Marcus Caster-Rupp, the star of the biggest show on TV, Gods of the Gates, but he’s known to fanfiction readers as Book!AeneasWouldNever. Marcus uses his writing to vent his frustrations with his character, especially the ones that feature the internet’s favorite couple to ship, Aeneas and Lavinia. But his online alter ego is dangerous to his real life, if anyone ever made the connection he’d be fired immediately for breach of contract and become a pariah in the industry. April Whittier is a hardcore Lavinia fan, but she’s hidden her fanfiction and cosplay hobby for years. From the safety of a new job she decides to post her latest Lavinia creation on Twitter, her photo goes viral – and of course attracts lovely positive support and also trolls out to judge her and her appearance. One such troll tags Marcus in the thread and he decides to ask April out, both to shut up the troll but also because he finds April very attractive. Even though their first date is a disaster, Marcus quickly realizes that he wants much more from April than what might be construed as a one-time publicity stunt. And when he discovers she’s actually Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he is even more convinced of his initial reaction, and has a huge secret he needs to hide.
This story unpacks self-worth in a few ways, but one of those is not Marcus falling for April despite her size. Her body is immediately attractive to him and that point doesn’t change during the book. In fact, his steadfastness in that regard plays a crucial role in helping April to continue to unpack her dysfunctional relationship with her parents. Marcus has his own issues relating back to his dyslexia and lack of diagnosis as a kid and his own fraught relationship with his parents (honestly this part made me hate his parents very, very much). They each also find validation and worth in their hobby of writing and during this Adjective year of 2020 I have become fanfic reader (and burgeoning writer) and in that way I was able to relate to both the characters of April and Marcus even more.
There’s so much in this story that I feel like I’m never going to be adequately able to touch on all of it. I should mention that this book is obviously inspired by the Braime ship from Game of Thrones (and there are plenty of plot points that nod if not outright stare at the HBO show) but Dade doesn’t leave it on the surface, she digs down into the details and finds meaning. The interstitials don’t all work for me, but the ones that are scripts from Marcus’s worst jobs often made me laugh out loud. There are portions of the back part of the book that aren’t my favorite on paper (things that could be cleared with a discussion, hidden identities, public gestures) but the way Dade approaches them, and the easy way they fall into the narrative made me happy to read them. Seriously, the “grand public gesture” is just part and parcel of a larger plot point and its underway before you even realize its happening and its just note perfect for the story Dade wrote.
This book could easily fit a few different Bingo squares , but I’m going with Green because the cover means a great deal to the author and also to me. April is illustrated as described in the books, and its an image that includes imperfections (no entirely rounded rump here). Its a big deal, and I love it.
Bingo Square: Green