Cole McCade writes beautifully. It felt at times, while I was reading Just Like This, that McCade was getting the ink for his story right out of my well of feelings. I am allergic to my own feelings and would much rather experience them by proxy through fictional characters. McCade doesn’t let me do that.
Just Like This is the second book in the Albin Academy series. Albin Academy is a boarding school mostly for boys rich families find troublesome. The teachers and staff also live at the school, which gives them plenty of time to fall in love when they aren’t teaching. Rian Falwell teaches art at the academy. Damon Louis is the football coach. Under normal circumstances they would have no reason to talk or interact, but a student, Chris, is lying to both of them. Damon storms angrily into Rian’s classroom and they immediately become antagonists. They make assumptions and jump to conclusions, but they team up anyway to find out what is wrong with Chris and how they can help him. Rian is white and comes from a wealthy family that doesn’t understand his choices. Damon is Native American, but was adopted and feels disconnected from his heritage.
As beautifully and evocatively as McCade writes, Just Like This didn’t work as well for me as Fox and Summer’s story in Just Like That. Fox and Summer are a hard act to follow, and their book grabbed me with the way it depicted anxiety and depression. I highly recommend it. For all the antagonism between Rian and Damon, there wasn’t as much tension in their relationship. It didn’t snap and sparkle. I found myself perking up whenever the starchy Assistant Principle Walden was on page.
That said, Rian and Damon were nice to spend time with. They cared about their students and as they slowly opened up to each other they became even more interesting characters. I loved the epilogue. SPOILERS: For two gay men, including one who is an indigenous man, to end up with a happy marriage and adopted children is still a radical act. END SPOILERS.
I received this as an arc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.