Original quick review: Hard to review this book without major spoilers, and I was behind on reviews. Tl;dr it’s a classic 4 star / Book I Recommend combo, which is my way of basically creating a 4.5 star category.
Color me utterly shocked that it landed a really tricky ending which feels true to the characters, their drives and their histories!
More fulsome review: There’s a lot going on in this book, which I assumed was a simple story in the vein of many that I have been reading recently–YA love stories. There’s even an addendum that this novel was similar to Only Mostly Devastated in that our main character Saoirse has a lot of other, Real Life things going on that are Heavy and need to be Addressed. Sorry–I meant to say that are heavy and need to be addressed, because unlike some of the usual YA tropes, nothing here had an easy answer.
Saoirse is upset with her father, who is about to remarry a new woman he met on a timeline that doesn’t quite match up with when they decided to put her mother in a home for patients with early onset dementia. She’s also dealing with the consequences of a breakup that stripped her of her best friend and second-best friend friend, and the fast oncoming end of high school and the ever present questions of “so what are you doing next?”
Some of that is par for the course in YA land, of course, but a decent chunk of it isn’t and it’s all wrapped up in characters whom you can’t help but root for. Oliver is every lesbian’s best straight dude friend, and his friendship with Saoirse is given adequate time and space alongside the other plot threads that weave in and out of the last hazy days of high school. I’d argue that Ruby might be a bit of a Pixie Dream Girl–I mean, did she really have to be always be wearing something uber colorful and *quirky*–but she’s also got agency and a goal of her own, and it’s not like her point in life is to create Life Lessons for Saoirse. She sort of just wants to make out with the super cute girl she met while visiting her super posh cousin for the summer.
Spoiler: [And the reason this book lands a tricky ending is that it doesn’t veer into unrealistic HEA…but it also doesn’t leave us with unhappy gay stories, of which the world already has enough. It’s just a truly honest ending that Ruby has to go back to her family and her brother. And Saoirse needs to figure out where she wants to go to college, which is (shockingly, for me) not Oxford but a smaller local school that feels right to her. Smyth can’t leave us entirely hanging, of course–Saoirse is seen making new lesbian friends on her first day of university. There’s no neat and tidy resolution to any real storyline but we don’t feel cheated. And that’s truly spectacular.]