I wasn’t sure how I was going to rate Boyfriend Material until I realized that I was actively putting off finishing it because even after nearly 400 pages I didn’t want to be done with the world Alexis Hall had created. So, five stars it is as well as relief that the follow up Husband Material will be published later this year (August 2022 to be exact).
Boyfriend Material is the story of Luc and Oliver, but its really Luc’s as he’s the one we’re with throughout its run. It is at the core a story of overcoming the things that we have let tell us what we deserve, and the steps we have taken in order to prevent ourselves from feeling staggering loss again. Luc’s backstory is firmly rooted in the tropes of British rom coms – rockstar parent abandonment, quirky friend group, a crush on a very handsome middle-class gent whom he has struck out with in past who is the answer to his bad press work predicament. Too bad Oliver has only put a fake dating situation on the table, one that has an expiration date that is mutually beneficial.
Normally I prefer a romance that swings back and forth in point of view, so we are able to really sink into the mindset of each character. I would have enjoyed it here I’m sure, but with the telling-you-a-story narration style employed by Hall for Luc we get a propulsive and funny narrator, and because Hall is very good at what he does we are shown the things that we need to know to unpack the neuroses and inhibitions that Oliver is deploying to protect himself from what he feels he can’t have in Luc. It’s a little past halfway before the fake relationship grows to something more, but it still doesn’t quite get to “real” until much later and it gives Hall a great space to pull apart the toxic coping mechanisms that Luc and Oliver both have, and how being in each other’s lives makes them better. They don’t need the other, but their time together helps them address things they’ve let go unaddressed far too long. Then they are left with a choice, and it’s a choice they make over and over again throughout.
Did I mention that this is funny? Because it is. It has all of these big, deep emotions but it isn’t afraid to find the humor in them and just in the absurdity of life. This book begs to be given the movie treatment as it has all the beats built it, but I worry that a 2-hour movie wouldn’t be able to capture the nuance that Hall gives us in this.