First I have to give credit to Amy Lea for her excellent content note at the beginning of Set on You. Lea notes that the book focuses on fitness culture. Lea states she tries to keep it at the healthier end, but for some readers it may still be triggering. Her main character, Crystal Chen, is a personal trainer who has centered her career around body positivity and exercise. The book contains many references to body shaming, misogyny, and online trolls. If exercise and body image are triggers for you, I would be cautious.
Scott starts out the book with the name Squat Rack Thief. He and Crystal are gym nemeses with Scott acting like a butt-head and tormenting Crystal. And then comes the big reveal. Her grandmother is marrying his grandfather. The relationship that develops between the two of them when they stop being nemeses is really nice. Crystal has trust issues and Scott works on becoming her friend and building trust. As Crystal and Scott settle into a relationship, the context around Scott’s early behavior is discussed.
Identity runs through Set on You and plays out in some interesting ways. The third act breakup feels necessary, not to fix a problem in the relationship, but for Crystal to fix a problem with her relationship with herself. Something happens that makes Crystal question herself at a fundamental level. I appreciated what Lea did with that bleak moment and it’s resolution.
My biggest complaint about Set on You is Scott’s dog’s name, Albus Doodledore. Scott says he isn’t a Harry Potter fan, but the dog had the name at the shelter, so he kept it. Lea, though, made a Choice. SHE chose that name. As far as I can tell, no one forced her to choose that name and then not clearly take a stand on the issue of committed transphobe, JK Rowling. There are millions of other names she could have chosen. She could have had Scott say, “I really like the name and I’m sad the author has chosen to dedicate her millions to making life harder for a vulnerable and marginalized population.” Or something. It felt like Lea was trying to land the punchline without acknowledging the context of the joke and it left me feeling uncomfortable.
Otherwise, Set on You is an imperfectly lovely debut romance. I can see that she’s setting up at least one friend and a sister for a possible series. I’d be putting possible sequels on my most anticipated list, but I’m so confused by the dog name choice I’m a little hesitant.
CW: fitness culture, references to healthy lifestyles, gym culture, past death of family members, past cancer death, on page cancer scare, internet trolls, racism, fat phobia, body shaming, weird Harry Potter references.
I received this as an advance reader copy via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.