Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
This will be a spoiler-free review. For my spoiler-y thoughts, check out my Book Breakdown on my YouTube channel, which was posted on 4/18/2018 (My Channel).
This book was so close to being a 5/5 star read for me. Soooo close! It was honestly that good. It was cute, and fun, and well-written. It was everything I was hoping it would be. Hell, it was everything I was hoping Burro Hills would be (you can check out that review here). So kick back and relax, because this review is going to be a fun one.
Let’s kick things off with the world building this time around, because wow was it great. Reading this book was a lot of fun for me because I’ve actually been to Provo, Utah, which is where the story takes place. Christina Lauren (who, I found out, is actually two authors with their first names smushed together to make a pen name) really did her–their— research. That much was obvious. It was like I was on a second trip to Provo, experiencing it all over again. The overly-friendly Mormons, the BYU campus, the Y on the side of the mountain… It was almost bizzare how accurate everything was. Also, it was obvious the authors were familiar with the Mormon religion as well, because they went into great detail with the intricacies of the Latter-Day Saints’ beliefs. Some of it was even stuff I didn’t know about, and I had to message my friend Miah to confirm that the facts were all accurate (they were). With such amazing world building, I was really transported into this world that the authors painted for us. That just goes to show that world building really is so, so important in novels, even if it’s only a contemporary. World building isn’t just for high-concept fantasy or sci-fi novels!
The characters were also well-written. Tanner, the main character, was a very believable teen boy. Not only that, but he was bisexual as well, and that element of his identity was impressively handled. Sebastian, the love interest, was also handled very well, especially given the fact that he was Mormon. It would have been easy for the authors to fall into the trap of making him a Mormon caricature, but they hit a nice balance and ultimately created a believable, rounded character. All of the secondary characters were written believably, as well. The Mormons all felt like real people I’d met during my trip to Provo–Sebastian’s family especially reminded me of a family I stayed with for a few nights–and the non-Mormons all had interesting ties to the Mormon community that made their stories fascinating to read and discover. Also, everyone’s relationships with each other were so dynamic! There was always something interesting going on, whether it was someone struggling with their identity, or their relationship with the Mormon church, or even their own personal beliefs.
The overall plot, also, was great. I know that some people have qualms about writers writing about writers, but I don’t subscribe to that line of thinking, and regardless, I thought it was really well-done in this novel. The elements of the two boys also struggling with their feelings and Sebastian’s religion were also well-done, and made me very emotional at times. The only qualm I had with the plot was the pacing. It was working really well up until the end, where it began to drag a little. I think the issue was that I knew how it would wrap up, and it felt like the authors were trying to maintain the suspense for as long as they possibly could. I didn’t really feel that the story needed that, though. It could have worked just as well, if not better, if they had concluded the novel a bit quicker.
The writing was the only other place where I felt there were a few shortcomings, though there really weren’t many. Overall, I enjoyed the writing style and the first person POV. It was only when the POV switched to third that I had an issue with it. I honestly don’t have anything against third person POV novels, but the switch from first to third was abrupt for me, especially at the very end when I had gotten used to the first person. That may just be a personal preference thing, and other readers may not have had those same feelings, but I just wasn’t a fan.
Between the pacing and switching POVs, I couldn’t justify giving the novel a perfect rating. Still, it was really freaking good, and I would recommend it to any and everybody. However, I’d especially recommend it to fans of novels like Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.