Genre: Young Adult
Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Right now, my parents think I’m sleeping on the couch at my best friend Ryan’s house, safely tucked into a suburban silence.”
But of course, that’s not where he is. He being Mark. The chapters alternate between Mark’s perspective and Kate’s perspective. At the beginning they don’t know one another, but then their stories collide.
Mark is in love with his best friend Ryan. Both are gay, but Ryan is still in the closet. They’ve fooled around, but their intimacy means more to Mark than it does to Ryan, who barely acknowledges it.
Kate is in love with a girl named Violet who she’s never met. Violet is the cousin of her supposed best friend Lehna (who is the most annoying character in the book, but this makes her and Kate’s storyline extra relatable) and Kate only has an idea of what Violet is like.
First let me tell you my experience of this book. Early on I was crying. This may not be the case for everyone, but it was purely from being able to relate to what the characters felt that moved me to tears. My tears were on an entirely personal level. Overall, I fully cried three times, but towards the end this died down and it was an ending with a less emotional impact and more a contended, happy, hopeful ending.
This book is more about friendship than love, which I wasn’t expecting. Yes, both Mark and Kate are in love (in different ways) but that isn’t where the novel’s focus is, I think. The sub-heading for this book is ‘They were friends at first sight’, and they were. I’ve experienced a friendship that escalated from barely knowing one another one minute, and talking as though we’ve known each other for years the next minute. Friendship at first sight does exist, and I’m glad this novel included it as a huge part of the story.
Both Mark and Kate’s friendship with their best friends are troubled. Mark is in love with his, and Kate is struggling with still feeling like Lehna is her best friend. In my opinion, Lehna isn’t the kind of best friend a person needs, and Kate found more support with Mark (who she only just met) than with Lehna who she has known for years. The part I could relate to most was this:
“There has been an undercurrent of trouble between Lehna and me for a while – the way I’ve been wondering about our friendship, the way small things that I do annoy her. (…) I always took for granted that someday we’d be these bickering old ladies drinking iced tea on a porch somewhere, bragging about our grandkids. I’d think mine were cuter than hers and she’d still sound snarky every time she said my name. What just happened was serious, and the fact that I left makes it so much worse. They count on me to be there. I’m never the difficult one who vetoes the restaurant choice or doesn’t want to go to the movie because I’ve seen it already. There is always something to like on a menu, some new meaning to glean in a film. Maybe the fact that I’m easy is the reason I’m their friend. Now that I’ve let them down, they’ll probably get a ride home with someone who will become Lehna’s new best friend. She’ll be this fearless girl whom Lehna will never have to lecture, who will never disappoint her.”
I could relate to this in that I’ve felt like I have been the source of constant annoyance and disappointment from a friend. I am the easy one who won’t speak up or disagree. And I have been on the receiving end of countless lectures, for what seemed really petty things. This novel makes you realise the kind of friendships that are worth having, and puts into perspective the way you might deal with friendships that are falling apart. Or accepting that maybe it’s better to let them fall apart, rather than stick it out and continue the cycle that will eventually lead to it falling apart anyway. That sounds pessimistic, but in Kate’s case, I’d say she needed a new friend like Mark, and she needed to realise that she deserved freedom.
I wasn’t that interested in Kate and Violet’s love story, although Violet was a great character who sort of seemed to be the voice of reason for both Mark and Kate.
I wasn’t too bothered about the idea of Mark and Ryan as a couple. The only intimate moments they’ve shared were all recounted by Mark in his narrative, but what I related to the most was just his love and want for Ryan. But I’m satisfied with where the narrative went with them.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and its exploration of love and friendship, wrapped up in a completely gay package.
Favourite quotes (aka quotes that made me cry/were relatable):
“There is no way whatsoever to figure things out for someone else. Even if he’s your best friend who you always end up fooling around with.”
“Have you ever wanted something so badly that it sort of takes over your life? Like, you still do all the things you’re supposed to do, but you’re just going through the motions because you are entirely consumed by this one thing?”
“Have you ever wanted something so badly that when it’s about to happen, you feel this need to sabotage yourself?”
Link to the book on Goodreads: