Ok, even as I was getting ready to wish everyone a happy pride (Happy Pride Month! May it never be limited to 30 days!) I was like oh my gosh. I’m about to post a review of a gay romance written by a woman. I AM PART OF THE PROBLEM. Which I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Am I buying books to support black bookshop owners? POC authors? Authors who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community? Sometimes, yes. But not as much as I could be. So you better believe I’ll be doing more moving forward. If my book habits don’t align with my real world habits, what am I doing?
For now, I am going to review Only Mostly Devastated by Gonzales. And I also encourage you to read from someone who is actually qualified to speak on the subject.
Back to Only Mostly Devastated.
The blurb describes a modern m/m retelling of Grease. Which is an exciting spin, especially since Grease has some (a lot) of problematic elements but also has singing, dancing, and high school love.
Only Mostly Devastated didn’t have any group musical numbers, but it does have a band and it does satisfy my high school love quota! Ollie is spending the summer along the central East Coast with his parents to help take care of his sick aunt. And somewhere between all the babysitting sessions and hospital visits, he has a summer fling with Will. Tall, surfer, nice guy Will.
Except it doesn’t have to stay a summer fling. Ollie’s parents have decided to relocate permanently from Northern California to stay close to the rest of the family. Ollie tries to text Will with the good news but gets ghosted. Ouch.
Even more ouch when he finds out they’re in the same class at school. And apparently Will is straight.
Honestly, what comes next is a wild ride. There’s a lot of back and forth between the two and it often felt like one step forward, four steps back.
There are classes and lunches to survive, long distance friendships to maintain. There are some well meaning friends, some evil ‘friends’, and some jerk classmates. Both Ollie and Will have to grapple with family, expectations, and the finite nature of life. Will has to prove he’s not a total and complete jerk. Ollie has to learn that it takes two people to make a relationship of any kind work.
At times, it was frustrating to watch both boys. In different ways, and but seriously. I know they’re in high school but I just wanted to yell at them like GET IT TOGETHER.
I was touched by the family moments, both Ollie and Will’s. Ollie has some really deep conversations with his aunt and parents; Will has a large, involved extended family and his Dad is pretty tough.
But it’s all worth it in the end. #truelove. And admittedly, I admire the lessons this book taught and the respect it gave difficult to such serious topics.
Which is why I really want to recommend this book and suggest that everyone should read it! Gonzales handles each character’s sexual orientation with respect and doesn’t base them on stereotypes which is a plus.
And yet, I’m conflicted that it’s taking up space in the gay fiction space that someone who actually identifies could be taking? I mean, that’s part of why I didn’t read American Dirt, right?
I don’t think there’s an easy answer. And I think the publishing world in particular is rife with issues of representation.
So I’ll say this. Read Only Mostly Devastated. But also read It Looks Like This. And What If It’s Us. Or any book off of this list. And know that your money shows where your heart is.
While we’re on that note, I hope that if you’re reading this, you know your money and your actions are important now more then ever. I implore you to speak up against the injustices our neighbors, friends, families, and random other citizens are facing.