Title: Only Mostly Devastated
Author: Sophie Gonzales
Publisher: Macmillan Publishing
Length: 272 Pages
Category: YA/Teen Romance, Contemporary Romance
At a Glance: Only Mostly Devastated succeeds in every single way it aimed to.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Will Tavares is the dream summer fling—he’s fun, affectionate, kind—but just when Ollie thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After, summer vacation ends and Will stops texting Ollie back. Now Ollie is one prince short of his fairytale ending, and to complicate the fairytale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country. Which he minds a little less when he realizes it’s the same school Will goes to…except Ollie finds that the sweet, comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted—and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.
Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship, especially since this new, bro-y jock version of Will seems to go from hot to cold every other week. But then Will starts “coincidentally” popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, and Ollie finds his resolve weakening.
The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again.
Review: This book. This utterly delightful and earnest and beautiful little book…
Ollie Di Fiore and Will Tavares met at the lake during an idyllic North Carolina summer and fell in love. They knew their time together would eventually come to an end when Ollie and his family returned home to California, so they embraced every moment they spent with each other and made promises they weren’t sure they’d be able to keep. They made those promises with all the sincerity of two seventeen-year-old boys who had the best of intentions, because the hopelessly devoted feelings they shared were overwhelming in a way that only the first blush of love can provoke. Gonzales parses out these summer lovin’ moments in flashbacks, drawing readers into their electrifying emotions while also keeping us firmly grounded in the present and the truths Ollie now confronts when he and his parents end up staying in North Carolina for his senior year of high school.
Yes, you know where this is going, and it is an absolute joy to get there.
Will went radio silent at the end of summer, which was bad enough, but now Ollie is starting over at a strange school in a place that couldn’t be farther removed from California. He faces coming out again, and he’s not exactly an extrovert, which complicates making friends and fitting in. Fortunately—or unfortunately, as far as Ollie is concerned—Juliette happens to be there to witness one of his less than stellar moments, and she takes him under her wing. When she and the other girls who make up their group, Lara and Niamh, offer up the chance for Ollie to go to a back-to-school party, he knows turning down the invite would be akin to social self-sabotage.
Running into Will at that party wasn’t part of the plan. Not part of Ollie’s plan, at least. One of the girls knew full well what was going to happen, though.
Sophie Gonzales’s Only Mostly Devastated is, gloriously and unapologetically, Grease fanfic, but that’s merely its surface. No one breaks into flash mob style song and dance numbers in the middle of lunch, but music does play a role in the story in a way that will eventually open the door to conversation and communion between Ollie and Will as Gonzales delivers readers into the midst of her characters’ conflict. As with any good Young Adult romance, there is pathos, and the tempest that is first love, and the maelstrom that is heartbreak, and the author has integrated those things with the turbulence of life in general, and the agony of loss. And she’s done so in a way that allows readers to feel all those things in a lovely bit of reciprocity as we bask in the sweetness of the romantic pining.
Gonzales invokes all the angst and anxiety of being a teenager who’s just trying to fit in and get by, and couples it with Will not presenting as the kind, sensitive, and sweet boy he’d been with Ollie over the summer. It’s just that Will has an image to uphold as vice-captain of the Collinswood High basketball team, there’s no way he’s coming out as bi—not to his friends or his family—and that influences his reactions to and interactions with Ollie. Will has a difficult time letting on that he even knows Ollie, let alone likes him, so they hurt, they try, and they give up. Until, finally, they’re able to find a middle ground to stand on.
The key to loving a book is so often the ability to fall in love with its characters, and I adored both Ollie and Will, immensely. Gonzales offers readers a full cast of people to relate to and empathize with; there are characters who grew on me and others who didn’t, as so often happens when becoming involved in a story in an emotional way. That’s the greater part of reading, and Only Mostly Devastated succeeds in every single way it aimed to.
You can buy Only Mostly Devastated here:
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