This book is the perfect light feelgood read to get you out of a reading slump. It wasn’t as good as Date Me, Bryson Keller, and it lacked a bit of depth, but it was nevertheless a sweet, fast paced and cute friends-to-lovers romance.
The MC and sole POV is seventeen-year-old Nate, who’s been secretly crushing on his best friend Jai for a long time. He’s afraid to let Jai know how he feels, since his first boyfriend left him heartbroken and confused. But when Jai’s band suddenly needs a new lead singer before a big competition, Nate steps up to take his place, even though he has a huge stage fright. In return, Jai offers to be Nate’s plus one at his cousin’s fancy wedding in South Africa.
I really enjoyed the characters, both Nate and Jai were such sweethearts, and their pining for each other was adorable. I loved their flirty banter and how much they genuinely cared for each other. I also really loved some of the other characters, especially Gemma and Meghan, and how supportive both Nate’s and Jai’s parents were. Another part that I enjoyed a lot was the South African trip and the insights into the dark history, culture and food (even though it was sometimes bordering to a tourist pamphlet) and to get to see how Nate connected with his deceased dad by visiting the country where he grew up.
I would have wished for the music to play a bigger part of the story though. The story plot with the big band competition felt very rushed and it all ended in a bit of an anticlimax. The initial focus on Nate’s stage fright also felt like it got lost along the way. I also would have wanted some more backstory to Jai, or to get his POV in the story as well, not just Nate’s. And I could have done without the drama at the end, it felt quite unnecessary, and only made me like Nate a little less. Overall, there was a little too much going on for such a short book.
But even though some parts felt a bit underdeveloped, I really enjoyed this book a lot! It was such a light, easy and quick read (I binged it all in just a few hours!) and the romance was absolutely adorable. I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for something sweet and fluffy to brighten up the day, and especially if you need to get out of a reading slump!
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Kevin Van Whye
Date Me, Bryson Keller is such a sweet, fast-paced and gorgeous fake dating romance story that deals with difficult topics like homophobia, religious condemnatory and non-accepting parents in a light and hopeful way. It’s a warmhearted story about coming out and putting everything at risk for the chance of being true to yourself. I was immediately hooked, this book and its amazing characters captured my heart from the first page and made me swoon, squeal, hurt, blush and grin like an idiot while reading. It was such a roller coaster of emotions, in the best possible way!
The two main characters are utterly wonderful. Kai Sheridan is a mixed race, closeted, adorably shy and sweet guy who is keeping his head down, just waiting for high school to be over and for his new life as an openly gay college student to start. Bryson Keller is the super-hot and popular soccer captain who everyone in school wants to date, but who doesn’t believe in high school relationships. A dare at a party will change that though, and for the last semester, Bryson Keller has to date the first person who asks him out every week. And one week, as a kind of joke out of anger, that person is Kai...
“It all started as a dare. Of course, at that time, I didn’t know that the dare would change my life. But that’s the thing about change, isn’t it? Like love, it just happens, never seeming to announce itself. Instead, it’s just one “oh shit” moment happening after the next. Or in my case, one capital “OH SHIT” moment, which, if I’m being honest, is what 95 percent of being a closeted gay teen is like.”
I loved the way Kai and Bryson got to know each other and slowly started to trust and open up to one another, so much that Kai dared to be open with whom he really was and Bryson dared to explore his own identity. The chemistry between the two was just so perfect. The author nailed capturing all the things and feels you experience, like the stolen glances, the flirting, and the awkwardness, when falling in love for the first time. It was so wonderful to see how Kai grew during this time, and as for Bryson… all I can say is that I love him with all my heart. He’s such a multi-layered, warm-hearted, thoughtful and sweet person, definitely making it to my list of favorite literary characters!
This is an own-voices story and you can really feel that the experiences are real and true when reading the book; the characters and their thoughts and feelings about coming out, navigating the life in a religious household and dealing with the day-to-day homophobia were described in such an authentic way.
“Anyone who thinks that homophobia doesn’t exist in this day and age has never been the gay boy standing in a boys’ locker room.”
There are some events in the book that are really upsetting. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there are two events and two persons whose actions are so detestable. And the worst thing is that these things are happening to people in real life. As this book really highlights, it’s so important to have someone you trust to confide in, someone who has your back when things seem to be falling apart. The way their sisters loved and stood by Kai and Bryson was amazing. I especially adored Kai’s sister Yazz who stood up for him at all times. She reminds me a lot of Kitty, Lara Jean’s feisty little sister in TATBILB. She’s hilarious and adorable, and a total brat at times. I love her frankness and smartness and how she is just completely in her own skin all the time. I also loved Kai’s two best friends, Donny and Priya, and their snarky banter and the unwavering support for Kai.
I’m so glad Kevin Van Whye wrote this wonderful, heart-wrenching and hopeful book. There is such a need for more representation and stories with authenticity that make readers feel seen and understood, and this book sure does that. I recommend it with all my heart, and I promise you, if you loved Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before you will definitely love this book too!
Get your own copy:
Kevin Van Whye
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