Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets a darker version of High School Musical in this fastpaced and addictive story about finding your true self, facing your wrongs and making amends. And maybe finding some new friends and love on the way.
Donick (Nick) Walsh has been the stereotype high school jock for years, harassing anyone being nerdy, different or just in his way. But it wasn’t always like this. Up until Nick was eleven, he had a best friend, Michael Penrose, and was into “dorky things” like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and wondering what it would be like to kiss a boy. Or, more specifically, what it would be like to kiss Michael. When he finally tried it, his father walked in on them, and the horror and anger from his dad put Nick on the toxic, masculine football playing, homophobic track he’s been on ever since.
Michael on his hand never really understood what happened. One day, Nick was his best friend, the next day, Nick punched him in the face and looked at him with resentment, either calling him names or avoiding him entirely. The hurt and bitterness kept growing over the years, and got even worse with Nick suddenly coming back into his life again when getting injured and joining the school revue instead of playing football.
I really loved all the musical theatre references and the wonderful representation, but most of all the complex, fleshed out characters, as well as how the story shows how hard it can be to truly change and grow. Not only for the person trying to grow and make amends, but also for the persons around him. Forgiveness isn’t granted just because you ask for it. The hurt you have caused might just be too much to get over, and you have to find a way to live with yourself for the damage you have caused. It was really great that the story was told in dual POVs, so that both aspects were shown so clearly, and we could see how toxic it can be for the victim as well to refuse to confront the past and let the bitterness control your life.
I did find the “Secret Admirer”-thing a little cheesy and over the top though, and I would have liked to get to see more of Nick’s struggle with his conscience before wanting to hit the reset button. Now we entered the story when he already knew that he wanted to change, with glimpses back to his former mean bully self, but we never really got to be part of the internal character transformation as such. But those are just minor complaints.
All in all, this was an emotional, poignant and addictive story about breaking free from toxic expectations to be your true self, making amends and finding new friends and love. I read this book in one sitting, it was such an easy and fast read, full of wonderful music and theatre references and relatable characters. (Just be aware of the trigger warning for homophobia.)
Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC of this book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.
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(This book will be published on August 15th, 2023.)
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All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed Aislinn Brophy AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alex Beltran Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton Amanda Ferreira A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Ashlyn Kane Audrey Coulthurst Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cale Dietrich Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare C.F. White C.G. Drews Charli Meadows Chris Bedell Ciara Smyth Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elisa A. Bonnin Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E. Lockhart Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson James L. Sutter Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jen Bailey Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray Jesse H. Reign Joelle Lynne John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Magdalena Di Sotru Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot Morgan James M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Renée Dahlia Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Saxon James Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophia Soames Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tal Bauer Tamara Girardi Teagan Hunter Terry J. Benton-Walker Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Tracy Deonn Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Wesley Chu Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez