on March 3, 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Diversity, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
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When Ollie meets his dream guy, Will, over summer break, he thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After. But once summer’s ended, Will stops texting him back, and Ollie finds himself one prince short of a fairytale ending. To complicate the fairytale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country—Will’s school—where Ollie finds that the sweet, affectionate and 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. But as Will starts ‘coincidentally’ popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, 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.
Only Mostly Devastated was such a cute and heartfelt contemporary novel about grief, family, friendship and identity. It was lighthearted and adorable, but also explored some complex and serious themes, including loss and sexual identity. I enjoyed the themes, the characters and the writing immensely and I’m keen to pick up Sophie Gonzales’s debut novel to see how I get along with that one.
This novel starts at the end of summer break. Ollie, who is from California, had spent the summer in North Carolina helping babysit his younger cousins as his Aunt Linda battles with cancer. He strikes up a romance with Will, who stops communicating with him once the summer is over. Unbeknownst to the both of them, Ollie ends up staying in North Carolina with his parents in order to further help out his Uncle Roy, as Aunt Linda’s condition starts to deteriorate. When Ollie transfers to his new school in North Carolina, he realises that Will also attends the school but this Will is nothing like the Will he got to know over the summer. The Will at Collinswood High is a bit of a jerk and isn’t the kind of person who Ollie would want to trust with his heart again. Especially since Will keeps on ghosting him…
EDIT: omg, I just found out that this was a Grease retelling and I can totally see it now! I can’t believe I missed it before…
I loved, loved, loved Ollie. He had such a beautiful heart and I loved reading from his perspective. He’s your everyday kind-hearted but slightly awkward guy who happens to be gay, and he just gives 100% of himself to everything, including babysitting his cousins and playing bass in his band. I really enjoyed his friendships with the girls who he befriends on his first day of school and I loved how he saw through their tough exteriors and helped soothe their insecurities. He’s definitely someone who you would want as your best friend and to be on your side. I was really glad to see him form such great friendships with Juliette, Lara and Niamh (who I all really love and would happily read companion novels about). I also loved how Ollie didn’t take Will’s bullshit and stood up for himself and the kind of love and relationship that he believed he deserved.
Will was a character who was sort of take it or leave it for me at the start but I definitely appreciated him more as the novel progressed. His coming out journey was a huge internal struggle for him and I really felt the battle within him between protecting himself and not being forced to come out when he wasn’t ready, and doing the right thing by other people. I definitely enjoyed that all the characters learnt that relationships require some sacrifice and giving as well as taking.
I really enjoyed the themes in Only Mostly Devastated. I love contemporary novels about family and friendships and this one had a strong focus on both. As sad as the storyline with Aunt Linda was, I loved seeing Ollie’s interactions with his family and younger cousins, and how close they were. I loved the support that Ollie got from everyone in his family and how much he could confide in them. This was definitely a YA novel that didn’t pretend that parents don’t exist. The friendships in this book were also great. It not only explores Ollie’s friendships with everyone but also delves into the friendship dynamics between the girls and the basketballers. We see the private struggles of all of the girls, from Juliette who wants to make her dreams of being a classical musician come true, to Lara who finds it hard to be honest about how she feels and what she wants, and to Niamh who is a woman of colour and is dieting in order to pursue her dream of becoming a working model in New York City. It was great to see how they supported each other and were genuinely nice to Ollie who rounded out the group nicely.
I highly, highly enjoyed Only Mostly Devastated. It had a fantastic cast of characters who you can’t help but root for and a relationships that are adorable but take genuine hard work to get there. I loved Ollie as the main character and I wish I could read more books about him and his gang!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thank you to Hachette Australia for providing a review copy of the book.
Only Mostly Devastated is available at all Australian retailers for $17.99 RRP.
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