Book review: Only Mostly Devastated

Only Mostly Devastated – Sophie Gonzales

Release date: 3 March 2020
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Rating4 stars

Only Mostly Devastated blurb:

When Ollie meets Will over the 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 short of his fairytale ending.

A family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country – Will’s school – and Ollie finds that the sweet, affectionate and comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This version of Will is a class clown, a basketball jock, and, well, a bit of a jerk.

Ollie isn’t going to pine after a guy who isn’t ready for a relationship. But as school life repeatedly throws them together, from music class to the lunch table, Ollie finds his resolve weakening.

With the noisy drama of their friends as the backdrop – from ambitious Juliette and frosty Lara, to big-hearted Darnell and king-jock Matt – Ollie has a decision to make.

The last time Ollie gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would be a fool to trust him with it again. Right?

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OMG!! This book is one of the cutest things you will read this year!! It’s basically a modern-day Grease (with less singing but just as much music) crossed with an adorable queer teen romance, mixed with all the anxiety of coming out in small town North Carolina.

the good

Firstly, this book has amazing representation. There are people of colour, bisexual and gay characters, and body-positivity of plus-size characters too. I mean, it’s high school. I’ve never seen a high school that doesn’t have this huge mix IRL. But it IS nice to see the positivity of each of these. I mean, there’s the bad as well – in fact, there should be a mini trigger warning for mention of eating disorders (which is then dealt with positively), and some homophobia. But overall it is a positive story.

The characters have diverse personalities and motivations. While most friend groups are made of people with similar interests, it’s not uncommon for people to act differently to situations – and that is portrayed really well in this book. I mean if you want to go deep with the Grease analogy, the Pink Ladies of this book (including Ollie as Sandy) are fantastic. Lara is the Rizzo for sure – sassy and might bite you in a fight. Then you’ve got Juliette who is focused on her music, and Niamh who knows what she wants and is going for it. None of them are really phased by what’s happening around them, and I love that for them. Peer pressure is hard, and while there is some influence, it’s quickly addressed.

The writing style is so easy to read. I literally flew through this book so quickly – it was just really fun, and easy to get lost in. And even though there are some hard issues, they’re all dealt with in a positive way. I also loved the way that Gonzales makes funny references to external pop-culture influences, such as Harry Potter. There’s one section in particular that I loved, and if you’ve ever read the kids book, This is the House that Jack Built, then you’ll understand immediately.

Kids were full of excellent questions. How could I explain to a seven- and three-year-old that I was afraid to get out into this too-dark street, walk up that too-long driveway, and ring the too-loud doorbell?
Maybe I could put it in a way that was accessible to them? Like, this is the cortisol that’s flooding the blood, that flows in the veins, that leads to the heart, that’s pumping too fast in the chest of the guy, who’s too scared to knock on the door of the house where Will lives.

the not-so-good

As much as I loved this book, it wasn’t quite ‘special shelf’ for me – but this is just a personal preference!!

There is a very sick relative in this book, and it hit me hard. Not just their illness, but the situations that arose from it. If you have a trigger warning for cancer, then you should be aware going into this book. I don’t but I still found some scenes really emotional. The thing that I didn’t like about it, is that there is a pivotal turning point in plot that hinges on the sick character, and I just don’t know how I feel about that. It’s certainly not a ‘bury your gays’ trope type of issue, but I did wonder if it could have been explored differently. (But also, so is the nature of life…)

Also, Ollie does this ONE THING towards the start of the novel, on his first day of school. I can’t talk about it, because *spoiler*, but DUDE!! Why would you do that?!

Finally, Will annoyed me a little – not in a really bad way, just in a Danny Zuko way, which was more me wanting to yell at him through the pages to stop being mean to Ollie, even though he probably didn’t realise he WAS being mean to Ollie. Although, this is actually debated in the story, which I did like… so, silver lining!!

my thoughts

I really liked this book. It was sweet and fun, and had you tearing up in the appropriate moments, and laughing in the others. You wanted to cheer for the characters and encourage them, but also throw your smoothie on them at other times. Which really, just means that high school feeling was captured perfectly.

I would 100% recommend for fans of Becky Albertalli, Jen Wilde, Amy Spalding, Emery Lord and Grease.

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Sophie Gonzales is a YA contemporary author. She graduated from the University of Adelaide and lives in Melbourne, Australia, where she currently works as a psychologist. When she isn’t writing, she can be found ice skating, performing in musical theatre, and practicing the piano. She is also the author of The Law of Inertia.

Thank you to Hachette Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book to review.
All opinions are my own.

until next time, happy reading! Meeghan xo

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