Book Review: Only Mostly Devastated

Sophie Gonzales

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

published: 3rd March 2020
spoilers? maybe? vague ones


SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA meets CLUELESS in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease

Summer love…gone so fast.

Ollie and Will were meant to be a summer fling—casual, fun, and done. But when Ollie’s aunt’s health takes a turn for the worse and his family decides to stay in North Carolina to take care of her, Ollie lets himself hope this fling can grow to something more. Dreams that are crushed when he sees Will at a school party and finds that the sweet and affectionate (and comfortably queer) guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High.

Will is more than a little shocked to see Ollie the evening of that first day of school. While his summer was spent being very much himself, back at school he’s simply known as one of the varsity basketball guys. Now Will is faced with the biggest challenge of his life: follow his heart and risk his friendships, or stay firmly in the closet and lose what he loves most.

Galley provided by publisher

CWs: casual homophobia, death of a family member

My enduring impression of this book consists of a shrug and an “eh it’s cute”. But, ultimately, not much more than that. It was cute. It was an easy read. But it was also, to me, nothing particularly special. (Okay, that came out harsher than I meant it to but. My point remains.) And there were too many small things that irritated me.

Only Mostly Devastated follows Ollie, whose family is staying with his aunt and uncle over the summer to help out, as his aunt has cancer. He meets (and falls for) Will, and they have a summer fling. However, Ollie’s aunt has a further health scare and Ollie’s family ends up moving to stay with in North Carolina for a year. And Ollie ends up at the same school as Will, who seems a completely different person to the one Ollie got to know.

Like I said, the book is cute. There’s plenty of second chance romance type pining (always appreciated), and there’s some nice wlw/mlm solidarity between Ollie and Lara. And the writing’s good. But, sadly, that was about the sum total of the positivity I can muster for this book. Not that the rest is wholly negative, mind. More like meh.

Most of what irritated me wasn’t really outright Bad Things, but more like a sense I got from reading. Like how it feels like it’s sort of implied that Ollie is holding Lara’s secret (that she’s bi) over her for whatever reason. Or how, despite telling Will that he wouldn’t force him to be out, Ollie seems to lack any sort of sympathy for Will’s situation (though, yeah, I understand that a little when it comes to the making/laughing at gay jokes and, yeah, Ollie’s 17). There was what the narrative was saying, and then there was the feeling I got from it, and they didn’t match up.

But then there were the bits where it got messy. Like how Niamh, who is, on first meeting, described as being fat, then starts talking about the gym, only seems to get into conversations about the gym or her weight or dieting. Apart from when she gets into a conversation about the guy who’s supposedly her love interest but isn’t really developed enough as a character for you to draw any conclusions (except that one thing he does which makes me think he’s a dickhead). And Will, who is bi, and who skirts very very close to being the cheating bi stereotype, if not actually becoming that, especially the prom scene where he has previously sort of got back with Ollie, but is busy flirting with his ex-girlfriend/prom-date. Actually, scratch what I said about skirting close, on second thoughts.

And throughout, it all just felt kind of superficial. Which is not to say that books like this have to be deep or have another message in them or whatever, but here something felt lacking. It was cute but not much more than that.

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