Book Review: If We Were Us


K. L. Walther

Rating: 1 out of 5.

published: 1st June 2020
spoilers? yes, some

Goodreads

Everyone at the prestigious Bexley School believes that Sage Morgan and Charlie Carmichael are meant to be….that it’s just a matter of time until they realize that they are actually in love.

When Luke Morrissey shows up on the Bexley campus his presence immediately shakes things up. Charlie and Luke are drawn to each other the moment they meet, giving Sage the opportunity to steal away to spend time with Charlie’s twin brother, Nick.

But Charlie is afraid of what others will think if he accepts that he has much more than a friendship with Luke. And Sage fears that things with Nick are getting too serious too quickly. The duo will need to rely on each other and their lifelong friendship to figure things out with the boys they love.

Galley provided by publisher

Buckle up, folks, because I have a rant and a half for you. This book may look a cute read, but oh boy did it also manage to piss me off.

The story follows two best friends: Sage and Charlie. Sage is straight and sort of maybe in love with Charlie’s brother, Nick. Charlie is gay, but busy dating pretty much every girl he can in an effort to hide it. I think you can probably guess my first complaint here.

I’m just tired of reading books where the gay character hates themselves. Particularly when it’s not handled at all well (like here). Particularly when it’s not (ostensibly) ownvoices. I’m not saying “you have to be out to write this storyline” or anything, because that’s as shitty as some of the things this book espouses. I just think you need to be a helluva lot more careful about it than here.

Two things here made it bad, specifically. Firstly, Charlie doesn’t exactly treat any of the girls very well. He dates them for a couple weeks, then unceremoniously ditches them. And he also doesn’t really treat Luke all that well at times (particularly when they start dating but aren’t out). It would be okay if the book took a clear stance on this, that he doesn’t treat them well and that he can’t excuse it with being closeted. It doesn’t take the opposite stance by any means, but it definitely could have made it clearer.

Then, the kicker. Just when you start to feel sorry for Luke, he pulls the “we can’t be together if you’re not out” card. I don’t know how to describe just how pissed off I got at that point. Yes, in the book we’re not expecting Charlie’s family to actually be homophobic (casual comments perhaps aside), but to say that, to have that as the message of the book? Feels irresponsible. Especially since then Charlie doesn’t really choose to come out to his parents, but more does it because Luke has broken up with him over it. I don’t know how to make it clear enough that you should let people come out on their own terms and in their own time. And anything that says otherwise is just bad.

One final thing (about the gay rep at least): you know when you get the whole sense of a book being all look at me I’m a gay ally and you just cringe? That’s very much the case here. There’s even a distinct scene I can point to that’s like, the most unsubtle thing. Joking that Charlie should be hiding in the closet instead of Sage’s bed from Sage’s parents, and thinking “no one should have to hide in the closet”. No, really. It’s a genuine part.

But, besides all that, there were actual other things that stopped me liking the story so much. Namely, I could not give less of a shit about Sage’s storyline. She spends half of it treating Nick like crap for some dumb reason, so that, when she’s upset they’re not together, I have such little patience for her I was tempted to skip her parts entirely. I mean, yes to complex and not always perfect female characters, but no to the ones who do exactly what the male ones do (and piss me off in the same way).

Finally (and I mean it this time), there are so many conversations in this book that just get referenced. We don’t see them happening, but they are clearly important conversations, because they get brought up later. But surely it’s better to give the reader those conversations, rather than the ones that merely reference them. Particularly when said conversations might actually provide some character/relationship development as well. And don’t even get me started on the timeskips.

So yeah. As you may be able to tell by the sheer length of this review, me and this book did not get along.

To say the least.

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