Title: Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication date: 3 March 2020
Genre: Contemporary | Young Adult | Romance
Page extent: 288 pages
Goodreads blurb: 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.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
All I have to say is HOLY F*CK, THIS IS EVERYTHING.
Only Mostly Devastated is an incredibly brilliant, all consuming, 90s rom-com film in book form and it is amazing. Described as Simon vs the Homosapiens meets Clueless, by way of Grease, I can say with 100% confidence it is definitely that. This is a brilliantly fun, contemporary romance with reminiscent ties to all my favourite rom-com films of the 90s. In other words: this is my childhood and it’s super gay.
I fell in love with this book from the very first page:
The protagonist, Ollie, has been ghosted by the person he had been hooking up with over Summer. And now, instead of returning to his home and friends in California, his family will be staying in North Carolina to help out with his Aunt’s family, as his Aunt has cancer. Uprooted, and to top it all, late to his very first day of school, he probably doesn’t quite expect to see the very person he’s been hooking up with all summer at his school. But of course, this is a book reinvigorating the 90s romcom genre and so of course that’s exactly what happens. The only problem is that Ollie’s Prince Charming isn’t out at school. And thus pretends he has nothing to do with Ollie at all. What follows is a rapid whirlwind of teen romance, showcasing the trials of love and the fear and anxiety that comes with owning up to who you are.
The writing style is utterly to die for. Ollie’s voice is exceptionally strong, he is snarky, sarcastic and completely hilarious. It felt like taking a walk through my own brain. I loved him so much.
I loved how overly dramatic he was (“after finding an appropriately melancholy playlist on Spotify”).
I loved his hidden throwbacks to the books’ comps (“I’d end up pining over him, all hopelessly devoted and hurt”).
I loved the hilarious honesty in admission of his own flaws (“It totally went against my personal philosophy of overanalysing everything and only taking risks when there was a 5 percent or less chance of failure”.) I mean, what a mood.
But most of all, I adore Ollie’s strong viewpoint on the most important issues impacting us all: “A sweaty red skittle is worth three green skittles.” A truer line has never been spoken.
The romance was a slow burn, angst filled, and yet somehow totally and utterly joyful mess of love. The book discusses themes around coming out and the difficulties of doing so. It also does so well at picturing the struggles of those on both sides: of the pain and hurt of those needing to stay hidden, who feel ashamed their partner doesn’t want to be seen with them; but also the fear and terror of those not yet out, of their panic at upending their lives and not knowing how to do it.
Only Mostly Devastated is beautifully queer at its core. Alongside Ollie and Will are a host of characters, queer and not, who make this book the dazzling queer masterpiece it is. From the testosterone filled jock standing up for his bisexual crush, to Lara’s coming to terms and acceptance of her sexuality, this book is just heaven. I personally admired Lara’s struggles, and the discussions of the validity of bisexuality. Lara keeps herself, hidden behind this incredibly tough exterior, but as she opens up, you see how vulnerable and loyal she really is. She is an absolute gem of a character and I need to embody her sassiness way more in my day to day life.
Alongside the romance, is the heartbreaking story of cancer and the impact it can have on entire families. It speaks of the strength of those fighting the disease, and the strength their families have to continue on and it was so emotional – please do take note if this is something that might particularly affect you, as these scenes do get incredibly emotional.
All in all, I found Only Mostly Devastated to be the queer romcom I needed in my youth. It makes me think of all my favourite movies as a teen from Grease, to 10 Things I Hate About You. The writing style is fantastically deadpan and sarcastic and there were so many moments to laugh at, I absolutely loved this one!