Trigger Warnings: emotional manipulation and abuse, broken engagement mention, job loss mention, academic stress and anxiety, mild sexual content
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publication date: April 20th, 2021
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Synopsis (taken from Storygraph)
Real romance from a real couple
An academic enemies-to-lovers YA with all the nerdy drama, high school antics, and heart-pounding romance of the Netflix original series Never Have I Ever
Since high school began, Alison Sanger and Ethan Molloy have competed on almost everything. AP classes, the school paper, community service, it never ends. If Alison could avoid Ethan until graduation, she would. Except, naturally, for two over-achieving seniors with their sights on valedictorian and Harvard, they share all the same classes and extracurriculars. So when their school’s principal assigns them the task of co-planning a previous class’s ten-year reunion, with the promise of a recommendation for Harvard if they do, Ethan and Alison are willing to endure one more activity together if it means beating the other out of the lead. But with all this extra time spent in each other’s company, their rivalry begins to feel closer to friendship. And as tension between them builds, Alison fights the growing realization that the only thing she wants more than winning . . . is Ethan.
**** eARC was provided by publishers for an honest review. All opinions are mine.****
Enemies to lovers is always a superior trope. What’s even better is enemies to lovers who genuinely hate each other and then accidentally realize that they mistook attraction for hate because they’re so caught up in hating each other.
Ethan and Alison’s rivalry is so utterly perfect. They’re absolutely horrific to each other. The constant jabs, the mean comments, the arguing, the sabotaging, pure hatred and loathing was never done so well. And yet, as a reader you can see that what’s keeping them at each other’s throats is that there is literally NO ONE ELSE that matches their energy and ability to keep up with the pace they set for each other. In other words perfectly matched adversaries i.e. the ideal love match.
The slow burn of their romance over 60-70% of the book was exceptionally done. All the little moments of understanding that they have for each other and the unwitting yearning when the other refuses to reciprocate made the perfect concoction to build the romance between Ethan and Alison. So when the metaphorical dam of sexual tension finally breaks it’s the biggest HELL YES moment in the book. I was HOLLERING I TELL YOU
As they start to understand each other, compromise for each other, figure out how to keep their bickering energy while possibly making a real effort at a relationship was super cute and super healthy to see in a young adult romance. I loved the energy they had and the overall vibes of the two of them together.
Alison is the only narrator throughout the book which was a bit disappointing, to be honest. I felt like seeing the flip side of the relationship would have been nice but I also understand the need to conceal when the romantic interest starts to catch feels so makes sense. Plus this book also had a lot of Alison’s personal character growth on page instead of the standard end of book “lesson learnt here’s my grand gesture quick fix,” and frankly I like this way much better. The lead really got to wring out her personal flaws through proper conversations and healthy self reflection, it was pretty great tbh.
The humour throughout this book was spectacular. Ethan and Alison throw jabs back and forth and they’re SO FUNNY idk why people around them found it toxic and annoying. I mean I get it, two people constantly one upping each other is really grating but also free entertainment so why complain, ya kno?
Alison’s family and friend (yes, singular) were also super great. Her flaws really affect her relationship with Jamie (elder sister) and Dylan (bsf) to the point where neither of them really speak to her for a while and the self reflection that Alison has to do to comprehend the hurt she caused was really well done. Her character flaws revolve around hubris and a false sense of maturity and superiority. They’re superbly deconstructed. As an adult, I was able to see how her parents and elder sister saw her as someone who was really missing out on enjoying the last few months of childhood, but also as someone with a massive ego I was able to empathize with Alison’s need to be seen as mature and pragmatic. And yet, she’s a teenager making a mess of herself. Such is the duplicity of life.
This book is compared to Never Have I Ever, the Netflix original, and due to that I legit could not unsee Alison and Ethan as Devi and Ben. There’s no identity crossover other than top students at each other’s necks and maybe that one scene at a party but that’s literally it. Still, I think seeing the book and show overlap so well made the book all the more enjoyable. ALSOOOO I thought the book also had some similarities to the movie Candy Jar which is also an academic overachievers, enemies-to-lovers story. I feel like watching the movie, show, and reading the book would be a super fun weeklong marathon tbh.
Lemme know if y’all give that a try and what your thoughts on the book are!!
Thanks for reading, byeeeeeee 🙂