Throughout June, GeekMom will be celebrating Pride Month with lots of LGBTQ content. Follow the Pride Month tag to find all the content in one space and keep checking back for more throughout the month. Today’s book review is Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzalez, an LGBTQ and bi-racial reimagining of Grease told in present-day North Carolina.
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Ollie has spent his summer staying at the lake with his family and helping to support his Aunt Linda who is fighting cancer. In between regular sessions babysitting his young cousins, Ollie met and fell in love with a local latinx boy named Will and the two had a brief but passionate relationship, agreeing to keep in touch when Ollie moved back to California at the end of the summer. However, when Linda’s health takes a downturn, Ollie’s parents realize they need to stay put for a year or so and move the family to the nearby town, enrolling Ollie in the local high school for his senior year. At first, Ollie has mixed feelings. Of course, he is devastated at having to leave behind his friends and his band for senior year, but this could mean he gets to keep on seeing Will. However, Will has stopped replying to his messages and he soon feels more alone than ever.
On his first day at school, Ollie meets Juliette who introduces him to her small clique of girlfriends including Niamh and the acerbic Lara, but it isn’t until that evening that Ollie realizes that he is now attending the same school as Will. However, this Will is very different from the one he spent summer with at the lake. A star basketball player, Will is cocky to the point of arrogance, something of a class clown, and still firmly in the closet. As Ollie tries to settle into his new life he has to deal with his ever-changing feelings for Will, helping his new friends navigate their own relationship dramas, and with the constantly declining health of his aunt.
Only Mostly Devastated was a cute story but not the best LGBTQ romance that I’ve read recently. While Ollie and his family were fairly well-developed, I simply never grew to like Will all that much. It was hard to see him as much more than a pretty face because he was rarely given the opportunity to be more than that. The one scene where we really got to see the personality behind the face and discover his dreams was one of my favorite parts of the book and I had hoped for more like it, but it just never happened.
I also felt that there was a lot of build-up toward consequences that never came to pass. Most of the tension in the story came from Will’s fears about being outed in his community—both from the reaction he would receive from his conservative family and from the rest of the basketball team—however, these fears simply petered out without any real impact to the story, which felt rather unbelievable given the location of the book.
Ollie’s friendship with the book’s version of the Pink Ladies (in this telling, they all wear rose gold rose-shaped necklaces rather than bubblegum pink jackets) is one of the book’s highlights, particularly his unlikely friendship with Lara, who quickly becomes one of the most interesting characters and has some of the most obvious growth as the story progresses. Sadly, there are no musical numbers—difficult to achieve in novel form admittedly—and Will’s relationship with the basketball team who stand in for the T-Birds is explored even less than in the movies. In all honestly, I’m not sure I would have noticed the Grease link if it hadn’t been pointed out to me.
Only Mostly Devastated will be a fun, summer read, but don’t go in hoping for too much depth from this one.
GeekMom received a copy of this book for review purposes.