“Do you think you will fall in love with her?” I smile, because I know the answer, and that means I’m finally getting out of the LIC. There’s no way I can get it wrong, because the answer to this question has been drilled into me every single day I’ve been here. “It doesn’t matter,” I say. “She’s the hero of this story, so how I feel is irrelevant.” He leans back on his chair and grins. “Correct.”
The Love Interest feels like a YA parody of love triangles, but at the same time it’s about a secret spy organization with lots of twists and turns… It’s definitely a refreshing and entertaining book.
What I liked:
– The way it handles the love triangle trope. In this book, love interests are manufactured by a secret organization, and their goal is to gather intel on “important” people. I really enjoyed this because it makes fun of the popular trope in YA, while at the same time giving it a new refreshing twist. You can see the similar structuring to popular YA novels when it comes to this aspect: bland girl + nice love interest vs bad boy love interest; however the book tells us that this is all something manufactured by this secret organization called the LIC (Love Interest Compound). I loved this idea! It was so original and captivating to see how the author thought up everything, and it seemed actually plausible in real life.
– Caden. The story is told from Caden’s POV, and he’s a “Nice” Love Interest. Caden is supposed to be the embodiment of a nice guy, and that’s what he acts like to survive. However, there’s more to him than meets the eye. I loved that he knew he had to do anything to survive, which was very Slytherin of him. Caden also goes through a lot of character development, because he’s coming to terms with his sexuality and falling for his rival wasn’t something he planned for. He’s discovering who he is, and that storyline was particularly wonderful. We see Caden’s struggle against societal heteronormativity, amongst other things, and it was such an honest and open portrayal.
– So, this book has 3 romances going on at the same time: Caden and Juliet, Dylan and Juliet, Caden and Dylan. The only real romance is Caden and Dylan, obviously, but it’s funny to see the interactions between the three of them. Caden has to act like the usual boy-next-door, Dylan has to act like the bad boy jerk, while Juliet is oblivious to both. I thought it was funny to see the romances with the guys and Juliet because I could really identify the usual cliches I see in other novels with love triangles.
– The romance between Caden and Dylan. Their romance is so cute. They don’t lie to each other because they know they’re both pawns in a game, so their interactions are always so honest and adorable. Since Caden is just discovering his sexuality, him and Dylan’s romance is pretty slow burn. However, you can really feel the tension between them and it was SO GOOD.
– The plot twists. The book twists and turns in a way that leaves you breathless. To me, at least, it was very difficult to predict where it was going most of the time, which made the pages fly by in search for answers.
What I didn’t like:
– I know I said above that I loved the idea of the spy organization, but I also kind of didn’t? I think there was more world-building needed, plus by the end of the book I’m still left with a lot of questions unanswered. I feel like there could be a sequel or companion novel or something, because there were so many threads left hanging that can be picked up later on.
– There was a bit of tokenism here, and it rubbed me the wrong way. There’s only one black character, Natalie, who’s Juliet’s best friend. She’s described as model-like, thin, and with a beautiful heart shaped face. But that’s it. No description of her skin color, eye color, or hair color. I would let this slide, had all the characters been described the same way, but in this case, we’re just supposed to accept that “black” is enough of a descriptor for her. Don’t get me wrong, Natalie is an important character, but when we’re given an overabundance of descriptions for all the characters except Natalie, it’s pretty glaring. The only other black character is a passing guy who says a transphobic comment (gross), and again, no real description. Not even amongst the other Love Interests did I recall any other character being described as black (or even any other ethnicity). There’s the mention of one “Asian guy” but that’s about it. If the Love Interests are catered to the interests of their target, am I supposed to believe the targets are always interested in white people?
– There’s kind of a weird an ridiculous obsession with weight gain. Caden’s told he has to keep his perfect figure to win the girl, and this means he has to always “be careful” with his weight. But I just found it pretty annoying that he would drink coffee and immediately be told that it would ruin his figure. Or if he served himself “too much” food, he would be told to watch his carbs. This was more of a personal annoyance for me.
Overall, The Love Interest is an entertaining guilty pleasure. It needed to be more fleshed out in terms of world-building and structure, but I can’t deny that the book is pretty good. It’s captivating and gripping, and the romance between Caden and Dylan will possibly give you all the feels. I know this is a standalone, but I would be open for a sequel, because I think there’s a lot of potential. All in all, it’s definitely an #ownvoices book you have to check out. It’s a bit contemporary romance, a bit of action; just refreshing mix of both. This book feels like This Means War (2012 movie with Chris Pine & Tom Hardy) but for a YA audience, and instead of the two guys fighting for the girl, they’re falling for each other. Really can’t wait to see what else the author has in store!
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