The Romantics by Leah Konen
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Perfect for fans of Lauren Myracle and Rainbow Rowell, The Romantics will charm readers of all ages. Gael Brennan is about to have his heart broken when his first big relationship crumbles on the heels of his parents’ painful separation. Love intervenes with the intention of setting things right—but she doesn’t anticipate the intrusion of her dreaded nemesis: the Rebound. Love’s plans for Gael are sidetracked by Cara, Gael’s hot-sauce-wielding “dream girl.” The more Love meddles, the further Gael drifts from the one girl who can help him mend his heart. Soon Love starts breaking all her own rules—and in order to set Gael’s fate back on course, she has to make some tough decisions about what it means to truly care.
What I Liked:
I was sent an unsolicited galley of The Romantics from the publisher (and this in no way affected my review). I say this because it was sent unsolicited, and I rarely read unsolicited galleys. But I decided to give this book a chance. YA contemporary is not something I usually seek out and/or enjoy, but I was delighted to find that I liked this book.
This book is told from Love's narration. It's the story of Gael, after his heart is broken. He tells his girlfriend he loves her... but then finds out that she has been cheating on him with his best friend. The poor guy can't seem to catch a break! Now he has no girlfriend and no best friend. This is the "aftermath", how Gael navigates the maze that is Love.
I thought I might not enjoy this book, because I had a feeling that the romance wouldn't be for me. But I was surprised. Technically there is no love triangle or anything like that, though there are multiple love interests. Gael's girlfriend - ex-girlfriend within the first few chapters - could be considered one, though he never tries to get her back. A new girl that Gael meets is the second, and a girl that Gael has known for years is the third. The new girl, Cara, is the love interest that catches Gael's interest but he's not sure he actually likes her (she's represents the Rebound). The true love interest is the third girl, and this is quite evident, in the story.
One thing I liked about this book is how raw and emotional it is. We all know the phrase "get hit by the feels"? Or in the feels? Well, this book does that, though in a very subtle way. It's written in a humorous way, but it catches you off-guard with the depth of emotion conveyed in the story.
For example, some of my favorite scenes with a lot of emotions were when Gael was feeling angry towards Anika and Mason for cheating behind his back. I LOVE how Gael held on to this anger. I love how he threw this in Anika's face, Mason's face, etc. This is good, typical post-breakup behavior from someone whose been cheated on. Good for Konen for fleshing these emotions out, the hurt and anger and betrayal.
On that note, I also liked how while Gael definitely had to work to get over Anika, he wasn't trying to get her back or anything. He accepted the fact that she cheated, he was very mad about it, and he wasn't trying to get her back (and didn't forgive her immediately).
I also liked how Konen doesn't just explore explore romantic love. One could argue that what Gael felt towards Anika was fictitious, fairy-tale love. A significant part of this story was Gael's somewhat broken relationship with his parents. The author shows Gael a different type of love, as Gael works through the issues he has with his father, and then his mother. And then there is Gael's bond with his eight-year-old sister - the sibling love is real and constant and I loved that.
The romantic love is solid too. Gael thought he loved Anika, but realizes that he never did, and that what he felt for her was a fantasy. He tries to go out with Cara but realizes that she doesn't hold his interest. The third girl, the one that he's known forever, he doesn't realize that he likes her... until more than halfway through the book. Which was adorable to watch.
To sum things up, this wasn't just a cute and hilarious story about Gael finding his soulmate (or thereabout). There were so many fleshed-out relationships that were positive, some that were negative (and deservedly so). I found the authenticity of love and emotions in this book so real. Konen captured them really well!
I would love to read a companion novel that follows this one! The end of the book leaves a secondary and unimportant character potentially heartbroken - why not give him a story? I would read it!
What I Did Not Like:
The only thing that I personally didn't love - and this isn't a fault of the author's - is that Gael eventually forgave Mason. Anika, probably as well, but definitely Mason. I get that it's difficult to throw away a friendship over a girl, but cheating is pretty serious, and a horrendous breach of trust. I wouldn't forgive either of them. BUT. This shows how much Gael grows and develops in this book. Good for him!
Would I Recommend It:
If you like YA contemporary, this is for you. I was apprehensive about it, because I don't really like YA contemporary, and because I knew there would be ex-girlfriend drama and new-love-interest drama, but I was surprised by how much the drama didn't bother me, and how much I was enjoying it unfold. This book was one that I got rooted in, one that I couldn't help but cheer for Gael, be angry for Gael, clap my hands for Gael in the end.
4 stars. Worth the read, if you enjoy YA contemporary. I can't speak for the author's other books, but this one was not bad. There were a lot of positive messages that I think the author did a great job of transmitting through this story!
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