5 flamboyant stars
I had that book on my shelf for such a looong time but reading Jay (James Cudney)’s review some weeks ago was the kick I needed to finally grab it, dive in and …fall in love!
I am utterly astonished at how that read excels in being charming, droll, sarcastic, moving and romantic at the same time.
That also reminded me of the race for the recent US elections and some low blow candidates does not hesitate to jab.
I am certain in reading the synopsis and all the enthusiastic reviews that you know the plot by now so I won’t delve into it. I will rather talk about the characters, the relationship, the …
But as I know I’ll write quite a long review, the nutshell version is that this book has:
-lots of laugh out loud moments;
-meet cute beginning in a very dramatic fashion (try tumbling into a wedding cake);
-strong sibling love;
-lots of angst and suspense (how will they make it work? What if they are outed? And will the president win the election again? And..);
-serious topics like racial and gender identity, grief etc. wrapped up in a brilliant and swoony package.
I think for as much as I loved them, Casey McQuiston went all stereotypical on us.
Alex is the outspoken, free, arrogant and flamboyant US heir.
Henry is rather contained, old fashioned, polite, polished and appears icy while hiding sarcastic humor under that exterior veneer.
These are archetypes of what we often see written about US citizens vs UK ones.
But that worked splendidly!
In the beginning of the story, Alex seemed like a prick. He was mocking, arrogant and bathing in the attention of being the president’s son. I didn’t know if I would love him.
But when he was forced to go visit Henry to do some damage control, it seemed that discovering Henry’s human side rubbed on him and softened his tough guy stance. It was like he played a role of being that big strong and brawling guy just to infuriate Henry, to provoke a reaction, maybe because deep down Alex was intimidated by Henry.
Like animals raising their hair to appear bigger when confronted to an opponent.
And when Alex will realize he is attracted to Henry and is bisexual, this changed his whole attitude. He felt more sincere, less “fabricated” dare I say and much more loveable to my eyes.
I loved him even more when he talked what being a biracial (part Mexican, part American) kid was in the US.
Henry…I would have loved some chapters in Henry’s POV. We only get a glimpse of what’s happening in his head through the messages he sent to Alex.
That was one element of that story that I found brilliant: opening up through text messages and mails. Because you are often true to yourself when you write, with the comfort of not being face to face with the person to see his reaction.
Henry was initially a mystery but Alex’s friendship and constant poking unraveled him like a ball of yarn. He came apart under Alex’s scrutiny, impertinent messages and watchful ear.
We were left with a man who had to hide his true identity all his life. Someone who had a huge burden on his shoulders but who yearned to be seen and loved for who he was.
Their relationship evolved in a very organic way. From enemies to friends to lovers, nothing felt forced nor rushed. And when they finally were together, …let’s just say that the atmosphere was sizzling with heat!
Last word about characters and relationships: I think Casey built a very strong cast of side characters.
The strong bond between Alex and his sister June, their friend Nora was a pure delight to read. They formed a tight unit and worked like a well-oiled machine.
Henry’s relationship with Beatrice his sister was also heart-warming. At least Henry had someone in his corner as opposed to his very stiff older brother Philippe.
I also loved colorful Pez, Henry’s best friend.
I know this review is extremely long and I apologize for it but I would like to highlight the huge list of delicate but contemporary topics broached very smartly in this brilliant story:
-racial identity and racism in media;
-grief and anxiety depiction;
I just have two words left: read this!
Have you read it?
Thanks for reading!