Title: This is Kind of an Epic Love Story
Author: Kheryn Callender
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication: October 30, 2018 by Balzer + Bray
My Rating: ★★★☆☆
When I saw this book pop up on my Goodreads feed a couple weeks ago, I was immediately intrigued. Once I started to read the reviews, I was sold and knew I had to read this. A YA contemporary? Friends-to-lovers? Diverse characters and representation? An epic love story? Sign me up for that please. It’s safe to say that I was thrilled when I came across this book on Edelweiss and was approved for the ARC.
We start this story off with a teenager named Nathan who is still is trying to move on after a breakup with his ex-girlfriend, Florence. This isn’t exactly easy for him since the two decided to remain friends after their romantic relationship ended. Since he cannot let go of his feelings for Florence, and he’s already seen so many other relationships end in his life, Nathan becomes certain that happy endings don’t exist. It isn’t until his childhood best friend, Oliver, moves back in to town that Nate might start to rethink this. Although Nate already made a mistake that potentially jeopardized their friendship in the past, he finally has the chance to tell Oliver how he truly feels. If only he could believe in a happy ending for himself.
This book definitely had a cute story-line with tons of potential, but unfortunately, I was left slightly disappointed. The concept sounded much better than it ended up being. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it though; it was, without a doubt, a unique story with plenty of sweet moments. I loved so much about this book, but there were also flaws that I could not look past.
The major issue I had was how problematic the main character was. Nathan was constantly saying hurtful things to his family and friends, feeling bad about it for a while, and then doing it again. He caused tons of unnecessary drama that could have been avoided. It frustrated me to no end because I kept thinking his character was going to develop, but he just made the same exact mistakes over and over again. I always enjoy reading about flawed characters, and seeing them learn from their problematic behaviors, but it was difficult to like Nate. He did get better in the end, except that still didn’t make up for how many problems he caused throughout the story. I wish I could’ve liked him more.
However, as much as I didn’t care for Nate, I did adore the other main character and his love interest. Oliver was the sweetest and definitely one of the best parts of this book. Even though he was going through his own struggles that caused him to make mistakes as well, he was still kind and lovable the entire way through. I simply adored him. He was true to himself, a wonderful friend and person, and one of those characters who you can’t help but love.
That being said, I don’t think I ever fully understood the actual relationship between Oliver and Nate. We are told they were friends from childhood, but we don’t get much of a backstory. When Oliver shows up years later, and we learn Nate has feelings for him, it almost feels like insta-love. I know it wasn’t, as the two of them did know each other for years, but I wish we could’ve gotten to know more about them before they met again. They also spent so much of this book arguing and in frustrating situations (mostly caused by Nate) that it made it even more difficult to root for them. I still did, because they were sweet at times and I wanted them to have their happy ending, but their relationship never fully clicked for me.
I will say the plot itself was really well done and intriguing. I expected it to be cliche and predictable, but I was pleasantly surprised with how unique the story-line was. It never left me feeling bored and I honestly wasn’t expecting the ending at all. There’s also a few subplots involving side characters that could’ve easily been unnecessary, but I ended up about being interested in each of the situations that were brought up. The plot definitely made this story better. I enjoyed it the entire way through.
One more note I’d like to make is how much I appreciated the amount of diversity and representation that is included in this book. Both main characters are POC and queer, which made me incredibly happy. Oliver is also almost fully deaf/HoH and there is frequent use of sign language. However, I like that we didn’t totally focus on any of this. For example, this book wasn’t about the characters being queer; they just date whoever they want to without it being a big deal. There isn’t a discussion or any labeling of sexuality, and while we definitely still need books that include those things, it was nice that the author simply normalized it.
All in all, I had lots of mixed feelings about this book. I think my expectations were too high going in and there were just tons of aspects that frustrated me. However, despite it’s flaws, I did think this book was enjoyable and I’m glad I gave it a chance. It was definitely a unique story with plenty of sweet moments, even if didn’t end up being what I thought it was.