A romance that doesn’t shy away from tough topics. A review of The House Swap by Jo Lovett.

This is a three star read!!

I was given a copy of this eARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I went into reading this book with extremely high expectations as I absolutely adore house swap romances thanks to my obsession with the film The Holiday and although it did not completely live up to my expectations, and I had a few issues with it, I thought overall it was a delightfully sweet romance.

Cassie is an author living on a small island in Maine who needs to relocate to London for six months so she can work on the next installment of her extremely popular children’s book series.

James has just gone through a messy, and very public break-up the same day he had to make a lot of people redundant. Now, his ex is refusing to leave him alone, he needs a break from the city.

So, they agree to swap homes for half a year, but slowly they realise that their different lifestyles might be slightly more compatible than they originally thought. Will they find a new home in each others hearts, as well as each others houses?

A white hand holds a kindle in front of a pink rose bush. The book cover on the screen is of a woman and man stood in seperate doorways and reads The House Swap by Jo Lovett.

I want to start this review by addressing the one thing that really stood out and confused me while I was reading this: Cassie’s heritage.

When I requested this book, I assumed from the cover that this was a white cis-het romance, because the woman on the cover is most-definitely white and so I was quite confused when I realised that Cassie is most definitely not. Although, it wasn’t until chapter 13, when James describes her as having “A lot of dark-brown curly hair and beautiful light-brown skin.” that I realised that she was not, in fact, a white woman.

The fact that Cassie was a Glaswegian/Jordanian woman, her mother is from Jordan and (I’m assuming, although it wasn’t clarified in the book) her father is from Glasgow, felt almost like an after thought and a grasp at diversity strings. She read very much as a tokenistic character of colour, especially considering that she was the only significant character of colour in the wholes story, although I am a white reviewer, so this is just my personal opinion on it and I cannot claim to speak on behalf of brown readers and reviewers on what is considered good representation. However, considering one of the books protagonists is a brown woman, I have not been able to find a single review by a brown reviewer, which is disappointing.

A small bit of representation that I did really appreciate was the sapphic representation in the form of Jennifer, Cassie’s agent, her wife Angela and their baby boy Sammy. It was lovely to see a queer family included so casually in the story.

The romance itself was incredibly sweet, although the fact that it was told in split points of view between two characters who both had their own pretty complex issues meant the love story didn’t get quite as much depth as it could have, which made it seem like things had moved extremely quickly.

The book needed a lot of trigger warnings (which you can find at the bottom of this review) as on the one hand, you had Cassie who was dealing with the grief of losing her first baby due to a miscarriage and on the other hand you have James dealing with the loss of his mother to alcoholism and his younger sister to a heroin addiction. These complex topics were written about in what I thought to be a considerate and compassionate manner, and it was nice to read a romance where the characters weren’t squeaky clean and trauma free.

Cassie was an absolute delight of a character, with her colourful style and friendly demeanour, she was the sort of character you could instantly connect with and were constantly rooting for to get a happy ending.

James was a more questionable character. One of the notes I wrote early on while I was reading was “James is an acquired taste, snarky and with one hell of a superiority complex. Potential to be lovely, though.” and I stand by that. He is an acquired taste, but he was to my taste, and I think by the end of the story, when he’d faced up to the demons of his past, and started working on himself, he actually became quite a nice man.

This book was good. I enjoyed Jo Lovett’s writing style, and the ending did put the biggest smile on my face, the way it tied in with the very first chapter was incredibly cleaver!! It was an engaging romance read that didn’t shy away from difficult topics. I wouldn’t rush to pick it up again, but I also wouldn’t discourage others from reading it.

Trigger/Content Warnings:

Loss of a child through miscarriage, anxiety, grief, loss of a loved one to alcoholism, loss of a loved one to heroin addiction, unsuccessful IVF treatment.

Short and sweet! A review of Village Fool by Nathan Burgoine.

This is a five star read.

I was given a copy of this novella through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

OH. MY. STARS.

A romance novella set in a little queer village, heavily based in a coffee shop? It is the reading material of my dreams and it did not disappoint!!

The story follows Owen, who has to have physiotherapy after a car accident and ends up with a pretty big crush on his personal trainer, Toma. The story is told between flash backs of Owen’s accident and recovery process, and the current day, April 1st, where one of his friends decides to prank him by changing the contacts in his phone, leading to some very detailed sexy messages about Toma’s thighs, among other things, to be sent to Toma himself.

A white hand in a yellow cardigan sleeve holds a kindle in front of a green bush with white flowers on it. There is a book cover on the kindle screen and it reads: Village Fool, A Little Village Novella by Nathan Burgoine. The cover shows a street corner with one man stood out in the rain and another sat drinking coffee under cover.

I really enjoyed the way that Nathan Burgoine decided to tell the story with flashbacks, as it gave a lot more depth to Owen’s character than I would have expected in such a short story. The way he described the coffee and cakes at Bittersweets, the cafe where Owen and his friends hang out and catch up twice weekly, made my mouth water. I’m so glad that cafes have re-opened in the UK this week as I fully intend to head out to my favourite place for a coffee, cake, and re-read.

The fact that Owen and his friends are pretty major nerds, and so the book is full of nerdy references and scenes of the characters playing games and watching movies together made my heart so happy. What’s better than queer nerds? Not many things!!

I also really enjoyed the fact that there was conversations within the story around basic consent, such as asking a person if you can touch them (in a non-sexual way) before doing so. It’s something I hope to see a lot more of both in literature and in real life as conversations and knowledge on consent become more mainstream. There was also conversations about body image, the fact that peoples bodies don’t always reflect health even if they look typically ‘fit’ and how gym culture can help people form really unhealthy relationships with food. Which I thought was really important, considering how much of the story centred around the gym. Also, a lesbian owned gym called Body Positive? I want that place in my life!!

This book had everything that a brilliant romance story needs: a really interesting protagonist that you just know if he walked off the page and into life you could be great friends, a love interest that is gorgeous, kind, and the sort of person you can easily fall in love with, and a romance so heart-achingly sweet that you can’t help rooting for a happily ever after from the first few pages.

Get yourself a coffee and a piece of your favourite cake and pick this book up, I promise you won’t regret it.

Content/trigger warnings for Village Fool:

A car accident, child abuse, references to diet culture.

Every queer young person should be given a copy of this book. A review of I Wish You all the Best by Mason Deaver.

This book is a five star read.

I have had this book on my tbr for months, I was so excited to read it but every time I came around to it I couldn’t find a copy, my local library was still closed due to the pandemic, and I couldn’t get it on Kindle UK or from any of the bookstores in the UK offering delivery. I was devastated.

So, when I awoke on Christmas morning to find that my wonderful boyfriend had shipped me a copy over from the States, I was over the moon. I started reading it straight away on Christmas day. I had unbelievably high expectations for this book, and it still somehow managed to far exceed all of them.

The book follows the story of Ben De Backer, a nonbinary eighteen year old who is kicked out of their house after they come out to their parents. They are forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and have to transfer to a new school where her husband Thomas is a teacher. All of this leads to an anxiety disorder that becomes increasingly harder to control and leads Hannah to encourage Ben into therapy.

Ben attempts to keep a quiet low profile at their new school, but these attempts fail when they catch the attention of the charming and charismatic Nathan Allen. He is extremely persistent at making their acquaintance and soon what started as a rather one sided friendship starts to turn into something much more.

A white hand holds a book in front of a white wall and white rose bush. The background of the cover is blue, and features a white person with long brunet hair wearing a purple sweatshirt over a white shirt. They are leaning on the back of a black boy with short curly black hair, wearing a yellow t-shirt. The text reads: I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST, MASON DEAVER.

If I could put this book into the hands of every single LGBTQ+ young person in the world, I would. The feeling of pure distress caused by situations where you’re either outed against your own accord, or choose to come out but receive a negative, or worse, violent reaction, is something I wish more than anything that I could protect queer young people from. But that’s not a realistic aspiration, and that is why books like this one are so incredibly important.

While telling Ben’s story, Mason Deaver did not shy away from the ways in which life, particularly for queer young people, can be really hard. They explored queer homelessness, and Ben’s struggles with anxiety disorder in a way that was both eloquent and incredibly empathetic. They didn’t shy away from showing the realities of living with mental health issues, and the impact that can also have on those around you.

They also wrote about Ben’s exploration of both their sexuality and gender identity in a way that so beautifully reflected so many real-life queer stories I’ve heard over the years. It was such a comfort to me, as a reader, to watch as they became more comfortable with their identity.

A white hand holds a book open in front of a white wall and white rose bush. On the left page is a black and white illustration of two people sat on a roof, on the right page is a photograph of a white person smiling with rectangle framed glasses and short light hair. The text underneath reads: MASON DEAVER is a nonbinary author and bookseller from a small town in North Carolina where the word y'all is used in abundance. When they aren't weriting or working, they're typically found in their kitchen baking something that's bad for them or out in their garden complaining about the toad that likes to dig holes around their hydrangeas. You can find them online at masondeaverwrites.com and on twitter at @masondeaver.

As well as crafting Ben’s story as well as they did, I was also incredibly impressed by how well developed all the side characters in the book were. I particularly loved Mariam and Nathan.

Mariam, Ben’s best friend, is a YouTuber, and also a pansexual, nonbinary, Shia Muslim immigrant. It was really good to see a queer Muslim character that was comfortable and happy in all the aspects of their identity. The descriptions of their outfits, and their caring nature made for such a chic, lovable character.

Then there was Nathan, the love interest, a black bisexual character. I related so much to Nathan with his cheerful, bright side attitude. The way he cared so deeply for both friends and strangers put such a smile on my face, and gave him such a special place in my heart. He was my favourite character in the whole book. He also had one of the greatest character descriptions I have ever read.

“When I think of Nathan, I think of warmth. Of reds, and oranges. But most of all, I think of yellow. That just seems like such a Nathan-y colour. Happiness, joy, his optimism, that smile.”

This book is a must-read, that I will be lending out and recommending for years to come. The way it deals with queer pain and the mental health implications of that while also managing to retain an air of hope and perseverance throughout is something that so many books I’ve read in the past have failed to do.

Overall, it was a beautiful story of finding yourself and falling in love, with so many Star Wars references that I lost count, what more could you possibly want?

Trigger warnings = transphobia, homophobia, unsupportive parents, misgendering, queer homelessness, youth homelessness.

The words in this book went straight to my heart: a review of Pieces of Ink by Ruxa.

This is a five star read.

I don’t read as much poetry as I would ideally like too, but when I do get the time to read some, it’s always a pleasure. This was exactly the case with Pieces of Ink, every single part of this book was incredibly beautiful. The quality of the paper, the incredible cover and detail within the pages, and, most importantly, the words.

Pieces of Ink is a collection of poems that perfectly captures the emotions that come with being young. From falling in love, to the pain of heartbreak, to losing the sense of magic and wonder that seemed to surround everything in childhood. Ruxa uses her words to transform these emotions into works of art that speak right to your soul.

A white hand holds a book in front of a bush with orange berries. The cover of the book is white, with yellow and dark blue swirls that create a face shape. It reads: Pieces of Ink, the perks of not fitting in, Ruxa.

My favourite song of all time is Life on Mars? by David Bowie, it’s a song that speaks to and soothes me in a way that I struggle to accurately explain. It brings me a feeling of peace I had never found else where, until I read my favourite poem in this collection: Space.

A poem that talks of getting lost for years in space, and when the time came to return to earth, not wanting too. It gave me the exact same feeling that Life on Mars? does, I felt every word Ruxa wrote right in my heart, and has now knocked out any other possible contender as my favourite poem of all time.

This is an absolutely incredible poetry collection, by a young writer who I sincerely hope will create many more books for me to enjoy in the years to come. You can purchase yourself a copy here. I strongly recommend that you do.

Would it be acceptable to buy every single one of my friends this book for Christmas? I think so: A review of Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas.

The first part of this review is free from spooky spoilers! I’ll put spoiler warnings when the spoilers are ready to be summoned!

This is a five star read.

I’m a queer trans man, I came out five years ago when I was thirteen years old, and I’ve spent the last five years fighting to have my identity accepted by the people around me. From family members to classmates, teachers, friends, and colleagues, honestly? It’s been an exhausting half decade, and my fight, as well as the fight for trans rights on a global scale, is far from over. So, having well written representation in media is a form of comfort for me that is so important. It makes me feel less alone, and I have never read representation of a gay trans boy as well-written and developed as Yadriel Vélez Flores.

For this reason, I sobbed my way through at least the first few chapters of Cemetery Boys, so utterly overwhelmed by how much I connected to Yadriel and his experiences. Eventually though, I stopped crying and got fully sucked into the story. It was impossible not to.

The exploration of the relationships between Yadriel and various members of his very traditional Latinx family shows exactly how difficult it is to get by day-to-day as a young trans person, while also exploring a rich cultural history. Prior to reading, I didn’t know that much about Latinx culture but I learned quite a lot from this book, and I really appreciated the scattering of Spanish phrases throughout it. Although I had to call upon google translate and a few Spanish speaking friends for help with translation, it made a really great addition to the story, and I found it quite exciting learning so much about a different culture and language!

One of the main reasons why this book was easily a five star read was how well-developed every single character was. I could happily sit and read full length novels on just about every single side character just doing the most average day to day things. From Maritza and the way she stuck to her beliefs and morals even when doing so made her a ‘black sheep’ of the family, to all of Julian’s friends and all the love and loyalty they have for each other.

I can’t think of a single thing that I didn’t absolutely adore about this book. I’ll be reccommending it to everyone I know, at every given opportunity. I think it’s safe to say it’s made a comfortable place for itself besides The Picture of Dorian Gray as my favourite book of all time. I don’t know what else I can say, read it.

A white hand in a blue and yellow jumper sleeve holds a book in front of a tree with red leaves. The cover of the book has two brown boys with black hair stood back to back, the boy in front is wearing a green shirt tucked into black jeans. The boy in the black is wearing a black jacket over a white hoodie. There is a full moon over their heads and in the reflection of the moon is a skeleton in a red robe with a headdress of roses.

Spoilers have been summoned ahead! You have been warned!

Hi, hello, someone please tell me where I can find myself a boyfriend as loving and protective as Julian Diaz? PLEASE. I have reread the last 26 pages of this book at least once a day for the last week, purely for that one moment when Julian is asked by Miguel if he’s Yadriel’s friend, and he snaps back “Mi Querido!”. The way that Aiden Thomas managed to portray how desperately hard these boys fell for each other, and all the fear and pain in those last few chapters. I felt like I needed a very sweet cup of tea to recover. It was such beautiful storytelling.

As a trans man, I really appreciated how many little details about trans experiences were included in this book. Particularly Yadriel’s experiences with binding. The way it affects him day-to-day, and the panic he felt when he woke up in hospital without his binder? I felt that. The momentary discomfort when he hugged Julian without his binder on? Yep, I felt that too.

It was so nice to read a character having all these experiences that I have lived. It’s been a rough time for the trans community over the last few months, and this book did a lot of good for my mental. Through Yadriel, Aiden Thomas made me feel significantly less lonely in this world, and for that I am so unbelievably grateful. I’ve already ordered myself a few spare copies so that I have them on hand to hand out to younger trans boys in my local community, because if I’d had access to a book like this when I first came out at 13 it would have changed my whole world. Representation in literature is so important. I’m glad so many trans boys will be able to find themselves in this story, and I’m so glad that so many young queer and trans Latinx boys will be able to find characters that represent both their identities and their culture in Yadriel and Julian.

These boys, and Aiden Thomas, will own my heart until the end of time. Now, I’m off to re-read the ending (again) and cry some more happy tears.

If I could remove all the Harry Potter references, this would be a five star read: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera.

Do not fear, there are no spoilers here!

This is a three star read.

I have very mixed feelings about this book. One the one hand, it was like all the best elements of my favourite romcoms squished into 433 pages. On the other hand, it was a book that just had slightly too many Harry Potter references. I actually touched upon the fact that Harry Potter references in books affect my personal enjoyment of stories in my last review, but I feel like I need to bring it up again now.

I understand why so many contemporary books include references to it, as it is still one of the most popular book and film franchises of all time, and it holds a really special place in the hearts of millions of people, but as a trans reader, the references tend to break me out of my escapism bubble.

I use reading as a way to escape from the difficulties of everyday life, so references to Harry Potter and J K Rowling end up really harshly jarring me back to reality, and everything I’m trying to escape. What If It’s Us was very heavy on the references, which is why I only rated it three out of five stars.

Image description: a white hand in a grey sleeve holds a book in front of a green and purple lavender bush. The cover features a white tear off poster with two boys in opposite corners, one boy is holding a brown box, the other is wearing a rucksack. The tear off tickets at the bottom read “Wanna give us a second chance?” In black letters in the middle it reads: “Are you the boy from the post office? WHAT IF IT’S US” below the title, in white letters is Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera.

All of that aside, I really enjoyed the story. It’s told using split point of views of the two main characters; Ben, who is a New York native, dealing with a recent break-up, and believes that the universe doesn’t have anything good in store for him anytime soon, and Arthur, who is only in New York for the summer, freshly out of the closet, and an utterly hopeless romantic. After a chance meeting at the post office, the boys can’t get each other out of their minds, and they both set out on the near impossible mission of finding each other again.

Albertalli and Silvera’s styles married together beautifully, and they created a book that was so far from the usual predictability of YA romance. It was a beautifully relatable coming of age story, and captured the feelings of being young and queer in this world perfectly. The way it touched upon the way that homophobia is still a very real issue even in the most liberal of cities was something that hit really close to home for me, and the scene that included some pretty extreme homophobia was executed incredibly well. It read like an experience that I, and many other young queer people like me, can very easily relate too, and that representation. Of the difficulties of queer life, as well of the good stuff, is so important, especially in YA.

From the one-in-a-million chance first meeting, to the chase for each other, and all the sweet little moments that come with falling in love for the first time, this book hit me in all my romantic feels. It even included what is fast becoming one of my favourite niche romance tropes: a karaoke scene!

Jarring references aside, it was the sort of book that gave me the same happy heart feeling I get from cliche romance films like Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral, it’s definitely the sort of book I’d recommend if you want a feel-good easy read.

TRIGGER WARNINGS: homophobia, threats of homophobic violence

A book that includes space and queer romance is always destined to steal my heart: A review of The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper.

Don’t fear, there’s no spoilers here!

This is a four star read!

I’m not usually the sort of guy who impulse buys a book without even taking a moment to have a look at it’s ratings/reviews, but less than five minutes after I heard about The Gravity of Us it was already ordered and on it’s way to me.

A book that included journalism, space AND gay romance? I couldn’t resist.

I’m pleased to say, it did not disappoint.

Image description: A white hand in a blue sleeve holds a book in front of a bush full of pink and green flowers. On the cover of the book there are two boys, one black boy with short black hair in a white t-shirt and green shorts, he is sat next to a white boy with short brown hair who is wearing a green, orange and white chunky block t-shirt and blue shorts. They are holding hands and sat underneath a pink and purple sunset. The cover reads: Phil Stamper (in yellow letters) The Gravity of Us (in white letters).

The story follows Cal, an aspiring journalist and social media star whose whole world is changed in an instant when his dad is selected for NASA’s mission to Mars and his family becomes a part of the biggest story of the year. However, the silver lining of this massive change quickly becomes clear when he meets Leon, the (very cute) son of one of the other astronauts.

Cal suddenly has to deal with all the implications of falling in love for the first time while also making big decisions about his future, and still following his journalistic instincts to find out if his suspicions are correct: are there secrets being hidden from the families?

Image description: a white hand in a blue sleeve holds a book open in front of a bush with pink and green flowers. The right hand of the page reads ‘Chapter 20’ and the top of the page has a greyscale sunset scene. That fades out to where the text starts.

Phil Stamper wrote such a sweet love story between Cal and Leon, I became so invested in their happiness from the first moment they met, and the curveball that was thrown into their relationship near the end was one that had me screaming at my book, as if I could transport myself into their world to help. I read the book in one sitting because I could not put it down, every single plot point and character was so well placed within the story.

The fact that Stamper managed to include multiple sub-plots related to mental heath issues within the story was also something really refreshing to read, it was the first time I’ve seen mental illness written about in YA in a way that avoids negative stereotypes, and truly reflects how it can affect people’s lives.

Everything about this book was beautiful, the characters and plot were so well developed, and the cover and pages have such a pretty design. It’s one of those covers that I could stare at for hours as if it was a piece of art on the wall of The Louvre. It was an absolutely incredible debut from Phil Stamper, and I cannot wait to read whatever he writes next.

The only reason I didn’t rate this book five stars is because it had a few Harry Potter references, and as a trans reader that’s something that always affects my enjoyment of any media.

DO NOT READ THE TRIGGER WARNINGS IF YOU WANT TO AVOID SPOILERS

Trigger Warnings: mentions of depression and anxiety, death of a side character in a plane crash, grief, invasive journalists.

I stopped crying for just enough time to finish typing this up: a review of They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera.

The first part of this review is spoiler free, I have added spoiler warnings from the point that I start wading into spoiler territory. These are safe waters!

This is a five star read.

It’s a very brave move to put a major spoiler for the end of your book in the title, and it’s a stupid move to buy a book literally titled They Both Die at the End, and then act surprised when the ending of the book completely shatters your heart.

Adam Silvera is a brave, and absolutely brilliant writer. I am a stupid, and utterly heartbroken reader.

The book follows Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio, who in the early hours of September 5th both received phone calls from Death-Cast to inform them that they are going to die today. At this point, they are complete strangers, but thanks to The Last Friend App they find each other, and take on their final day on earth together for one last adventure.

The title of this book will be at the back of your mind throughout your read, and the story of Mateo and Rufus will take you on the most rickety emotional rollercoaster. This is the sort of book that will make you stop and really think about life, death, and love. The moment I finished it, I wanted to hide it at the back of my bookshelf and never pick up again while simultaneously re-reading it instantly.

It’s one of the best books I have read this year, so I strongly urge you to add it to your TBR lists immediately, just please learn from my mistake and don’t read the ending in a coffee shop. Your dramatic gasps and crying will definitely worry the baristas.

There will be major spoilers from this point forward! Proceed at your own risk!

Check the bottom of this post for trigger warnings if you need to.

Image description: a white hand in a black cardigan sleeve comes up from the bottom left corner of the photo, it is holding a book titled They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. The cover includes a blue hour glass with the silhouettes of two boys stood on top of it. In the background of the photo is a tree with it’s leaves turning orange.

Silvera started this book with one of my all-time favourite quotes:

To live is the rarest thing in the world.

Most people exist, that’s all.

Oscar Wilde

This quote, the book, and that damn karaoke scene within it have been living rent free in my mind for days now. I’ve haven’t been this emotionally affected by a book since I first read The Fault in our Stars when I was fourteen.

From the moment Mateo and Rufus got their calls from Death-Cast right through to that ending, I was completely hooked. Knowing the ending before I had even read the first page made for a really interesting reading experience. I constantly had a feeling of dread in the back of my mind, a little voice telling me to read slower, stretch out the inevitable for as long as I could, and remember that I shouldn’t get too attached to these characters.

Did I listen?

Absolutely not. I flew threw the book, and despite the fact that I knew that Mateo and Rufus has been doomed long before I had opened my book, I still found myself desperately hoping that it was all some big gotcha! moment, and they’d make it through the day alive.

Image description: a white hand in a blue sweatshirt sleeve comes up from the bottom of the screen. It holds a book open, the two visible pages are black, the one on the left is blank and the one on the right reads: part two, the last friend, and a quote “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” – John A. Shedd. In the background of the photo is a tree with its leaves turning orange.

One element of the book that I found really refreshing was the way Adam Silvera portrayed the sexuality of the protagonists. With the way that Rufus owned and found pride in his bisexuality, without falling into any stereotypes, then the way that Mateo owns his own queerness after he kisses Rufus, and comes out to Lidia in such a no-nonsense manner. There’s no major, plot-twist moment made of their queer identities, it’s just a part of the story that makes sense. In fact, it’s probably one of the only elements of this story that doesn’t have major plot-twist vibes. To reiterate what I said earlier: the whole book was one rickety emotional rollercoaster.

I could re-read the karaoke kiss chapter on a loop for eternity and still feel all the same emotions it made me feel the first time I read it. For me, this was the moment that the penny dropped. It finally clicked that these characters were going to die so soon after they’d found each other, and I had the sudden urge to stop reading, lob my book into the opposite corner of the coffee shop I was reading in, and never finish it. Except, I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the pages. Despite the fact that this book was causing me so much pain, I had to keep reading, on the off chance that they survived. I held on to that tiny bit of hope right up until the moment that Mateo died.

I know that logically I should have been expecting Mateo’s death from the moment he got out of bed, but it honestly came as a massive shock. The hope that Mateo clung to that he had miraculously beaten the Death-Cast seeped into my brain, and I audibly gasped when the oven malfunctioned and killed him. However, the bit that really broke me was the moment it changed to Rufus’ point-of-view. This boy, who had already watched his family die, now had to watch his love die as well. I genuinely wanted to scream, because it was such an unsatisfying death. After everything that had happened that day, they should have died together.

It was unsatisfying as hell, but it was also perfect. It really made me think about the vulnerability of our own existence. The fact that in a second, I could be gone forever. This book forced me to do a lot of thinking about my own life, in between all the time I spent crying over the ending.

It was the last page that really broke the dam for me, the way that Rufus just accepts his own death and takes it into his own hands. Dying to the sound of Mateo’s voice with the thoughts of his family on his mind. It’s heartbreakingly peaceful.

This book really made me think about what I’d do if I found out tomorrow was my last day on earth, and I don’t think I have a solid answer. But, I’d like to think that I’d spend the day doing things that put a smile on my face. Because at the end of the day, I think that’s the only way to truly live, by embracing all the emotions life throws your way, and finding a path through it all that leaves you with a feeling of utter blissful happiness.

Trigger warnings: discussion of depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide, mentions of serial killings, death of family members (drowning, car accidents, childbirth), a fatal house fire.

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