ARC Review: Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales

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Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales
Published: Wednesday Books (March 3rd 2020)
Genre: young adult; contemporary, retelling
Rep: gay mc, bi Venezuelan li, bi side character, plus-sized poc side character, poc side characters
Tw: cancer, off-page death, homophobia, biphobia, fatphobia
Rating: 4/5 🍑

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This is a very fun book, largely due to Ollie (the protagonist) who’s simply, in the very wise words of Will, ridiculous. I want to make some things clear, though, before we proceed: this is also a messy book. It’s messy in a way that none of the characters are perfect, and they keep making mistakes, and no one is really 100% in the right. It’s messy in a way that life (especially life of a teenager) is messy and totally not black-and-white. I just know not everyone enjoys stories like that.

It’s definitely a kind of story I personally love & it’s that messiness that appealed to me the most. Only Mostly Devastated is very much characters-focused and with Ollie as the narrator, for the most part it shows everything through his eyes, making him seem like the person who has the moral high ground. He’s not exactly an unreliable narrator, not in the sense we’re used to – it’s more accurate to say that he’s an eighteen years old boy. Sometimes what he assumes people did and what their intentions were completely misses the point those people tried to make. And Only Mostly Devastated addresses that!

Obviously, it’s mostly visible in regard to Will (his love interest). See, the boys were a summer fling and then it turned out they go to the same school this year. And that fact didn’t make things easier for them, exactly. What it boils down to is that Ollie is out and Will isn’t, and Ollie tries to deal with that but not always in the best ways. 

Now, the messy part mentioned before turns everything interesting. Because sure, on one hand it’s not great for Ollie to date someone who’s in closet when he’s been out for years and doesn’t want to stop being open about that part of himself. On the other, Will grew up in a totally different environment, with a totally different family & group of friends, and as we all know, coming out just isn’t easy. Him being scared is totally understandable, just like Ollie being impatient and hurt is totally understandable. 

Will’s actions, as he tried to preserve his sense of status quo, weren’t always amazing. In fact, there were times where he downright acted like a dick. (Especially one scene pops to mind, where he treated a girl more like a means to the end than a human being; it’s possible to excuse it somewhat with fear but still.) But there are two sides to every story and from Will’s perspective he was simply doing his best to protect himself. There comes a point when the books makes that abundantly clear to everyone (to Ollie) and the fact that we got to have that discussion was really great and necessary. And honestly, as much as I adore Ollie, he was a dick just as often as Will was.

No one is only ever right or wrong. No easy answers here.

Gonzales shows that particular sentiment in more ways than just with Ollie and Will. There’s the way different people react to horrible things happening to the ones they love. While Ollie himself might not agree with coping mechanisms of others, it’s still made clear enough that none of them are invalid. And that really, all we can do with tragedies thrown our way is try to live through them.

I summed this book up as “funny, warm & heartbreaking” and I still think that description pretty much nails it. It’s definitely a kind of novel I want to read when I’m feeling a little bit down, when I want to laugh (honestly, Ollie is hilarious!), when I want to remember that no one is perfect. And when I want to cry just a little bit. No one is perfect but Only Mostly Devastated offers a pretty perfect mix of emotions.

(PS Prior to reading & reviewing I didn’t understand why this book was being compared to Grease, because I have never seen that movie in my life, I only knew that one song, you know the one. So it’s safe to say the book holds up on its own. I watched it now, though, and yeah, Only Mostly Devastated is a great retelling that keeps the important components of the original story but makes it modern, diverse and not ridiculous.)

interludeSYNOPSIS

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA meets CLUELESS in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease

Summer love…gone so fast.

Will Tavares is the dream summer fling―he’s fun, affectionate, kind―but just when Ollie thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After, summer vacation ends and Will stops texting Ollie back. Now Ollie is one prince short of his fairy tale ending, and to complicate the fairy tale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country. Which he minds a little less when he realizes it’s the same school Will goes to…except Ollie finds that the sweet, comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted―and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.

Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship, especially since this new, bro-y jock version of Will seems to go from hot to cold every other week. But then Will starts “coincidentally” popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, and Ollie finds his resolve weakening.

The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again.

Right? Right.

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What are you reading during the pandemic?

Any heartwarming titles you can recommend?

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