Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Book Review: Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales

When I was a kid, my step-mom had a VCR. In 1984. It was shocking. Her movie selection was more shocking. She owned Grease, and every other movie she owned starred either Shirley Temple or Elvis. My sisters and I watched A LOT of Grease. Sometimes we'd watch it 2-3 times on a Saturday. Suffice to say that despite having not seeing it (in its entirety) in a couple dozen years, I am still WELL VERSED.

So a YA novel based on Grease, with gay protagonists was right up my alley! Oliver is in North Carolina for the summer (from California) because his aunt is dying of cancer. At the lake where they spend the summer, he meets a guy, Matt, and they have a clandestine romance. Ollie is supposed to go back to California but his mother just can't leave her sister now, at the end. So Ollie will be finishing up his senior year in NC unexpectedly. His first day he meets a trio of girls who take him under their wing. The leader is a bit bitchy, with her fashionable and flirtatious sidekicks (they've done away with the Jan character altogether from the Pink Ladies, which frankly makes sense. In what universe are Rizzo, Frenchy, and Marty friends with Jan?) When he bumps into Will a few days later at a party, in a meet-awkward orchestrated by the bitchy girl friend, he's surprised and then terribly disappointed by Will's macho response to re-meeting Ollie, in front of his fellow varsity basketball players (see, they all wear letterman jackets, which kind of makes them look like a gang like the T-Birds! And is further ironic given that Danny Zuko almost doesn't graduate since he failed PE and in the last big scene of the movie he finally gets his letterman sweater in track.)

If you've seen the movie or play, you might think you know where this is going, but as it's set in 2019 and Ollie and Will are gay, and Will is closeted, and there's Ollie's sick aunt, it is more interesting than a pastiche would be. And I really loved the ending, and the much better lessons in the book than in the movie. This book was a refreshing delight from beginning to end. If you aren't familiar with Grease, it doesn't matter one bit. You certainly don't need to be. It's a great contemporary YA rom-com on its own.

This book is published by Wednesday Books, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

No comments: