When Ollie meets his dream guy, Will, over summer break, he thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After. But once summer’s ended, Will stops texting him back, and Ollie finds himself one prince short of a fairytale ending. To complicate the fairytale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country—Will’s school—where Ollie finds that the sweet, affectionate and 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. But as Will starts ‘coincidentally’ popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, 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.
Thank you very much to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
CN: terminal illness (character has cancer), hospitals, forced outing, fatphobia, fatshaming comments, dieting, discussion of how polycystic ovaries syndrome affects weight, homophobia, death, grief, alcohol.
ONLY MOSTLY DEVASTATED IS OUT NOW!
“It’ll get easier. That’s the beautiful thing about the universe. It puts you through trials, but it never gives you anything you can’t handle. We grow from these things.”
Only Mostly Devastated is a fun but surprisingly heavy queer retelling of Grease that I simply adored. Sophie Gonzales manages to balance these two facets of the book perfectly: one moment you’ll be laughing and the next on the verge of tears.
Ollie has an amazing summer romance while holidaying with her family in North Carolina, but when it comes time to go back home, his parents decide to move there to take care of Ollie’s mother’s sister who has cancer. So Ollie moves to a new town for his senior year and, unbeknownst to him, begins going to the school his summer boyfriend attends … a boyfriend who is not out. And who now begins to ignore Ollie, but can’t stay away from him either.
I was surprised to learn that this book covers an array of heavy topics from cancer, to fatphobia to homophobia, as the book was more marketed as a romcom. That being said, I feel Gonzales discussed each theme with nuance and delicacy, especially the scenes that involve terminal illness and grief. I think this book really captures the true teen experience: falling for your first love, dealing with the death of a family member, struggling with weight and learning to love your body, and exploring your sexuality. Teen’s lives can be messy and difficult and confusing, and we need more books like Only Mostly Devastated that show this.
One of the most important topics in this novel is the love interest Will still being deep in the closest. As he comes from a Venezuelan family, Will believes his family will disown him if he comes out and that his friends will abandon him. As such, he makes bad decisions trying to prove he’s not queer and as a result, treats Ollie like crap. But Ollie still has feelings for him and doesn’t know how to let Will go. A lot of people will be able to resonate with Will; I myself did, coming from a religious Italian household and struggling to figure out how to come out to my family.
You may be asking, “but didn’t you say this was a fun book? How?” I did, because I truly feel like it is! This book definitely tackles heavier subjects with nuance, but at it’s core, Only mostly Devastated is a romance and a sweet one at that. Will’s internal narration is funny and so like a modern 2020 teen — very relatable.
Only Mostly Devastated is a fantastic contemporary novel that I highly recommend. It’s fun, light, heavy at times and discusses some tough topics, but is ultimately a lovely romance. Do your selves a favour and read this book!