“Life was too short to play chicken with something as important as the person you loved.”
Alright y’all so imagine this. You’re browsing through Bookstagram, bored off your ass, and you see a cute little book with a pretty teal cover surrounded by little cartoon teenagers hanging out on bleachers.
“Aww,” You say, “this is sweet. I’m in the mood for a nice romcom.”
And then you read the description.
AND IT’S GAY GREASE.
Literally Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales is a LGBT, modernized take of the 70s genre-defining Rom Com Grease. And when I say I loved it, I mean that I ooo’ed and aww’ed and sniffled (I’ll get to that in a minute) my way through it in a single sitting. I had been sorely let down by the last YA Contemporary Rom Com I read last week and went into it with hope, but realistic expectations.
And my expectations were blown out of the water.
There is cheesy I-Think-I-Know-How-Snarky-Teens-Are-Supposed-To-Sound and then there is smooth, humor-laden spoken and internal dialogue that has you not only agreeing with what the main character is saying, but absolutely believing that they would say it. That’s how the characters in the novel speak.
“I was just a guy texting another guy. A guy who knew all of my biggest secrets, had spent the better part of seven weeks making out with me and had Seen. Me. Naked™.”
Ollie is 18, has just moved to a new town, and is head over heels for the boy he shared a summer fling with. Well, don’tcha know it, Ollie has actually moved to the summer fling’s very school. But instead of picking up where they left off, Ollie finds that the sincere, out boy he had come to love is King of the Jocks and closeted.
What’s a boy to do, you ask? Well, he joins forces with a new group of friends (who all wear a Rose Gold necklace) and tries to sort himself out (through joining a band. It’s awesome.)
Every character has a callback to the original, but every character is updated to fit both a more modern characterization and also given a backstory that makes their quirks seem realistic.
The Rizzo of the novel is set straight off to be the mean girl. And she is. She makes pointed, bite-y comments to her friends that have you wincing. She is standoffish and cold to Ollie, and it isn’t until later on, as the story begins to unfold, that we get to see how lonely she is. Ollie and Lara’s dynamic is one of my favorites in the book. Lara also represents some very realistic coming-of-age problems that teenagers may face in today’s world regarding feminism and sexuality. She was a very interesting character to delve in to.
“Apathy is incompatible with hate. Love works okay.”
Our resident Danny Zuko is named Will and he is the Captain of the Basketball team and, in the vein of Danny Zuko, an asshole to Ollie for a great deal of the book. Not in the vein of Danny Zuko, however, his assholishness is consistently checked by Ollie and the
Pink Ladies Rose Gold Squad. He is also given his chance to redeem himself a couple times through the book, with differing success. That is probably one of my minor complaints throughout the novel– Will, which he does acknowledge and apologize for his actions and you do understand his fears– is let off mightily easy for some of the things he does.
Another minor complaint is that I sorely wish we had seen more of Ollie and Will’s summer fling. We get minor flashbacks and they’re cute, but the audience is supposed to believe that they spent 7 weeks attached at the hip. We only get like… 3 short scenes? It wasn’t enough to completely buy it, but I loved what we did get, so I’ll let it go.
They’re highschoolers and they act like highschoolers. The realism can sometimes be cringe-inducing, but at its heart, they are both still growing up and growing together. And they’ll get there.
I also really enjoyed how natural fitting Will’s Latin heritage was into the novel. From his Thanksgivings to explaining to Ollie some of his family traditions, you get the sense of where Will comes from and it feels natural.
This book isn’t all fluff however. Unlike the movie, the readers are privy to the reason Ollie moves from California to this new town and it has everything to do with his sick aunt. The book does not shy away from the realities of having a very close, very sick relative and it adds much needed depth to the novel.
It adds some more mature themes that allow Ollie to have a life and relationship and responsibilities outside of Will and highschool. It was so well executed that I found myself tearing up in between my chuckling spells.
Overall, I truly loved this book. It wasn’t without its minor faults, but it was a feel good, easy breezy beautiful read. 4/5.
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3414437439