Hey everyone and happy Tuesday! It is finally May, and my allergies have been absolutely destroying me over these past two weeks hahaha. There are some flowers blooming though, which I’d say is some good consolation!
Over these past two weeks, I’ve read a single book, which is not too great on my reading goal, but it means that I have a book review out for all of you! I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump after starting Crown of Gilded Bones, but not really enjoying the beginning too much, which is honestly so sad because of how many people I’ve seen love the book. Anyways, that was a bit unrelated, so let’s hop on over and move on to my review of What’s Not to Love!
I wanted this book so bad for the past six months the second I read the description. I was like “yes! this is it! this is the winning book of the year!” because of the rivals-to-lovers academic setting vibes that I was there for. As a student myself, I related to the synopsis, and I was hoping that my own experiences would help me relate to the characters and story. So I got my copy, and immediately started reading it the second it showed up in my mailbox. However, it was not the winning book, and I unfortunately didn’t like it much. I actually really loved the authors’ other book, Always Never Yours, so I had some high hopes, but it fell a bit flat for me.
I do get kind of critical on my negatives with this one, but don’t take it too seriously. They’re a lot easier for me to write than what I enjoyed, and I get a little ranty, so just keep that in mind. I did rate this book a 3/5, which means that there were some redeeming qualities. I will probably discuss it towards the end of my review if you’re looking for that.
So, let’s get started on my review of What’s Not to Love! **I’m also going to test writing my reviews at a bit larger of a font and it’s hopefully not going to be too weird because I feel like my others are kind of small on my laptop.
What’s Not to Love is a book that focuses on two high-schoolers, Alison and Ethan. Both of them have been long-time rivals aiming to attend the same selective college, and they’ve competed to beat each other out on everything school related–extracurriculars, test scores, and leadership positions–to achieve that final goal. However, when they get paired up to co-plan a ten-year reunion party for the school they’re forced to finally work together (big twist, I know. I *wonder* what’ll happen??). They begin to see each other in a different light with all the time they’re spending together and their “friendship” eventually develops into a romance.
So, I had a couple of problems with this book that made it less good than I would have hoped it to be.
Problem 1) The Romance
It just didn’t work. Here’s the thing. Towards the beginning, Ethan and Alison are very clearly rivals, which I did love. In fact, I will take all your enemies/rivals to lovers romance books and eat them up. I don’t think you guys understand how much I love that trope. We get a bit of slow-burn romance going, and it’s pretty obvious from page 10 that they’re going to end up together if you haven’t already read the synopsis. HOWEVER, the transition between rivals to lovers was quite poor in my opinion. We go from them insulting each other, to quite literally making out in half a second. I know that someone’s going to be like “it’s just banter,” but I don’t know, I guess the relationship wasn’t fully developed enough for it to be real to me. They weren’t close enough for this not to be a complete escalation. In fact, I’m going to give you the exact quote where this happens.
“Four years of seeing your face every day,” he says like it’s a prison sentence. “Of hearing your voice in every class. Graduation can’t come soon enough.
“I fantasize about it frequently,” I fire back.
Just for context, Ethan absolutely sabotaged Alison one chapter ago. No spoilers, but it was somewhat of a big deal and Alison was complaining all like “I’m going to get revenge on Ethan for this”
Fast-forward half a page of dialogue:
“I’m picking up velocity, brakes cut, heading for collision. Without thinking, I drop the newspapers and reach for his waist at the precise moment his hands find my face. Our lips crash together. I sink into the kiss for an incinerating moment. The rush is overwhelming…”
It goes on for even longer. Like no?? I did not ask for this. Maybe I wasn’t clear when I asked for enemies to lovers. Maybe I should have asked for “enemies” to “I don’t like you but we’re going to make this work to achieve this goal” to “okay fine you’re actually not that bad” to “friends” to “lovers.” And okay, maybe we do get some moments of true bonding between these two characters, but the second their relationship starts to progress, something happens that pushes them back 50 steps to enemies once again. If you wanted me to believe that their comebacks were all just funny banter, don’t make one of the “biggest” sabotages one chapter prior to this one. Like what?? I don’t know, there’s something about it that I just didn’t connect to.
Problem 2) The Characters
Bypassing the main characters, who were slightly annoying at times but okay for maybe half the book, I just didn’t like the side characters. They were just irrelevant for me. We have Alison’s whole family, but I didn’t like a single one of them. I mean, I definitely skimmed over the last quarter of this book, so maybe they got a secret redemption, but they were not saved for me. Alison’s sister is just bland. She’s someone whose life got ruined when she lost her job and life in Chicago, and now has to live at home with her family, but tries her best to stay positive despite that. I can’t tell you anything else about her. Alison’s mom and dad also weren’t memorable and the only thing I remember about them is the fact that they’re “older than all of her friends’ parents.”
Problem 3) The Predictability and the Happily Ever After
This book is so predictable. If you give me the synopsis, I can probably tell you all the major plot points of the story. Basically, if you want to know what happens, assume every character is going to receive the best possible outcome. Everyone gets a happily ever after. We have one ending that’s just a bit different from the “standard” you would expect, but in the end, I would still consider it a happily ever after. It makes it a wannabe bittersweet ending, but it’s still so sweet that I wouldn’t call it anything near that (what did I even type there). Bittersweet endings do not exist here, and everyone gets what they want. I do like happy endings, but plot twists are so much more fun! Combined with my other problems of this book, this just made it worse. I was bored because I could foresee exactly what was going to happen. While I do like predictable romances sometimes, I think that the other weak points of this story made it somewhat unlikeable.
Problem 4) The Weak Plot
This is a heavily character driven book. Almost every romance I have ever read is, so maybe it isn’t that big of a deal. We get one major plot point, but it does not stand on its own in any way. Everything that happens is used to further the relationship of the characters. And it’s okay! I do like character driven books, but you’re going to have to know that the plot isn’t going to keep you reading.
Now that we’ve got all of that out of the way, I will give you some things I enjoyed about this story, that made this a 3 star book instead of a 2 star one!
Overall, the middle of this book was not bad at all. I actually did enjoy some of Ethan and Alison’s banter. It’s a fun rivals aspect, and it was somewhat entertaining to read. There’s also this one chapter where Ethan and Alison have a conversation at a party that slides their relationship forward in the perfect amount. Like if we could scoop that up and translate it to the rest of the book, I have no doubt that this would have been a pretty good read.
I thought that some of the school aspects of it were relatable, and there were times where I was like “yeah that scarily sounds like me.” I think there were times where I audibly gasped at how close the book got to my high school life.
But in the end, it sadly was not enough to make me like this book. My preferences in general are shifting slowly away from YA to adult, so that might have definitely a part of it. It does have that language that makes it sound like it was written for a younger audience. I do see an audience for this book though, and I get why some people really enjoyed this. In fact, I have some mutuals on bookstagram that thought this book was amazing and an absolute favorite. However, it just wasn’t for me.
Anyways, that is it for my review of What’s Not to Love! Hope you enjoyed reading this one, and I’m sorry I couldn’t give you all a more positive one! Like I said before, I haven’t been reading much, and I’ve been a bit busy with classes right now. I have some big exams coming in the next few weeks, and I’m also horribly behind on taking photos for my bookstagram (shameless self promo). Hopefully after everything passes, I’ll be able to read and write some more on here!
Hope you all have an AMAZING Tuesday! 🙂