Synopses. Spoilers. Sarcasm.
Are you a ‘Nice Guy’ or a ‘Bad Boy’? Cale Dietrich creates a perfect spy comedy in his incredible debut The Love Interest. I’ve been waiting for this book for MONTHS and was so lucky to receive an advanced copy of it. TLI follows Caden, a boy who works as a Love Interest, a teenage spy meant to make a person of governmental interest fall in love with them to steal their secrets. He’s branded as a ‘Nice’ and has to compete against Dylan, a ‘Bad’, for the heart and secrets of Juliet, a young scientific prodigy. It’s life or death for Dylan and Caden, but as the contest goes on, other feelings start to surface that complicate the relationship dynamic of all three characters. This book was so smartly written because Dietrich made fun of every YA stereotype there was while writing a stereotypical YA novel. It’s absolutely hilarious, chalk full of obvious stereotypes even the characters call out, great tension build-up, and a main character anyone can relate to. I give this a 4.75/5 stars, only docking marks for pacing of the ending.
My favourite part of the writing is how it pokes fun at the typical YA hero – lean and cute, but also has to look good with his shirt off. How the Bad’s hair is “jet black. Of course it is”, thinks Caden about Dylan. “His eyes are so vibrant, his hair is so perfectly messy. I can’t look away”, how the Nices getting small homes and the Bads getting mansions due to the stereotype of the nice boy living in a humble home and the bad boy having dead parents and living with a rich Aunt. Dylan’s scene reading poetry at school is pointed out by Trevor who says “only three types of people like poetry, English students, people who write it, and pretentious people”. I was also dying over Dylan’s ‘badass’ motorcycle entrance where he swings in and rescues Juliet from thugs and then rides off because I’ve actually read books where this exact thing happens; the soon-to-be-love-interest saving the heroine, his hair swooping in front of his eyes, throwing out a snarky ‘you owe me’ and then vanishing into the night. It’s so funny because it’s true.
Alright, so this backstory is harsh. The kids are orphans, the environment of this Love Interest facility is creepy and intense, the kids get operated on to fit the attraction of their subject, and if the LI fails their mission the get incinerated? Seems a bit overdramatic to me. Plus later in the book we see how the LIC keeps making these ‘sets’ for Juliet to get hurt so the boys can ‘save’ her, which is super fucked up. It was the little things that made Caden so believable despite this outrageous setting. He likes Nicki Minaj (bless) and loves sci-fi books like Dune, Ready Player One, and Neuromancer. Always trust a boy who has great taste in books.
So this thing with the boys falling in love (SPOILER) was genius. Their sexual tension was killing me. That scene at the pool, though? *fans self* The kiss in the murder shed was hot AF, one of the best YA kissing scenes I’ve read. However it was more the star gazing scenes that really defined their characters, because you have to remember they are both pretending to be someone, for their lives. The night talks they have as friends are the only times they can be honest with each other, and I loved how big a part Dylan had in Caden’s story. That whole thing with him ‘not being gay’ was like yeah, ok suuuuuure. Gah, feelings. The only thing that was a little weird with the love triangle aspect was how chill Juliet was when a) she finds out Caden’s a LI, and b) when she finds out he’s gay. I don’t know about you, but I’d be feeling a little gipped! Then again, Juliet’s priorities are not 100% love related, as the reader sees in the hilarious moment of ‘Lol you love me that’s great, do you mind if we do this later? My future career is on the line’ at the pool party.
So…. that ending.
Oh, that ending.
What the hell was that ending.
We go from ‘holy shit we’re all gonna die’ to ‘running away from bad guys’ in a few pages, which was fine, but then we do ‘Infiltrating Evil Hideout where we’re all probably gonna still die’ to ‘Oh it’s cool we managed to save everyone, take down the bad guys, and get away without dying or messing up out perfectly styled hair’. That ending was way too short and wrapped up too quickly to do the rest of the novel justice. However, it did give me one of my new favourite lines of encouragement: “if Cho Chang can make it through the battle of Hogswarts we can make it through this”.
“If feelings for you are what made me wake up and see what’s right and what’s wrong then I’ll always be thankful for them no matter what happens” – Caden
*I received an advanced copy of this book from Indigo Books and Music in exchange for an honest review*