Only Mostly Devastated is a super-fun boy-meets-boy spin on Grease, which follows our two main characters, Ollie and Will. The story takes place in North Carolina, and the two boys have had an amazing perfect summer romance by the lake, which comes to an end when Ollie’s family is supposedly heading back to California. But Ollie is confused and a bit heartbroken when Will subsequently ghosts him, not returning any of his texts or emails.
Then Ollie’s family has a last-minute change of plans and ends up staying in North Carolina to help with his dying aunt, meaning he has to attend a new school. So imagine Ollie’s surprise when he discovers that Will goes to the exact same school as him. But their reunion is by no means sunshine and roses. Ollie is immediately heartbroken when he sees Will at a high school party, and Will snubs him, acting as if nothing has ever gone on between them.
As we learn, Will is a star basketball player at school and still deeply in the closet. He’s also quite freaked out by Ollie’s presence as his school, but yet, he can’t deny his feelings for Ollie. So now Will has to decide whether he should follow his heart and in the process risk his popularity and friendships with the other basketball players, or stay the course and stay in the closet.
Both boys attempt to move on from each other, but as they learn, moving on is a lot more complicated than they’d thought.
I thought this was an adorable young adult rom-com with a lot of heart. I appreciated that the author wrote sensitively about a person’s decision to stay in the closet and their right not to be outed by others. On the surface, this may seem like a fluffy romance, but actually, there’s real depth to this story, which delves into themes of death, grief, coming out, identity, sexuality, family, heartbreak, and first love. What I liked was how the author balanced the heavier themes with light, sweet humor resulting in an all-around balanced narrative.
I love Sophie Gonzales’s writing: clear and evocative, with just the right amount of description. I also felt that her characters were a joy to read, especially Ollie, who was super sweet, likable, caring, a bit bumbling, and perhaps a tad melodramatic, which rendered him all the more endearing. The author does a great job getting into the heads and hearts of her main characters, and her secondary characters are also vivid, well-drawn, and add to the impact of this book. They all felt genuine to me.
I also enjoyed the amount of personal growth that the characters, including several of the secondary characters, experienced throughout the story. So in this way, I thought the character development was stellar.
As for the romance, Ollie and Will together are great. They have this fabulous chemistry, in spite of Will’s hot and cold moods and Ollie’s attempts to distance himself from Will. What I liked was how the author gave our two characters space and time to find their place in the world and to find each other, and in this way, people struggling with their own sexuality might find this to be a thought-provoking read.
Readers who like a little messy YA romance will definitely get that in abundance here – Ollie and Will’s interactions are humorous, awkward, a bit frustrating, and sometimes exactly as confrontational as they need to be. Only Mostly Devastated is the type of story that you’ll want to fall head over heels in love with again and again, and it was a solid 5-star read for me. Loved it!
A huge thank you to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an ARC of this story.