Only Mostly Devastated
by Sophie Gonzales
Release Date: March 3, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Number of Pages: 272
Source: borrowed from MCL
Ages 14 and up
CW: family member with cancer
Will Tavares is the dream summer fling—he’s fun, affectionate, kind—but just when Ollie thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After, summer vacation ends and Will stops texting Ollie back. Now Ollie is one prince short of his fairytale ending, and to complicate the fairytale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country. Which he minds a little less when he realizes it’s the same school Will goes to…except Ollie finds that the sweet, 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, especially since this new, bro-y jock version of Will seems to go from hot to cold every other week. But then Will starts “coincidentally” popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, and 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.
While this book is often said to be a retelling of the movie Grease, I find that the beginning is the part that will draw that comparison. I love Grease, but this story has a lot more angst and issues. There are a lot of lighthearted and fun moments, but there are also a lot of moments that are more heartbreaking than anything in the classic movie.
I can’t imagine my life being uprooted in my senior year of high school the way Will’s life is uprooted. He moves across the country with his parents to help care for his ailing aunt and be a support system for her family while she deals with her cancer diagnosis. That means a whole new school in a very unfamiliar place, a place that may not be as open to the LGBTQ community as his old school in California. It may seem at first as if the first friends Will makes at his new school aren’t actually good friends…hang in there. These new friends just need to work out the kinks with the new guy and they end up being just what he needs in the long run.
As for Will’s summer fling Ollie, he’s a totally different person at school than he was at the lake during the summer. Not only is he still in the closet, he’s one of those man-about-town type of guys. Popular with the student body population as a whole, not a trouble maker per se but not the most respectful student with his teachers, star basketball player, you know the type. So how does Will fit into his life, if at all?
Not only do Will and Ollie go through a roller coaster of events, with Ollie often treating Will poorly in order to protect his own reputation, but so do all of the other characters. There is so much emotion in this story I just wanted to give everyone a hug. From Will’s family’s intense health problems, and Ollie’s fear of not being accepted for his true self, to all of their friend’s problems. Niamh struggles with her weight (which is really a lovely side story about being healthy vs being skinny), Juliette seems tough but has intense self-esteem issues, and Lara’s family doesn’t really believe in her the way she needs. It’s truly a coming-of-age story for so many characters.
With good reason, I often sided with Will in the issues between him and Ollie. I appreciate the author showing us Ollie’s side of things when he finally opens up more to Will. It was definitely needed in order for the reader to understand why Will kept going back for more. It still didn’t, in my mind, absolve Ollie of some of his actions. But I understood his desperation.
This story brought tears and swooning. Like I said, it has a lot of angst. But that is nicely balanced with the lighter moments so as not to drag the reader down too much. I haven’t read this author before, but I’ll be seeking out more of her work soon for sure.