Jennifer Dugan is a writer, geek, and romantic who writes the kinds of stories she wishes she had growing up. In addition to being a young adult novelist, she is also the writer/creator of two indie comics. She lives in New York with her family, dogs, and an evil cat that is no doubt planning to take over the world.
In this YA contemporary queer romance from the author of Hot Dog Girl , an openly gay track star falls for a closeted, bisexual teen beauty queen with a penchant for fixing up old cars.
Morgan, an elite track athlete, is forced to transfer high schools late in her senior year after it turns out being queer is against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct. There, she meets Ruby, who has two hobbies: tinkering with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino and competing in local beauty pageants, the latter to live out the dreams of her overbearing mother. The two are drawn to each other and can’t deny their growing feelings. But while Morgan–out and proud, and determined to have a fresh start–doesn’t want to have to keep their budding relationship a secret, Ruby isn’t ready to come out yet. With each girl on a different path toward living her truth, can they go the distance together?
Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Teen for the advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.
Thoughts and Themes: It took me a bit to really get into this story as I wasn’t really a fan of either of the characters or the plot when I first started reading it. Once I got to about 50% in though I was hooked and needed to know what really would happen to our two main characters, and not just to their relationship.
Something that I really enjoyed in this book is how it explores discovering queerness and being visibly queer. I really enjoyed the nuanced discussions that this book brings up about being out and what that means for different people. I thought it was important that the discussion about what it means to be out, and how being out may do more harm than good happened. I really liked how this book points out that queer people don’t have to be out in order to be valid, and how coming out doesn’t have to be the goal if you are queer.
I really enjoyed reading these characters be teenagers and have some of the typical teenage problems. I liked that we got to see them both in their classroom setting and also in their respective activities. I liked the setting for the story as it made sense to me, but sometimes I did wonder why those around them didn’t get more involved. I did wonder how some of the characters kind of faded into the background as you read on when they were important at the start of the book.
Characters: In this book you are introduced to a bunch of characters, but our main characters are Morgan and Ruby. You also get to meet both of their friends, and get a glimpse into their home lives as well when we meet their family members.
I have mixed feelings about the relationship between Morgan and Ruby, and was not content with the way that the story ended. There were moments that I just kept getting angry with either character as they kept hurting each other, and this doesn’t really solve itself in the end.
On the other hand, I thought that the two characters had great chemistry with each other and really enjoyed reading as they figured out their feelings for each other. I think their relationship with each other is so nuanced because of outside things that impact how they interact with each other. Morgan is so stuck on not wanting to have to hide her queerness and her belief that no queer person should be in the closet, that she doesn’t really see beyond that. Ruby is scared of what others would think if she pursues a relationship with a girl, and also knows what her mother’s reaction would be so she holds herself back from pursuing what she wants.
When it comes to the family units in this book, I couldn’t stand Ruby’s mother. She just was looking out for herself and blamed Ruby for so many of her shortcomings. I thought it was so sad that Ruby felt that she was living for someone else rather than for herself. I really did enjoy the relationship that Ruby has with Billy though and how supportive he is of her through the whole book. I liked that his support was more silent than vocal but he made it known that he loved her.
I really liked reading about Morgan’s family and seeing the contrast of her family and Rubys. I think this also really added to the complexity of their relationship and it was something that Morgan never really acknowledges. Morgan has parents and a brother who support her being queer and also are able to financially provide for her. I think it was important to see the divide between Morgan and Ruby when it came to socioeconomic status and how this also plays into the dynamics of their relationship.
Writing Style: This book is told in first person through dual perspective which I love. I can never decide if I prefer one POV or multiple POV because I think both work. I think that each book really calls for different styles and dual POV works for this book. I liked getting to see both of their perspectives of different events.
If this book did not include dual perspectives it would be really easy for you to sympathize with only one character and really hate the other. The way it is written, you start to sympathize with one as you read their section but then you get the other’s POV and realize that they both have their flaws. I think this was one of my favorite things in this book, neither of our main characters is perfect.