School’s out, senior year is over, and Isaac Martin is ready to kick off summer. His last before heading off to college in the fall where he won’t have his best friend, Diego. Where—despite his social anxiety—he’ll be left to make friends on his own. Knowing his time with Diego is limited, Isaac enacts a foolproof plan: snatch up a pair of badges for the epic comic convention, Legends Con, and attend his first ever Teen Pride. Just him and Diego. The way it should be. But when an unexpected run-in with Davi—Isaac’s old crush—distracts him the day tickets go on sale, suddenly he’s two badges short of a perfect summer. Even worse, now he’s left making it up to Diego by hanging with him and his gamer buddies. Decidedly NOT part of the original plan. It’s not all bad, though. Some of Diego’s friends turn out to be pretty cool, and when things with Davi start heating up, Isaac is almost able to forget about his Legends Con blunder. Almost. Because then Diego finds out what really happened that day with Davi, and their friendship lands on thin ice. Isaac assumes he’s upset about missing the convention, but could Diego have other reasons for avoiding Isaac?
Thoughts and Themes: When I first heard of this book and when I first started reading I thought it was going to be a romance book but I was pleasantly surprised. This book is about love but not just about a romantic relationship, it covers romantic love, familial love, and love between friends. There are a few easter eggs in this book from other LGBTQ+ books which I really enjoyed when I stumbled across the ones that were familiar to me.
Something that I really enjoyed about this book was the way that familial relationships were handled throughout this book. I think the author did a great job depicting how difficult change can be, and how hard navigating emotions can be when you don’t share those with others. I liked that a lot of the issues between Isaac and others came down to him learning how to communicate his feelings and asking questions rather than assuming the worst. I really did enjoy that this book included the way that Isaac’s social anxiety was impacting his relationships with others without directly telling you that this is what was going on. I was able to relate to a lot in this book because of how his social anxiety was manifesting itself.
I highly recommend reading this one if you liked Encanto since I got a lot of similar vibes from this book in terms of familial love and relationships. The minute I read the first few pages of this book I said “this is me, this story is just me.” and it is rare that I find a book where I feel the author just gets me.
Characters: In this book, you are introduced to several characters and at first I thought it was going to be too many to remember them all but I winded up loving each and every one of them. You get to meet Isaac’s family members and friends, as well as some of Diego’s family members.
I loved getting to meet Diego’s mom, dad, and brother, Ollie. I loved seeing the relationship that Isaac had with each of Diego’s family members and how they served as a support system to him as well. I also really enjoyed the contrast that we get to see between Diego’s parents and Isaac’s parents, and how it isn’t only the reader noticing this but also Isaac pointing it out.
Then we also get to meet several of Isaac’s family members. I liked how Isaac had a different relationship with each of his family members and how that changed throughout the story. I really liked getting to learn more about Isaac’s family and why he has certain images of different people. I liked the moments that we get to see Isaac interact with Iggy and see those two finally opening up to each other. I really liked that we got to see Iggy explain why certain things happened the way they did and realize how he was just trying to protect the family just like Isaac was trying to protect his mom.
Then there are all of Diego’s friends who wind up becoming Isaac’s friends as well and their main friend group. I loved each of those characters and how unique each one of them is. I was so intrigued by them and loved each minute that we got to learn a little more about them. I liked how awkward Isaac was around this friend group yet how accepting they were of him. I really liked that this friend group was the first time that Isaac felt he was being included in conversations and they went out of their way to try and make sure he felt included.
Last but definitely not least, I loved the relationship between Diego and Isaac, both when they were friends and even after. I liked that throughout the whole book we get to see these characters be affectionate with each other as just friends. I feel that we oftentimes don’t see boys show affection towards each other and especially not queer boys of color unless they are in a romantic relationship. I was yelling at both of them to tell each other their feelings throughout this whole book because it was so obvious to the outside parties but not to them. I liked the amount of time it took for them to become a romantic pair though because it allowed this book to be much more than just about them.
Writing Style: This story is told in the first person through the perspective of Isaac. I liked that we get to see this story through his perspective because we get to feel all of his emotions as they are happening. I liked that this book lets each of the characters have feelings and be messy without always needing a solution immediately.
Julian Winters is the author of the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Award-winning Running With Lions; the Junior Library Guild Selections How to Be Remy Cameron and The Summer of Everything; and the forthcoming Right Where I Left You. A self-proclaimed comic book geek, Julian currently lives outside of Atlanta, where he can be found reading or watching the only two sports he can follow—volleyball and soccer..