Submitted Date 07/04/2022

This book popped up on my Instagram, and immediately, I knew I had to read it for this blog--on Instagram, this book was described to have an aromantic main character, a good found family trope, to be about friendship and stuff. Perfect for what I wanted to add to my queer-lit blog, because aromanticism isn't really talked about a lot.

I thought that was a review--I get tons of shit on books on my Instagram, but that was actually a post made by halleygonzalesbooks, which is, you guessed it, Hailey Gonzales' Instagram account. The whole time I thought this was like, some book nerd talking about a book they read, but it was actually a totally different type of book nerd talking about a book they wrote!

This has no bearing on the review, really, I just thought it was funny.

Plot Summary:

The story starts off with Paige Solano--she's at a brand new school, she knows nobody in town but her doting mother, and she is absolutely terrified. Being a teenager is rough! Despite that, she's determined to make this move work in her favor--she's gonna put herself out there! She makes herself a to-do list: she's gonna make real friends, she's gonna share her interest in art and anime, she's gonna be her true self.

And also, she's gonna lose her virginity. That too.

Paige is aromantic, and she spent years looking at romance novels thinking, Sounds fake, but okay, which is super common for aro and or ace people--honestly, something like looking into the media and assuming that either it's actively lying to you, or there's something wrong with you for not feeling that thing the media insists you should is a super common queer thing(1), and it amuses me, honestly. Paige found the term online and realized that that term fit her--unfortunately, she is not asexual, and it's not that liking sex or not liking sex is a bad thing, it just means that the way of fulfilling that need she has is gonna be a little difficult, because she doesn't want to be in anything romantic, and once she's too close to someone, she will lose all attraction to them, no matter how cute they are. (I imagine this would also be difficult to explain to her mother, because parents don't usually want to hear about your sex life, and it'll be more than a little complicated to explain that she doesn't want romance, and does want sex, so she might flirt with someone, but don't expect to see her in a relationship. Parents are hard, man.)

She is terrified on her first day--the teacher's a bit behind, so she's standing there awkwardly, waiting to get a seat. She doesn't know anyone, so she doesn't have anyone to talk to. It's just her in class.

She gets home to her mother--her father's dead, and has been for awhile, but she's pretty close with her mother. She had announced their move out of nowhere, from Greenville to Bowden, but Paige doesn't hold it against her or anything. She was actually glad to move--and her mother had been worried, because that's a weird reaction from a teenager, to the point where Paige theorizes her mother is assuming she's leaving behind a gang or something. The two of them go out to eat at a local family diner--their waiter is a teen about Paige's age, and he's super cute. His name is Shawn--he goes to Paige's high school, and when Paige's mom (I genuinely have no idea what her name is, I don't think it's ever mentioned, so I will be calling her PM from henceforth) asks if he goes to the local high school, he offers to show Paige around, and points to his group of friends in another booth. She can sit with them at lunch tomorrow!

They exchange numbers and Shawn admits that he was worried he creeped her out--these texts show that Paige has a tendency to start texts, rethink them, and delete them a couple times before she sends one. I'll admit, at first, they were kinda annoying because they never change the real content of these messages, it's just how it's said, but it's actually super accurate for someone with anxiety--Paige can be pretty friendly, and perfectly charming, but she just doesn't quite have the confidence to actually go through with it, and it sucks. I was only annoyed because that's exactly what I do!

Paige sends one text, asking if he should be working in a joking manner, and then immediately feels stupid--she might have offended him, she doesn't know, she doesn't get a response. She goes to her family's pool and promises herself that she really is gonna be different this year. She likes the water--it calms her. (I just want to point out that where I lived, the teenagers with the pools were always the coolest, but it was also a serious sign of wealth. As is owning your house and being able to move and stuff.)

The next day at school, Shawn approaches her and they compare schedules--they share first and third period together, and their lockers aren't far from each other. Realistically, teenagers don't bother with the lockers and keep just about everything in their backpacks--as a high schooler, I never went looking for my locker, I genuinely had no idea where it even was, but it's a staple in TV shows and such, so. She meets Maia in a class before lunch--she's a pretty Mexican girl who compliments Paige's shirt (a Harry Potter tee, which gives her points in Paige's mind) and introduces herself, but she also happens to be friends with Shawn.

So, when Shawn invites her to eat lunch with his friends, as promised, she's there. There's also another white guy--Jay--who offers Paige some of his Skittles, because the pizza in the cafeteria is inedible. Maia explains that they met in the class before and complimented her shirt, and there's some light-hearted banter about Hogwarts houses. It's obvious everyone at this table is close, and who knows how long they've been friends, and considering Jay's claims that he doesn't share his Skittles with just everyone, it's pretty obvious that Shawn was being nice, asked them if they could invite a new student to eat with them, and they were doing their very best to make sure she didn't feel too awkward with them.

Later the same day, Paige sees a poster for an anime club that meets every Tuesday--and today is Tuesday! Excited, she rushes for the room--and then immediately thinks better. She just can't bring herself to go inside. So she walks home instead.

PM finds her in the pool and comments that she thought Paige would have a little sense when she bought this house--what? It's noted that she rarely calls Paige by her name, it's always just pet names. She looks tired, and she's clearly unhappy--she tells Paige to go shower, and then they'll talk. About what? This behavior is said to be pretty out of character, but it's not really given an explanation.

They go out for dinner, back to the diner--it's mentioned that PM hates fast food corporations, and doesn't want to support them, which is a stance I can respect but is never really elaborated on. It's growing on Paige, and again Shawn stops by their table. He awkwardly asks Paige if him and his friends are bothering her at all--in response, Paige just kind of stammers that she needs friends like them--and this is about when she realizes that, as cute as Shawn is, they really have become friends, and she can't imagine herself having sex with him.

After dinner, her and PM go trekking about the town to explore--they find a library, and in there is where Paige finds Maia at a table, studying. Paige, personally, doesn't need to study all that much to pass, but Maia's being super productive. She can't get anything below an A. You know how it is, she says--it's heavily implied she has some sort of Tigre Mama, but Paige doesn't, and doesn't entirely understand. When she leaves, she leaves with a It was nice meeting you, and then wonders who actually says that--which hurts, because I say that all the time, and I didn't think that was weird. This feels like an example of Gonzales trying to make Paige relatable and awkward, but not really committing to the awkwardness. It was nice meeting you sounds a little formal, but it's not actually something someone will comment on. It's possible this was meant to show more of Paige's anxiety, in that she thinks perfectly normal phrases come out wrong and will get her weird looks, but if Paige is supposed to be awkward, I think she needs to actually say awkward things. Like, go on a far too long tangent about something embarrassing that happened to her once in a library, or awkwardly linger there and make eye contact with Maia for far too long while she wonders how to leave respectfully.


Paige compares her first two days to each other--it's a start, but only a start. She knows she has to join the anime club, and she wants to--it's assumed she will eventually, and she falls asleep thinking about it. When she wakes in the morning, Shawn's texted her, asking if she wants to see Endgame with him and the rest of his friend's at Jay's place--he claims they're all broke as fuck, except Jay, who's super rich, and indeed he is! He's the type with a theatre inside his house. (2)

As the day goes on, it's clear Paige and her friends have similar taste--exact opinions differ, but between comics, and movies, and Marvel, and the repeated bringing up of Harry Potter, it's obvious they're all nerds. Shawn sits next to Paige in her third hour, and tells her the entire time the exact reasons why Captain America is the best superhero, but the writing doesn't divulge the reasons (more on this later!)

Paige goes, she has a good time--and Friday rolls around where she finds herself in front of the anime club again--out of nowhere, another student appears and asks why she doesn't just open it. He's hot--black with black hair, and blue eyes. Paige doesn't even know his name, but he takes that huge step she refuses to take for her and opens the door. Now she has to go in.

The anime club, it turns out, is Shawn, Jay, Maia, and Hikaru. This is the best decision she could make.

Paige is welcomed with open arms, brought into the anime club's group chat and everything--about chapter nine is where she reevaluates the list she made. I think this is the last mention of it, until the very end. She spends the weekend determined, because she's actually getting somewhere--her mother's in the living room, and she's still very obviously stressed about something. Paige can't tell what--so she offers to help. With her job as a teacher? With dinner? Anything she needs--PM hugs her. They're obviously, obviously close--this is one of the things on her list, to talk to her mother.

But this isn't exactly what she had in mind when she considered talking to her mother--there's still this distance between them, a few things that are going unsaid.

Shawn body checks his brother casually in school--Paige, an only child, assumes they hate each other but Shawn exclaims that of course they don't. She recounts it to Maia, horrified and confused, but Maia tells her that she was horrified too--but it's just how they are. In the same conversation, Paige shows off some of her art and Maia encourages her to submit it into a contest. For the majority of this book, Paige is preparing art for the contest, but doesn't submit it for awhile, a result of a mix of self-cnsciousnesss, and her just being really good at procrastinating.

Some time passes, and she gets closer with the gang. Studies with Maia, even though she doesn't need it, invites them over to swim at her house--at some point, Shawn spends the night, and they start talking. After Paige admits her mother's been acting weird, she comes out to him as aromantic.

It's super awkward (coming out always is), but she gets through it, and when she's done, Shawn admits that he's bisexual. His parents know, but he's been too scared ot tell the rest of the crew--when Paige admits that Shawn is the first person she's told, Shawn tells her something he hasn't told anyone else either, mainly that he used to self-harm, a while back. At one point, he nearly died and woke up in the hospital (though it was an accident, he wasn't aiming for suicide)


(1) Yes, queer thing. Aromantic people are queer--there's some debate about whether or not they actually belong in the community, but most aro/ace folk consider themselves a part of the community, and so long as you're not straight, I truly believe you have a place in the community, and I believe that wholeheartedly. I, personally, like romance and sex with whoever, regardless of gender and or sex, but that just ain't everybody's cup of tea. Not everybody drinks tea--I can respect that, and if you're on my blog, you're gonna respect it too. (All my aro and or ace folks, or anyone on either of those spectrums, I love y'all.)

(2) Paige has gotten real lucky with her group of friends, but not with her taste in movies. Endgame is too long--way too long. I like Marvel and all, but Jesus fucking Christ. I'm not the only one who watched it in theatres and reached that point where I was so glad to see my favorites die because at least it meant the movie was reaching it'd end? (Plus, Peter Parker survived, so I was more-or-less okay, I just didn't want him to die. They did Natasha dirty, though.)

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