Monday, 24 February 2020

Book Review: This Is Kind Of An Epic Love Story by Kacen Callender

This Is Kind Of An Epic Love Story follows Nathan Bird, who no longer believes in happy endings. His mother certainly didn’t get one – she’s still grieving the death of his father years ago, causing her to be overprotective of Nathan. And his relationship with Florence, his bff-turned-girlfriend-turned-unrequited love interest, didn’t get one. She found a girl she preferred to him, and Nathan’s trapped trying not to let her see he still loves her. And his friendship with Oliver James Hernandez, many years ago, didn’t get one either. Inseparable as kids, one rash act ended everything between them and Ollie moved away.

But now Ollie’s back. Looking gorgeous, and wanting to be friends with Bird again. Could he FINALLY get a happy ending this time?

Oh, wow. I’ve heard lots of praise for this one but nothing prepared for quite how gloriously, messily wonderful it would be. Callender creates one of the most complicated but brilliantly portrayed friendship groups I’ve read about in ages – Bird is still in love with Flo, who thinks of him as her best friend. Ashley, the other girl in their group, is crushing hard on their other male friend Gideon, who seems to be completely unaware of this. And the addition of Ollie means that things get even more complicated. Throughout the book, they argue, they give each other advice – some of it good, much of it bad – and they angst over each other. It feels so fantastically realistic and even though there are times when most of them – Bird especially – are hugely frustrating characters they are amazingly well-rounded ones.

In addition to the really strong friendship group, there’s a wonderful portrayal of a grieving family. Bird and his mom are left at home when older sister Becca moves to Chicago, with Bird planning on leaving soon (perhaps sooner than his mom realises) and his mom having to face up to the fact that she’ll be left alone. Her protectiveness of him, and concern clearly triggered by the loss of his father, is a really strong thread and Bird’s gradual assertion of more independence is superb.

The main storyline of the book, though, is the tension and romance between Bird and Ollie, and the chemistry between them is incredible. They’re a couple I desperately wanted to end up together, even when Bird was self-sabotaging himself, because it’s so clear to see WHY he’s finding it hard to see a positive future for himself.

Another thing I really loved about the story was the setting in a place where people were respectful of each other's sexuality. None of the conflict here is based around homophobia or people having to hide who they are and it’s wonderful to read a book with several characters of different orientations who don’t have to deal with bullying or prejudice because of them.

Overall, this is an absolutely huge recommendation – it’s one of the best books I’ve read in what’s been an amazing reading year for me so far, and high up there with my favourite contemporaries ever. Superb, and I can’t wait to read more from Kacen Callender!

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