Mini Reviews: Perfect On Paper, Only Mostly Devastated and If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales

As much as I’d like to admit otherwise, I’m a mere fledgling in the world of YA contemporaries. Before November 2021, I could not imagine being more interested in high school drama over magical kingdoms and secret societies. But lo and behold, I finally pick up Perfect On Paper by the queen of contemporary romance (I said so, argue with the wall) herself on a whim, and suddenly I’m obsessed with contemporaries, and 3 out of the 4 i’ve read so far have been by Gonzales. Coincidence? I think not. I’m officially in love with everything she writes.

Today I bring you tiny reviews of the Sophie Gonzales trifecta!

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Darcy Phillips:
• Can give you the solution to any of your relationship woes―for a fee.
• Uses her power for good. Most of the time.
• Really cannot stand Alexander Brougham.
• Has maybe not the best judgement when it comes to her best friend, Brooke…who is in love with someone else.
• Does not appreciate being blackmailed.
However, when Brougham catches her in the act of collecting letters from locker 89―out of which she’s been running her questionably legal, anonymous relationship advice service―that’s exactly what happens. In exchange for keeping her secret, Darcy begrudgingly agrees to become his personal dating coach―at a generous hourly rate, at least. The goal? To help him win his ex-girlfriend back.
Darcy has a good reason to keep her identity secret. If word gets out that she’s behind the locker, some things she’s not proud of will come to light, and there’s a good chance Brooke will never speak to her again.
Okay, so all she has to do is help an entitled, bratty, (annoyingly hot) guy win over a girl who’s already fallen for him once? What could go wrong? 

Review

My introduction to the contemporary romance genre, Perfect On Paper was a memorable first. I absolutely loved the first person narration (which, as I later came to know, is apparently a Gonzales trademark) and Darcy was snarky and sarcastic and upbeat (while also slightly insecure in her relationships) and she made the perfect main character. And might I mention that the romance was *chef’s kiss* because obviously it’s BROUGHAM (did you think I was actually gonna offer an explanation?). Among other things (it’s important to add this because there’s no way I’m ever going to be able to list all the wonderful things about this book), I absolutely loved Libby’s relationship with Darcy because I’ve come across SO few non-toxic sister duos in YA. There are heavier themes as well like Darcy being confused about her identity as bi. Despite this, the story had this overall distinctly cheerful vibe, especially compared to the other two books. So if you’re looking for a quirky narrative to cheer you up when you’re feeling dull, Perfect On Paper is here to save the day.

Only Mostly Devastated

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

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 fairy tale ending, and to complicate the fairy tale 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.
Right? Right.

Review

Leave it to Gonzales to make a contemporary unexpected. Like, don’t 99% ya contemporaries have an happily ever after guaranteed right at the beginning? (pfft don’t give me the look. so what if i haven’t read a lot of contemporary romances? i’ve read a lot of their synopses okay?) This one most certainly didn’t. I was in full edge-of-seat nail-biting avatar (which is normally reserved for thrillers) with one and only one question in my mind – will they or won’t they? I can’t obviously tell you the answer because i want you to go through the same apprehension MWAHAHA spoiler.

Ollie was one of those characters I’d give my chocolate chip cookie (that’s obviously more superior than my life) to protect. I smiled when he laughed and burst into tears when he cried and his life became my life for the timespan in which i read this book. Will, though, I did have mixed feelings about him (and somehow I feel Gonzales had intended exactly that) but if he keeps my boy Ollie happy so be it (ok I sound like a parent now). All this said, Only Mostly Devastated was definitely more towards the emotional side of things, so I’d recommend sitting with a few tissues.

If This Gets Out

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.
On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?

Review

Wow. I didn’t know dual pov romance was a thing I NEEDED until this book. The mutual yearning was everything, and I know it’s cheesy but Zach and Ruben actually completed each other. Zach is another one of those characters I’d protect with my chocolate-chip cookie. While I’m fiercely protective of all the four members of Saturday (nobody dare to touch them, i’d go to lengths to defend my boys *adds knife emoji for emphasis*), Zach is a little bit special.

One thing about this story was that it was all vibes, and I’m always ready for some ~feels~. But to be honest, the whole plot wasn’t anything out-of-the-box. Plot-wise, I’d say Perfect on Paper was better written. But hey, the lack of a concrete plot didn’t stop me from getting attached (to an unhealthy extent) to all the characters. Each member of Saturday had a brilliant character arc, and I may sound like a fantasy reader now (which I actually am, but eh) parents actually existed in the story (Mom Squad forever!!). Also I’m filled with righteous rage for Chorus (they had no damn right) so if anyone happens to know where to find them, let me know. I just want to talk (*secretly pulls out dagger*). Anyway, the point being, there’s so much to read this book for.

So this felt less like a review post than a Sophie Gonzales appreciation post (that woman definitely deserves one) but instead of paying attention to that, we are going to GO READ ALL THESE BOOKS IMMEDIATELY BECAUSE RACHEL SAID SO.

Have you read any of these? Which are your favourite YA contemporary novels? Lemme know in the comments!!

~ Rachel

The Inheritance Games vs the Hype-o-meter // Review

Just yesterday, I came across this new (to me!) thing called a recursive acronym. For those like yesterday-Rachel who have no clue what this official-sounding word means – basically it is an acronym where the first letter is the acronym itself. Ehh sounds over-the-top but the essence is not that complex. For example, GNU is a recursive acronym that stands for GNU’s Not Unix, then we can expand the GNU in the full form again to GNU’s Not Unix, and our new expansion would be GNU’s Not Unix Not Unix and so on till forever. 

Now you must be wondering, “why in the world is Rachel giving us a (barely comprehensible) lesson in literature?? Wasn’t this post supposed to be a review?”. 

Well I do have a reason for talking about all this apart from the fact that it is an interesting concept, and that is – similar ~vibes~. With the book I’m about to review. Traps upon traps, riddles upon riddles – yes, the gist of The Inheritance Games is pretty similar to that of a recursive acronym.

With all that done, let’s get started with today’s showdown, (know more about it this blog series here) which is The Inheritance Games, a book that has recently risen to popularity due to its upcoming sequel, against our hype-o-meter! 

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, #1)

Title: The Inheritance Games
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Genre: Young Adult Mystery, Contemporary
Synopsis:
Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.
Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

If yes is no and once is never, then how much exactly did I enjoy this book? Now that’s a difficult one, because this was one of those books I am extremely conflicted about. If I had to rate it purely on the basis of enjoyment – an easy 4 – 4.5 stars. But as a reviewer I do have to think a tiny bit about other factors too, and in this case, let us just say these factors were not in the book’s favour. Let’s break it down.

“Everything’s a game, Avery Grambs. The only thing we get to decide in this life is if we play to win.”

The narration was first person. Probably no big deal for most of you, but believe me when I say my relationship with first person POV has not exactly been the best and mostly books with such narrations leave me mildly annoyed (pfft who am I kidding? It’s more like throwing-things-and-banging-doors-and-hitting-my-head-against-a-wall-repeatedly level annoyed.) My aggressive behavioural actions aside, The Inheritance Games was a surprise in this aspect – a pleasant one at that. I actually enjoyed Avery’s POV, so conclusion : she must have been a really good character. Yes, that she was.

In the very opening scene we are told how much of a genius Avery is when she aces an impossible physics test and is lowkey accused of cheating by her principal (which. not cool.) and is confident enough to promise the same score in a re-test. And she also beats a homeless man, who is apparently a brilliant chess player, at chess. After a few scenes we see her answer an impossible-sounding riddle asked by a drunk teenager without batting an eyelid (the riddle: ‘If yes is no and once is never, then how many sides does a triangle have?’). Upto this point, cool. 

The story till here is nicely constructed, all the events well thought out – a normal teenager who was living her life with her half-sister or in her car, attending school on a scholarship gets good news in the form of a snobby boy in a suit who informs her that his rich grandfather has left her his entire fortune of billions. Too easy, but I’ll take it. 

Things went downhill from here. I do not know whether I was just in a very critical mood, but it seemed to me that the author had simply lost interest in creating an intriguing mystery, and decided to just let Avery have a fortunate stroke of serendipity. Everything – the clues and riddles were extremely amateur, and anyone with a little common sense could have easily figured them out – let alone our supposedly brilliant protagonist working with four impossibly-smart brothers. 

“He left you the fortune, Avery, and all he left us is you.”

And man, the stakes?? It was established in the beginning that not much could be done to challenge Avery’s inheritance, so what was the point of the whole solving-riddles thing? I went in expecting a thrilling round of who-solves-the-mystery-first-gets-the-money but apparently my expectations were too high.

Yet, I would not say I disliked this book because, honestly, I did not. While the big reveals were okay-ish (for a mystery, the gasp factor was shockingly low.), it was the little moments that got to me. Those moments when we got away from the main plot for a while (like Avery’s initial disbelief of the house having a bowling alley, later the scene when her stylist were working on her with Libby snorting in the corner) made me giggle and were enjoyable, so that’s a plus. 

And then of course there was all the family drama, the sibling rivalry (4x!) and all the fun moments between Avery and each of the brothers so yes, while the book could have been better in a lot of aspects, it was goood. I’m excited for the sequel!

It was a tough fight with the hype-o-meter, but The Inheritance Games emerged as a solid, so there’s that. Not quite worth the hype, but certainly worth a try. Click here to read April’s review!

Have you read The Inheritance Games? What would you give it on the hype-o-meter? Do you have The Hawthorne Legacy on your radar? Let me know in the comments!