This book was not super high on my TBR (though it was on it – because the cover is incredibly eye-catching and got me to read the synopsis) until I read about how legit Wilde is with writing representative characters. I mean, I am also a giant nerd and I love the focus on how geeky is the new cool, for sure. But overall it seemed a little fluffier than I was looking for…at least at the time. But I’ve been sick over the past couple weeks and fluffy was kinda what I needed. So I figured, if I’m gonna go fluffy, let me do it with rep. And I’m over here patting myself on the back for that decision. Let me tell you.
This is the story of three friends who travel from Australia to San Diego for a giant convention (SupaCon). One of these friends, Charlie, is a pretty famous vlogger and just starred in an indie movie that is getting quite the fandom. The other two, Taylor and Jamie, are just awesome nerdy friends who have wanted to go to SupaCon for years. Since this is the end of high school for them, they decided now would be the time to go big and tag along as Charlie does some press events for her movie. Of course, drama ensues: ex-boyfriends pop up unexpectedly, some friends break out of their years-long “just friends” dance, anxiety and self-consciousness are everywhere, and chances are taken on new loves.
Now, when I say this was a fluffy read, I mean it unequivocally. This is essentially a YA contemporary romance. But also, the setting and characters make it something so much…more(?)…than that. The question mark is because it really shouldn’t be anything more, but the unfortunate thing is that there are very few books out there with this kind of diverse representation in the characters. And there also aren’t many that take place in such a completely geeky setting. So yea, it was more. Anyways, let me expound on that a little. Taylor is a bit overweight and suffers from fairly extreme anxiety that has very recently been re-diagnosed as Autism Spectrum. Charlie is part-Asian and bisexual. Those are just the two narrators. And there are a number of other side characters and new friends that they meet at the convention that are similarly ability- and sexuality-diverse. I have not read a lot of books, if any, with protagonists like this, so bearing in mind the fact that there is not a lot out there for main-stream comparison, they were very authentically written. The labels aren’t there just on the surface, but permeate much deeper into their personalities, reactions and development throughout the book. (After reading more about the author, and learning that she too is bisexual and autistic, I feel like that explains her success on that front.)
I’m going to go a little more in depth about Charlie, specifically, because her character really spoke to me. She is overall really comfortable with herself and in her skin – being proudly out about her bisexuality. But at the same time, she has never actually been in a relationship with a girl. So when she starts down the road to that during this story, she is nervous about it, despite knowing it feels right. This situation is probably one that, as a reader, I identify with more than most books I read. I have alluded to this a number of times in other reviews, but this might be the first time I’m every fully writing it out. I am bisexual. And I have never dated a girl. Because honestly, it took me until very recently to really realize and understand that part of me. I think, growing up (and even past “growing up” and just being grown) I didn’t recognize what I was feeling. I figured it was just an extra strong admiration or friendship with certain females I had met, spoken with, seen on tv, etc. It never occurred to me that it could be anything more because growing up, I didn’t even know that liking someone my own gender was an option. Like, I didn’t think it was bad, I just didn’t even understand it as an option. And, since I liked and was attracted to guys too, and that was “normal,” I just went with it. And then I met my now husband when I was pretty young (19) and fell hard. And I don’t regret that for a second. He’s my lobster. And he has been super incredible and supportive in general and as I have worked to figure out this part of myself. I wouldn’t give him up for the world. But now I’m also comfortable saying that, if (goodness forbid) anything ever happened to him, I’d be open to a much wider dating pool after him. Anyways, apparently, I decided this was going to be a whole personal and introspective type review and it got way long. The point is, I identified hard with Charlie here. And I completely appreciate Wilde writing a book like this, for all of us that didn’t know this was a thing you could be when we were Charlie’s age. She wrote in her interview at the back of the book that this was written in part because it’s the book she wished she had growing up. Me. Too. And I’m glad I found it now – better late than never.
So, back to the book itself. I also was a BIG fan (pun mostly intended) of the Comic-Con setting. I loved the Harry Potter type fandom that Taylor is part of (I FEEL that). And all the references to some of my favorites real-life fandoms just made me smile so big while reading. (I’m looking at you Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries). Honestly this was just an awesomely fun book to read, in that respect. Also, all the characters give each other wonderfully cheesy speeches about owning who you are and being comfortable in your own skin and it’s just a great big hug-fest of self-love all the way through. It might be a little much, at times, but I can’t even complain because who doesn’t need those kinds of reminders in their lives sometimes? No one. That’s who.
Bottom line, I finished this book with a heart brimming with empathy and feels. It may not be an incredibly deep or unique plot, but the genuine characters and nerdy setting gave it that something extra, at least for me. And it’s such a quick read. I binge read it in like, 2 hours. So Wilde gets my thanks and recommendation. Big fuzzy feels hugs to her.