This book kept coming up on BookTube and GoodReads as a new YA contemporary with a main gay couple, so of course I had to pick it up! I chose to read this book as part of #LGBTQIAREAD Read-a-thon, as I mentioned in my blog post.
“The Love Interest” is a slightly sci-fi young adult contemporary romance novel. Sounds confusing? Well, how about the plot. There is a nefarious secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. They are taken from their families and raised and trained to be perfect love interests for people who are destined for great power or influence. Those “love interests” are split into Nice and Bad, depending on their personality fit, and are constantly evaluated for various skills. Once they are deemed to be fit and are matched to their “chosen one”, they are then given the directives and are implanted into lives of those “chosen” to spy on them for the rest of their lives.
Caden is a Nice, Dylan is a Bad. They are give the same target and the ultimate incentive to win this dangerous game: be chosen or be killed. But, unexpectedly, they start to develop feelings for each other.
The plot summary was what attracted me to this book. I am not a huge fan of YA contemporary romance, but I love queer books and dystopian/sci-fi elements, so I was very excited to read it. Good thing that I purchased the book before I checked its rating on GoodReads or I might have never picked it up. As I am typing this, “Love Interest” has the rating of 3.18 on GR, and I try to never go for books which are under 3.5, because I get mostly disappointed (the only exception besides “Love Interest” was “Wink Poppy Midnight” which I adored).
Let’s be fair here, “The Love Interest” is far from a strong debut novel. There are a lot of plot holes surrounding the secret organization and how it was dealt with. Especially, in the last third of the novel - I had an impression as if the author was rushing through the ending or didn’t have it fully outlined, because everything that was happening was just too fantastical to be real. Some of the characters were too two dimensional for my taste and some of their actions were just implausible.
The good thing about this book is that it is just pure fun. The first half or even two thirds of the book is just a pure satire and parody on a typical young adult romance. And it is intended to be such. I found the narration overall pleasant enough and the action was fun.
I think that this book would have benefited from more editing and perhaps another round of revisions. I liked the idea of love interests/spies, I liked both Caden and Dylan. But the book lacked depth and even the moments that were supposed to move me felt a bit shallow as they were so brief. Not to mention the fact that the ending was extremely weak.
Is it a great book? No, but it IS a fun book which I might even re-read if I need a good laugh (because some of those romance tropes were just hilarious). But most importantly - the book gave me exactly what I wanted to read: a queer love story. We don’t have enough of those in YA, even nowadays.
I will definitely keep an eye on Cale’s books and hope to read more by him.
Personal rating: 3 stars