Friday, May 19, 2017

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich
Release Date -  May 16, 2017
Publisher Website - Raincoast Books
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  384 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received for an honest review**

**quotes take from an advance reader copy of this novel**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both. 
Early on in The Love Interest we're treated to this quote ...
"A particularly important young woman has shown signs that she’s ready to select a partner, so two of you have to be sent in right away. We’re looking for a boy-next-door Nice and a mysterious, tortured-soul Bad.”

"Aren’t they always?" 
I feel this perfectly sets up what you can expect from this novel. It's filled with tropes. It exists because of tropes, but it also decimates them. It twists them, and makes a strong commentary about them at the same time. This satire-ish novel is smart, creative, and undeniably different.

The story may feel familiar. Two boys. One girl. An epic love triangle with the highest stakes possible. That is not all this novel is though. It read as both a love letter to the tropes we're so familiar with in young adult novels, and as something setting out to create its own path. Cale Dietrich has created something not just unique but fun to read. The humour and warmth within the pages are matched only by its cleverness and I was hooked right from the first chapter.

Our narrator, Caden, may feel like a trope at times, but that is because he should. He is meant to point out the class young adult love interest character and be an homage to them. He, however, does end up becoming a character all on his own. Great care is taken to ensure that Cale isn't just one thing. He's not simply a "Nice" and he 's not quite a "Bad" either. He's a complex character that are a mix of different wants, needs, and emotions. It may sound strange, but it makes you question what the love interests in plenty of young adult novels actually want. We often do not get their point of view so they remain mysterious, but this makes you want to scratch that surface and get to know those characters better.

The stakes are high in this novel, and the reader is never allowed to forget that. Death is the consequences of stepping out of line, and that remains true until the final pages of the novel. I appreciated that the danger felt real while I was reading. Actions are not without consequences and that is a relief. Often there isn't a price for freedom in these novels, and in this case there is which felt more authentic.

The romance in this novel is tentative and starts out as a sort of friendship. It is built a little more slowly, which actually contrasts the "instalove" type of narrative the guy are supposed to be having with Juliet. This is something that builds as they spend time together and get to know each other. I came to care about all of these characters, and much like Caden, found myself surprised by it. It sneaks up on you, much like Caden's feelings for Dyl sneak up on him.

There is a quote that stood out to me while I was reading. One that I feel sums up not only the theme of the novel but as feels like the entire point the story is striving to make
Even though I had been through hell, even though I've been told I'm worthless my whole life, even though I'm gay, even though the world wants me to bow down and accept that who I am makes me insignificant, the following is true:

"I'm the protagonist, fucker!"
It shows gay characters as something other than the sidekick. It allows them to see themselves as the protagonist of their own story. We all should be the protagonist in our own stories, and this novel loudly embraces that fact. It also announces a shift from Caden thinking he is just a part of Juliet's story. He considered his feelings unimportant because it was HER story. This is him claiming his narrative for himself. He is deeming his wants and needs as important and that is the heart of this story.

I recommend The Love Interest if you're looking for something thrilling, entirely unique, and something that both embraces and dismantles common young adult tropes. Cale Dietrich has marked himself as a new young adult voice to watch with this novel, and I cannot wait to read what he writes next.

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