Reviewed by Melanie on September 22, 2017
I don’t know where to begin with Matt’s story. Like most unrequited love stories there’s a bit of longing, a bit of heart break, and a bit of humor. In Matt’s story the emotions will hit you full force, making each new emotion stronger than your expecting, and while ending on a high note, it will leave you emotionally spent.
Matt, our main character, and his best friend Tabby have been close for as long as either of them can remember. Growing up across the cul-de-sac from each other, Tabby has been like an extra family member since her mom left when she was a baby. Matt, obviously is in love with Tabby, but not sure how to cross the line from love you like a brother to I love you more than that. When they begin high school and Tabby becomes involved with a senior, Matt tries to navigate through their evolving relationship, remaining friends on the outside, while being crushed within.
The story develops quickly. I laughed throughout the first half of the book, not only at the stories, but the uniquely developed relationships between each character. From Murray and his Halloween costume to Thanksgiving, and even Christmas dinner, I laughed and enjoyed getting to know Matt and the rest of his family.
Matt is a strong, but flawed character. This makes me appreciate him much more because he comes off as genuine. His love for not only his friends, but also his family shows in every interaction. Relationships such as these aren’t typical in YA books because the protagonist is usually selfish. While Matt does behave selfishly at times, he’s typically apologetic, either to the character directly, or in his head. He comes off as real and because of this, his story is much easier to connect to on an emotional level.
We really don’t get to learn a lot about Tabby as a freshman. We get small glimpses of her as she spends time with the Wainwright family. Most of her story is from Matt’s memories, which makes her endearing. I laughed out loud about the bully and the corked bat and had to pause my reading to explain my cackling to my husband. I think that the biggest thing we, as readers, are supposed to learn about Tabby is that she loves Matt too. Even if not in the way that he loved her.
The inclusion of teachers and classrooms are also a part of YA fiction that we don’t usually see. I think this is probably because school overall is very routine and boring, and most books try to skip over those parts. In this book however, Matt’s teachers come to life. We meet Mr. Ellis, who sounds like a teacher I would have loved in school, who truly tries to make learning fun, and make a difference in his students’ lives.
As I moved through the book, even once I knew it wouldn’t have the romantic comedy ending Matt and I were hoping for, I couldn’t wait to re-open my kindle for the next chapter (darn work interfering!). When I finished the book, skimming the acknowledgements, I broke down once again at the author’s sentence to Dawn and the Nerds. This book will take you through the emotional wringer, but in the end is a sweet story about love, loss, and learning to move on.