Since high school began, Alison Sanger and Ethan Molloy have competed on almost everything. AP classes, the school paper, community service, it never ends. If Alison could avoid Ethan until graduation, she would. Except, naturally, for two over-achieving seniors with their sights on valedictorian and Harvard, they share all the same classes and extracurriculars. So when their school’s principal assigns them the task of co-planning a previous class’s ten-year reunion, with the promise of a recommendation for Harvard if they do, Ethan and Alison are willing to endure one more activity together if it means beating the other out of the lead. But with all this extra time spent in each other’s company, their rivalry begins to feel closer to friendship. And as tension between them builds, Alison fights the growing realization that the only thing she wants more than winning…is Ethan.
Even before reading and adoring If I’m Being Honest and Always Never Yours, I was looking forward to this book. Rivals-to-lovers with some amazing kissing. Yeah, that’s pretty much all I needed to know to want to read this book desperately. Then, I found out how amazing these authors’ books are, and I was even more ready to see what this book was all about.
I hate saying I didn’t love this book. I really, truly do. But this book just wasn’t for me. There were some parts that I did enjoy and really like, but there were also parts that I didn’t love.
Alright, let’s start off with the positive! The writing, wow, the writing. It made it easy to fly through this book. I could read a hundred books written by these authors simply because they write so well. It feels comforting even in a way, even when the situation is wracked with anxiety. They just have a calming way with words.
Another thing I really loved was the chemistry brought on by the hatred between Ethan and Alison. Seriously, when amazing kissing was promised, it was not promised lightly. It has some of the best tension wrought kissing scenes. Like, dropping things on the ground, getting in each other’s faces in a hatred infused passion, kissing scenes. And more.
Moving on to the things I didn’t love as much. I didn’t love the rivalry/hate part of this book. I know, I know! But, I felt like this book leaned too far into it. It felt like there was so much focus on it that the romantic relationship didn’t have time to breathe. It also made the romantic relationship a bit weird to me. It felt like it was too based in competitiveness and irritation to be fully healthy. That’s completely my opinion, though!
I also didn’t love Alison. There are some things I did love about her: how she embraced that while she did things differently, she did them in the best way for her and how she pushed herself to be the best thing she can be. But, there were some things I didn’t love about her. I felt like she was really judgey. I also felt like her emotional journey was an arch that was mostly coasting upwards towards the realizations and then a quick peak and gentle slide down. I would have liked to see more gradual, overall growth from her instead of something that happens all towards the end.
And I’m just not sure how I feel about Ethan. I wish he was given more of a chance to blossom and grow as well. I would have liked to discover more about him and for him to discover more about himself.
As for side characters, I loved Dylan! I totally feel like this character could be non-binary haha. I also loved Jamie and Alison’s parents!
Overall, this book kind of felt like it was the too-sweet of the syrup used in Italian ice. Sweet, yes, but not completely what I wanted. I don’t think it’s a bad book at all! It just wasn’t fully for me.