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Final review copy sent by Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review.
Content/Trigger Warnings: Brief mentions of divorce, racism, homophobia, toxic relationships, mentions of cultural appropriation, panic/anxiety attacks, scene of ableist speech
“It’s weird, like fate is constantly trying to make us dance together, but no matter what I do, I can’t get past my two left feet.”
Friends, this was such a cute and delightful read! And let me just add, if you’re going on vacation or doing some traveling, this is the perfect book to pick up. I was completely surprised that I was able to read this within two days while on vacation and I couldn’t find the means to set this book down (except for, you know, sleep). I was was really into the story, but this is an enemies to lovers and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good enemies to lovers book?
The Mori family and the Moreno family have been rivals for a long time now, but when a new fusion café threatens everything, the sons of both families step up to the plate to do whatever they can to save the businesses. Despite having a strong desire to escape, Theo hatches a brilliant plan to help his family make enough money to pay rent and stay a float. Meanwhile, Gabi Moreno is struggling to come up with anything and when he hears Theo has been work hard on a side business, Gabi wants to know more. Together, they might just be able to save their parents’ businesses and in the process, learn more about each other.
Can I just taker a moment to screech from the roof tops that there are a lot of Romeo and Juliet vibes to this story? Oh ho, friends, there are so many moments that make me think about the the Montagues and the Capulets that I geeked so hard. Now, I’m not saying this is a retelling, far from it. There’s just a lot of scenes and moments that feel very reminiscent to Romeo & Juliet. Plus, I feel like we never really see many books that have the Montagues and the Capulets feel to it anymore. I don’t think this was the author’s intention, but it was just a really neat thing I wanted to address.
I really liked the build to Theo and Gabi liking one another, and I enjoyed how we got to see both sides of those feeling. Yes, it’s true, we have duel perspectives and can see everything from Theo and Gabi’s perspective. Which was a great move on the author’s part and really allows us to see how these two develop feelings for one another. Theo and Gabi have the grumpy sunshine vibe about them for a lot of the book and I think a lot of readers will enjoy seeing their dynamics collide. Even more so with the almost-kiss scenes! And if I haven’t mentioned already, Theo and Gabi are an interracial couple which, let me tell you, we need more of and it was so nice to see that in this book. But, there was chemistry lacking from both of them and I wish the author would have done more to make it feel like Gabi and Theo had a real connection with each other.
“He’s got that goofy grin on his face as he stammers out an apology like he doesn’t run me over every other practice.”
Despite the things I really loved and enjoyed about this book, there were a lot of things I didn’t like about the book. Actually, I found it was a lot of little things that kind of just added up over the time of reading this book. Usually little minor things don’t bother me that much, but some of these things just couldn’t be ignored.
My biggest issue is on page 25 of this book. There’s a scene where Theo mentions his uncle watching videos of, and I quote, ‘barely legal girls’. Though age is never specified, this single sentence made me really uncomfortable and it was the kind of sentence that I couldn’t get out of my head because it bothered me so much. Not to mention, I felt that this was a detail that didn’t need to be added into the story. As the reader, we can telling right from the beginning how terrible the uncle is and we just didn’t need that minor detail added.
To add to the list of things that could have been handled better, literally all the characters could have been done better. There’s no growth of any of the characters. Actually for the majority of the book, a lot of the characters are just really horrible. Theo is the biggest example that I can think of. Theo is just constantly filled with anger and takes that anger out on everyone. We never see any personal or emotional growth on his part, and at the end he’s just magically not angry anymore. Same goes for Gabi. Gabi never speaks up for himself and never calls his friend out on her crummy attitude, and how poorly she treats him throughout the entire book. Gabi stays timid and constantly comes off as a people pleaser, who refuses to get mixed in confrontation. Even the parents don’t really tickle my fancy. Actually, I’m pretty sure I disliked both families the most out of all the characters. They almost come off as neglectful parents because they’re very passive, they don’t communicate with their children, Gabi and Theo receive no support from them in anything they do, and the list goes on. We see no growth from them as side characters. However, I will give credit where credit is due and we do learn that Theo’s mother constantly loves and supports Theo by standing up to her family, and protecting Theo from that homophobia. And we do have a scene where Gabi’s father apologizes for his homophobic remarks and does states that they’re going to trying to be more accepting.
“I know I can’t fix everything, but if it takes losing one dream to save another, I guess that’s a trade I’m willing to make.”
Overall, this wasn’t a terrible book and there’s a lot of good within this book. However, I wish I could have given this a higher rating or loved this book more, but realistically this book didn’t live up to my expectations. I think there are going to be many readers who fall in love with this book for so many reasons and the little issues won’t matter as much to them. However, I think that for some readers they’re going to want more from these characters or want just a dash more of chemistry. For me, personally, I still recommend this book because there’s diversity we don’t often see in literature, as I mentioned that grumpy sunshine vibe, and that’s not even counting the Romeo & Juliet vibes too! I did enjoy this book for the most part, but definitely wish some things were done differently.