Narrator: Matthew Backer
Published by Penguin Random House Australia
Published on 30 August 2022
Genres: Adolescence, Contemporary, Performing Arts, Young Adult
Source: my home library
Add to Goodreads
Noah is in love with his online best friend. Which is a huge problem, for the following reasons:
1. His crush has no idea.2. Noah only knows him as his gaming avatar.3. There’s zero chance they’ll ever meet in real life.
So, when Noah sees an opportunity to secretly meet his crush, he takes it.
Even though he’ll have to join the cast of a local production of Chicago with his self-obsessed mother. Even though he’ll need to lie to his best (and only) friend. And even though he’ll have to sing and dance in front of actual people.
Because love is worth the risk. And, really, what could possibly go wrong?
Oh my gosh, I just loved everything about this.
I loved how unlikeable Noah was! I know that sounds weird, right? Noah was selfish, immature, manipulative, and mean to his mum. And I LOVED it. Because it made for excellent conflict. I didn’t like Noah quite as much as I loved Luca in Anything But Fine, but I still kind of liked him? My little chaos goblin. He writes down a grand plan and then invites the boy it’s about into his bedroom. Noah wasn’t a great student and made some exceptionally poor, manipulative choices, but I wouldn’t say he was stupid. I did get incredibly stressed at some points and literally shouted at him. But overall, I loved the book from Noah’s point of view, because there’s so much beautiful conflict in there. A geek decides to perform in an amateur musical with his mum, who he can’t stand, to manipulate a boy into falling in love with him. It’s just so great.
I will say though, that even though Noah couldn’t stand his mum, I thought Rose Mitchell was a very sympathetic character. Noah was so similar to her and he couldn’t see how miserable she was, seeking validation and desperate for approval since she’s not getting it at home.
At first, I was really interested in the possibility of Noah’s secret crush actually being someone else… like a female. I figured, wouldn’t that be such a great twist early on? Because the blurb only talks about Noah’s plan, not the plot for what happens after, and I figured that it was vague enough for the online crush to actually be a girl… then I remembered there’s one cover art with both boys on it, and the author is a gay man himself so is most likely writing another gay romance like Anything But Fine.
I loved how intimately yet casually Madden wrote about Chicago – turns out he was in a production himself, which explains everything. I loved how Noah figured out he might not be very good at performing, but he does enjoy it. I loved how awesome and unconditional Noah’s sister Charlie was with her love. She needs her own amazing story of love at University. I loved how Noah thought he was a friendless loser, but slowly he surrounded himself with people who cared about him. I loved how there was a friendship with a gay boy that didn’t turn romantic. I loved how Noah had these very strong opinions on himself, and it turned out he was wrong.
I loved so much how Luca and his friends from Anything But Fine had a cameo. If Madden only ever writes Ballarat teen gay love stories and cameos the other characters, I will read them all – and I don’t usually read a) books by men or b) books about men.
Matthew Backer did another incredible job of narrating the audiobook, and nailed each and every character voice – from Alex’s deeper, laid back attitude, to Rose’s over the top dramatics. It was just perfect and I really enjoyed it.
But most of all, I loved the ending. I really didn’t want Noah to end up with his love interest after all the lying an manipulating. That’s just so not okay in any way. And although I do sometimes believe in second chances, Noah started the relationship with a terrible, horrible lie, kept lying to cover it up, and that’s not good. Noah had so many red flags. I get that he’s young and dumb and teens make mistakes. But if this book had ended with a HEA, I would have been mad. Because that’s a TERRIBLE message to send people. Instead, I really liked the open-ended ending which left it up to me to decide what happened. At at some point, once trust has been rebuilt and Noah has matured A LOT and is nice to his mum, I would like to see him with the love interest, at least as cautious friends. They do have a lot in common and I’m still a romantic.