Skip to main content

Not Your #Lovestory YA Book Review


Not Your #Lovestory by Sonia Hartl
Overview: Macy never wanted to go viral. Sure, she wanted one of her videos to hit a million views on her YouTube channel where she shares movie reviews. Her plan is to use her ad money to get out of her tiny town and make it to Chicago. Instead, when she has a sort of meet cute with a boy at a baseball game that gets turned into a viral Twitter thread, all the trolls find her channel, and everyone is looking for updates on her nonexistent relationship with #baseballbabe. What looks like a chance to finally reach her channel goals quickly turns into an invasion of privacy that threatens everything she's built offline. Overall: 3

Characters: 3 I liked all of the characters involved. Macy is bright and fun. She's a great main character to follow. Paxton, her co-worker she has a crush on, is sweet and reserved. She has a couple friends and co-workers that help to build out the world. Eric, the boy from the baseball game, and Jessica, the middle aged woman who made the Twitter thread, are both cartoonishly evil in their hunger for internet fame. I did like that Hartl included Macy's mom and grandma heavily in the story, along with her grandmother's sewing group. They're a major part of Macy's life, and I always appreciate it when parents aren't ignored or written out. While all of these characters were fine, none of them felt particularly grounded. Sometimes, I felt like, if you looked too deep, they'd all have holes like Swiss cheese. You can tell Paxton is supposed to be the perfect boyfriend, and he has a tragic backstory that just felt overdone. I wish Elise and Midnight had gotten more time on the page because I honestly cared about them most. I had no problems with Macey, but I always felt like I couldn't quite get past the surface with her. They all existed to play their roll instead of becoming fully realized individuals.

Plot: 3 The main plot basically follows Macy from the meet cute at the game until the whole viral fame issue explodes and sours, and she has to figure out how to pick up the pieces. While I was originally fascinated by the idea of it, I wasn't a fan of the execution. The idea wasn't really expanded enough to carry the entire novel. The actual scenes, beyond the ones at the baseball game, where she grapples with what's happening on the internet don't feel fully baked. They're rushed to get back to her subplot with Paxton. I did like the scenes of her working and hanging out with her friends more, but those started to get repetitive too. There was no real tension in her relationship with Paxton, and I think that comes from him just being too perfectly drawn. The entire town wants them together from the start. I wanted more tension, plot twists, and new moments that actually contributed to some development. It seems like each character having such a defined roll and archetype really flattened the plot by making the good and bad guys and the resolution too obvious.
*Spoiler to the end of this section*
I also really didn't like the conclusion Macy came to with her channel. Before the baseball game, it sounded like she was making really interesting, thoughtful movie reviews and cosplaying as the characters (which sounds awesome), and she'd built up a small, but not insignificant, following from that. She decides to compromise the integrity of her channel to play into the #baseballbabe stuff, but when she deletes everything she posted about that, she also gets rid of all her movie reviews and shuts her whole channel down to share her movie reviews on a new, private Instagram. She also suddenly shifts her dreams to somehow owning a movie store at some point. It just didn't feel like a satisfying ending. A pushy, rude, awful guy from a random chance encounter makes her lose everything she'd built over the past couple years. And it seemed like the final message was that it was fine because she had Paxton and that's what matters. It didn't seem inline with the message that the rest of the book was trying to convey. One book I read earlier this year, Look, has a similar negative viral moment leading Lulu to reassess her relationship with the social media, but in that book, she stops posting for other people's approval and starts posting what's honest to herself. I wish that had been the case here.

Writing: 3 I wish there had been more time spent on fully developing the characters and the plot. I also wish there had been more research done on what it means to be a small YouTuber and what it's like to go viral. None of the experiences felt lived in and there were a lot of flaws that really bugged me about how the internet was portrayed here. It's hard to write what I call "high concept" contemporary that revolves around the internet or some extraordinary career that most people don't get to have lived experience with.
On a basic level, there were a lot of Twitter threads and all the comments had weird, random words hashtagged. There were hashtags in almost every Tweet in the book. This annoyed me because, in my experience, unless you're trying to promo something or you're jumping on a tag that's already trending, #'s in each post aren't really used like they are on Instagram. It just felt a bit out of touch me. (I wondered if I was off about this, but I saw other Goodreads reviewers pointing it out, and I do spend hours on Twitter a day).
On the YouTube front, I started a channel last month, and while I don't know what being a successful YouTuber is really like, I'm very familiar with how much work generally goes into it. From how it's framed in the book, it seems like Macy just pulls out her phone, talks for a while, and clicks upload. There's no mention of how much time really goes into editing, choosing a thumbnail, figuring out lighting and what you're going to say, and writing titles/tags/description boxes. You don't have to dwell on these intricacies, but mention them. Have her completing some of these tasks during scenes. It's necessary to get an authentic feel, and it honestly would've made the book cooler. I read internet creator/famous character stories to get little glimpses into that world, and it felt like Hartl didn't understand that enough to pull it off. I get that it can be hard to know all the intricacies, but if you regularly watch YouTube, especially in vlogs, you can start to piece together what goes into editing and actually producing a video. Also, Macy believes that it will be AdSense money that will get her out of town when, in reality, it's generally collaborations and sponsorships that allows full time YouTubers to support themselves. I also found it strange that it seemed like Macy didn't really have a social media presence to support R3ntal World. Her level of growth seems strange without it.
I know that this probably sounds like I'm harping on things that are insignificant, but Macy's entire character is built around her channel. I also think if you're going to write a book that's main interest points are YouTube and internet culture, you should do enough research that it really feels like you've soaked up and understood the world. That's what I loved about Look and even Loveless's fan fiction references. Those books have an effortless understanding of what it means to exist as a teen on the internet. This just felt clunky and not fully realized.
It's so important to have a genuine understanding of how teens use the internet if you're going to write it in YA. As a teen, I can say with authority that we basically live our whole lives on the internet (especially with the pandemic). We can spot weird flaws and inconsistencies easily, and from what I've seen from other teen bloggers, no one is connecting with how it's written here.
Also, before I wrap this up, I did want to write a little disclaimer about some of the content. When I was about halfway done, I was reading the back of the book and noticed the 14+ and found it weird because it really felt like a book that I would call 12+ and give to a kid transitioning between YA and middle grade. Towards the end, I figured it out. There are some pretty detailed, explicit sex moments that felt a little strong for the level of the rest of the book. There's nothing wrong with sex in YA, and I usually don't even mention it, but the detail in this book really came out of left field for me, and I figured I'd just put that out there so that you can evaluate your own comfort level before picking it up or passing it on to a younger kid. I was discussing it with a friend who also got an ARC and also doesn't have a problem with sex in YA, but we both found it overly graphic and off-putting. It was one of the reasons she decided to DNF it.
I was super disappointed after this book, especially reflecting back on it. I loved, loved, loved her debut, and this book had an even better synopsis, but unfortunately, it had none of the charms, humor, or thoughtfulness of the first book. I guess I just keep wondering what's happening.

More From This Author...
On This Theme...
New On YouTube
Links of Interest:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi: YA Book Review

  Yolk  by Mary H.K. Choi Overview: Jayne is in fashion school in NYC. Well, she's enrolled. It's debatable how often she actually attends. June has a fancy job in finance, or that's what everyone thinks. But when June gets cancer, the estranged sisters are pulled together because June needs Jayne's identity to get treatment. By pretending to be her sister to get the life-saving procedure, June is forced to come clean and pull Jayne back into her orbit. Though their relationship stays rocky, they're suddenly glued together, forced to admit that their respective glamorous lives are actually filled with roaches and trauma and missteps. Overall: 5+++ This book made me happy cry (that's never happened while reading) and sad cry. Characters: 5 The book is told from Jayne's perspective in an extremely close first person. This book has plot. Things happen in the way that life happens, but it's mostly just characters getting split open and probed for all their w

YA You Need To Read: April 2021

It's already April! School has been super super hectic, and I'm starting my old job as a bookseller again, so I haven't had much time for reading lately (ironic, I know), but I did want to talk about some books coming out in April that I can't wait to read (one day) that might inspire you to pick them up. I particularly can't wait for My Epic Spring Break Up! It's been on my list for a while now (I mean, look at that cover), but I also found some new books that hadn't been on my radar while browsing around the internet that I wanted to bring to your attention.  Let me know in the comments what April books you can't wait for!  Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Kahn  April 6th Zara has lived in Corpus Christi, Texas for a while. She's always dealt with the Islamophobia that's rampant in her high school, but when the star football player gets suspended, Zara becomes the target of a racist attack by the rest of the team that puts her and her family'

Once Upon a Quinceañera

Once Upon a Quinceañera   by Monica Gomez-Hera Overview: Carmen hasn't graduated high school, even though it's the summer after senior year. When her senior project fell through, Carmen has to scramble to complete the project over the summer. That means no college (not that she applied) and no future plans beyond becoming a Dream (floating around in a Belle costume at children's parties) with her best friend Waverley. So maybe it's not the summer Carmen wanted, but it's fine. At least until her ex-boyfriend who ruined everything, Mauro, also shows up on the team and then they get assigned to work her nemesis and younger cousin's quinceañera, which becomes the big event of the summer. Nothing ever quite goes to plan for Carmen, does it? Overall: 4 Characters: 4 I enjoyed hanging out with Carmen for a while. She's super witty and cynical in a way that I appreciate. I also loved reading about a character who's just out of high school and doesn't have a

Olivia Rodrigo'a SOUR As YA Books: Track By Track

This list turned out to be much harder to make than I anticipated when I came up with the idea last week. I set out to match songs to SOUR because what goes better with an album written by a 17/18 year old than YA books, but it turns out that YA books are just too hopeful for this album. Unlike many of these songs, I couldn't find books where the characters ended the book totally despondent and broken up. It took a bit of brainstorming, but I think I found a book to match the essence of each SOUR track. Le me know in the comments which songs on SOUR are your favorite. Mine are "brutal", "favorite crime", "deja vu", and "jealousy, jealousy".  1. "brutal" : War and Speech   by Don Zolidis War and Speech just radiates the same badass, discontented with teenage life energy as "brutal". This was the first book that popped into my mind when I thought about making this post. Just look at the cover. Sydney's life has been fa

Halsey's I Would Leave Me If I Could Poetry Review

  I Would Leave Me If I Could  by Halsey  I've started this review a couple times and scrapped all of them. I've written hundreds of reviews before, and this is the first time I have absolutely no clue how to review a book. It's not just because it's poetry. And it's not because I don't have thoughts on every single poem. I've read the book twice and scrubbed a million notes around her words and highlighted every poem on my second read through. I have so many favorites, and my heart feels like it's going to burst after finishing each poem. Halsey exceeded every expectation I had set to the high bar of her music. I almost feel like this book is too good for my review to remotely do it justice, so I don't even know where to begin.  This book is extremely vulnerable. Halsey has never held back on telling the ugly truth in her lyrics, but the poetry takes it so much farther. She has space to tell the entire story, fewer constraints than what will fit in

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston: NA Book Review

  One Last Stop  by Casey McQuiston Get Your Copy! Overview: August moved to New York for yet another fresh start and hopefully to finish out college (finally). In her attempt to find a place, she stumbles into an apartment full of interesting people who will quickly become her best friends. They fold her seamlessly into their lives. And then, on the subway, August meets a girl who will change her life forever. As time goes on, August finds out that Subway Girl, or Jane, is stuck on the Q metro line by some kind of energetic force. With the Q shutting down for maintenance by the end of the summer, August and her friends have to band together to get Jane unstuck, even if that means bouncing her back to 1977 where she came from and never seeing her again. Overall: 4 Characters: 5 I genuinely loved everyone in this book, and they gave me such warm, fuzzy, and hopeful feelings. The book would be New Adult if that was a category that publishing actually used (please can we make this more of

Swimming Lessons By Lili Reinhart Poetry Review

  Swimming Lessons  by Lili Reinhart  Overall: 5 This is the first poetry book I've ever read in its entirety outside of Shel Silverstein, so I've checked off one of my reading goals for the year with this one. I've now read a graphic novel and a book of poetry. I've been anticipating Swimming Lessons  so long that I can't believe it's actually in my hands. I've been a fan of Lili since Riverdale, and I've continued to be a fan of hers even when the show got a bit too ridiculous for me to keep watching every week. I've been excited for the chance to get to see something completely created a controlled by Lili.  I'm not sure what I expected from Swimming Lessons . I think I had almost no idea what it would be like or the topics it would cover. After the first couple poems, I was completely hooked. In the intro, Lili prefaces the collection by noting that poetry has always given her solace in knowing other people felt the same specific emotions tha

End of Summer YA to Preorder: August TBR

I know I always start these posts by panicking about how it's somehow already *insert whatever month here* because I'm always genuinely surprised when a new month rolls around and I realize it's already time to make a TBR post. But this month it's extra scary because I'm going to start this month at home like normal and end the month in a a brand new city, on my own, and starting in college in person for the first time. I have a road trip and a million boxes and probably a few tears in my future. (More on that later because I think I'm going to actually write a wrap up for this month sometime this week since there are about to be a ton of big changes!)  Anyway, here are the books I'm most excited for during the month of August. This list is a bit shorter than usual, but it has a bit of everything I love: a college YA/NA, a pop star story, and a book from an author I've enjoyed before.  If you're excited about any of these books, make sure you get you

Is YA For Me?

I've seen a lot of different conversations taking place on Twitter that all come back to a central theme. The YA space is controlled by adults. For the most part, they are the ones with the purchasing power, they have jobs in the industry, they are in a better position to amplify their voices about how they feel about different books and the category as a whole. I've been thinking about these conversations as a whole, and it really does come back to the intended audience not owning the space and what that means for the category and the conversations around it. As a teen who's heavily involved in the YA community, I sometimes feel awkward reading all the different, slightly varied takes from adults. Some make blanket statements for themselves and some work with teens and try to be a conduit to add them to the conversation. Very rarely do I come across a real teen who gets an amplified voice in the conversation (definitely go check out Vicky Who Reads on Twitter because,

Writing Morally Gray Characters: A Guest Post by Laurie Devore, Author of A Better Bad Idea

Laurie Devore is stopping by the blog today to talk about her new book from Imprint, A Better Bad Idea , which is out now! This mystery/thriller/romance fusion is Laurie's third book, and it's a new twist on her usual contemporary YA stories. For this guest post, Laurie talks about crafting morally gray characters that your readers will still feel attached to and cheer on. Here's her best writing tips:  I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of what people will do when they’re pushed to their brink. While my new novel, A BETTER BAD IDEA, may seem like a departure in some ways from my previous novels, I actually think their DNA is quite similar. The stakes are higher, but as ever, this book is about girls making unimaginable choices because of their circumstances, whether self-inflicted or not.   I’m constantly thinking about what it means to write morally gray characters, and I think the main takeaway from me is that I’m just much more interested in what people do and w