Title: The Love Interest
Author: Cale Dietrich
Genre: YA Fiction
My Rating: ★★
Caden is a Nice, the boy next door. Dyl is a Bad, the tortured and dangerous hot guy. After years of training to become spies–specifically, the Love Interest of a Chosen (a person who will one day likely have great influence and power)–the two are thrust into the real world to compete in making a brilliant young woman fall in love with them. When the two begin to have feelings for each other, their mission becomes even more complicated. Worse, whoever she doesn’t chose will die.
I was so looking forward to this book. I first saw it in Writer’s Digest, where they put a spotlight on debut authors. The cover snagged my attention first, followed by the odd but compelling premise. Two boys who fall in love with each other instead of the girl they’re supposed to? Heck ya!
Unfortunately, I knew I was doomed from the beginning. The voice and the dialogue felt stilted and juvenile. Yes, I’m an adult–wait, did I just say that? All right, yes, I admit it: I am physically an adult. But I read a lot of YA. There’s stuff that feels super kid-lit and stuff that has crossover appeal. This did not have crossover appeal. It just felt too…bubbly for what was happening. Perhaps it was because the story is told from the Nice’s perspective. If it had been told from the Bad’s perspective, there likely would’ve been a lot more angst.
The plot, especially in the last half, felt extremely over the top. When I was going in, I didn’t realize this would be a life or death situation and that the loser would be incinerated. I’m generally all for action, but I could’ve done without it here. I wanted the author to focus more on Caden and Dyl’s relationship. Something more realistic would’ve been more compelling. There’s also so much attention to clothes. Like, every scene there’s a description. Honestly, who cares?
I’ll admit, there are a few gems. Caden asks his coach, “Wouldn’t it be better to send us in when we’re a bit older? No one finds the love of their life while they’re a teenager.” To which she replies, “You haven’t read many YA novels recently, have you?” Dietrich pokes fun at trends in YA. How boys are expected to behave in those stories. Not like persons in their own right, but someone to cater to the girl’s every whim. The boys alter their appearances and their personalities to conform to the girl’s desires. They put her ahead of themselves at all times. It’s nice to see someone take that love triangle trope and turn it on its head. It made me think more about my own characters and how I want them to be fully fleshed out individuals.
Overall, I really wanted to like this book. The idea intrigued me, but I didn’t like the execution. It’s a debut and unfortunately it reads like a debut.