About the Book

Title: The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You
Published: 2016
Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Cover Story: Comic Love
BFF Charm: Make it Rain
Talky Talk: Bard Meets Buffy
Bonus Factors: Shakespeare, Diversity, Awesome Grownups
Factor: Pop Culture Overload
Relationship Status: Kindred Spirits

Cover Story: Comic Love

Purely judging this book by the cover, I’d figure the story had something to do with comics and teen love. And, well, it does. However, this looks like something even the most Photoshop-incapable person could whip up in five minutes, and doesn’t do any justice to the genius teenagers who love comics and pop culture and—spoilers—each other who are brought to life on the pages.

The Deal:

Beatrice “Trixie” Watson and the rest of the kids in the senior class at Messina Academy, known to the students as The Mess, have known each other most of their lives. They’re the best and the brightest—literally, the school is filled with kids with genius or close to it IQs. They’re also obsessed with the class ranking.

For pretty much the entirety of high school, Trixie has been flip-flopping the third or fourth position on the list with her sworn enemy, Ben West. (Her best friend Harper, and Harper’s long time crush, Cornell, have a strong hold on the top two spots.) Trixie’s goal for senior year is to finally lock in third place, and rub it in Ben’s stupid face—and the terrible moustache he grew over summer break.

BFF Charm: Make It Rain

BFF charm holding an umbrella

Trixie is exactly the kind of girl I wish I could have been in high school. She’s super smart, loves her friends, is totally open about her various geek interests, and has a great relationship with her parents. On a certain level, I saw signs of myself in her character—I’m not nearly as smart, nor did I have the access to pop culture when I was in high school that the Internet’s growth has enabled her to have, but I had a pretty good relationship with my parents. And I’d like to think that I’d be much more like her if I was a teenager now. (I’d certainly be equally as vocal about my Doctor Who love.)

Trixie might be the main character in The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You, but her friends/the secondary characters in the book are also equally worthy of BFF charms. Her best girl friends Harper and Meg are both super smart, too (obvs), and make weekly pilgrimages with Trixie to the comic book store to get comics and check out the collectibles. The guys on the outskirts of their small group are also pretty fantastic, even if they’re not all as geeky as the ladies.

Swoonworthy Scale: 8

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You is a modernized version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing in which the main character is a girl named Beatrice who has a long standing antagonistic relationship with a guy named Benedict. It’s pretty obvious where that relationship is heading.

Regardless of the obvious outcome, as a person who adores enemistry, their relationship is fabulous.

Talky Talk: Bard Meets Buffy

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You is filled with punchy dialogue and characters who can pull off verbal sparring like they’re in an episode of Veronica Mars (which, yes, is one of the many properties mentioned by name in the novel). They’re geniuses, but when they mention smart things, it doesn’t come across like they’re bragging. Lily Anderson has done an excellent job of creating extraordinary teenage characters who seem like they could be real people, albeit unusual ones. She’s also done a great job at mixing teenage nerd life with the classic Much Ado About Nothing themes of mistaken identities and deception, but has modernized it and updated it (i.e., there’s no infidelity scenario).

Bonus Factor: Shakespeare

One of my favorite classes in college was my Shakespeare lecture class. Every Tuesday and Thursday for a semester, I lugged a giant collected works textbook to a classroom and took frantic notes in the margins of plays and sonnets for an hour until my professor’s need for a cigarette overtook his need to expound on the meanings behind the words. (Our class was supposed to be an hour and a half.) But even before that class, I always enjoyed reading and discussing Shakespeare’s plays, and watching as many adaptations of his works as I could. Much Ado About Nothing is one of my favorite of his plays, and even though The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You isn’t a straight adaptation, it’s still really fun to find/look for the parallels.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

Not unexpectedly, there is a lot of diversity at the Mess. Thankfully, Anderson doesn’t make a big deal out of it. They’re just a bunch of kids from a variety of cultural and racial backgrounds who find themselves at the same school with the same interests. (Like it should be.)

Bonus Factor: Awesome Grownups

As much as I saw myself in Trixie—or wish I was like her when I was her age—I really found myself leaning more toward wanting to be like her parents, and have a kid like her someday. (I’m getting old, guys.) Her parents are equally as nerdy as Trixie is, so she obviously comes by her proclivities naturally. I mean, their last name is Watson, and they have a dog named Sherlock. And later in the book, there’s a text exchange between Trixie and one of her friends in which Trixie complains about the fact that her dad is trying to get them all to change their last name to Cumberbatch (while they’re watching Sherlock). Total #lifegoals.

Factor: Pop Culture Overload

Trixie and her friends make many, many awesome pop culture references over the course of the story, and with each one made, the nerd in me smiled larger and larger. (Me, basically, while reading: “THESE ARE MY PEOPLE.”)

However, if you’re not as enamored with the nerdy side of life as I am, the sheer amount of references might be a tad overwhelming.

Relationship Status: Kindred Spirits

I had high hopes going into our meeting, Book, that we would really hit it off. And I wasn’t disappointed. You’re a fun mix of so many things I love.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from St. Martin’s Griffin. This review was originally posted on Kirkus Reviews in exchange for monetary compensation, which did not affect or influence my opinions. The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.