Cover Whats Not to Love: A girl and boy stand back to back in front of a bookshelf full of books.

About the Book

Title: What’s Not to Love
Published: 2021
Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Cover Story: Brown Bag It
BFF Charm: Eventually
Talky Talk: Based On A True Story
Bonus Factors: Party Planning, Awesome Parents
Relationship Status: My Favorite Study Buddy

Cover Story: Brown Bag It

I appreciate the commitment to a continual aesthetic for each of their (unrelated) books, but this is probably the worst one. Aside from the fact that I’d rather picture the characters myself—feel free to use my mental images of Logan and Rory simply because of the newspaper connection, or, you know, do you—I’m pretty sure Ethan is only ever referenced as wearing, like, chinos, and Allison would never look so hot-girl cute. (No offense to Allison, but even she would say her sartorial choices lean more mid-thirties working girl professional.)

The Deal:

Allison’s current goals through her final semester of high school: get into Harvard, become valedictorian, win a prestigious journalism award as editor for her school paper, and beat Ethan at everything he does. Ethan has been the boy-sized thorn in her side since they clashed in freshmen English, and over the last four years they’ve gone head-to-head in school projects, Student Government, the paper, exams—you name it. Teachers rue the day Allison and Ethan are assigned to their classes; even the principal avoids making eye contact when she can. Allison knows their extreme competitiveness probably isn’t the healthiest thing in the world, but the sweet success of beating a jerk like Ethan is part of what drives her to her best.

When they’re forced to work together on an unavoidable assignment from the principal herself, Allison realizes that her combative relationship with Ethan has to change or the only thing that’s going up in flames will be her sanity.

BFF Charm: Eventually

BFF Charm with a sweatband on

Oh, Allison. Girl needs to UNCLENCH. I totally admire her drive and iron-will because god knows I was a world-class procrastinator who somehow managed to pull off being a good student despite that, but I was never at her level. As her mom puts it, she’s 17 going on 35, and consequently Allison gets very frustrated when she feels like she’s being talked down to because of her perceived maturity level. She also fields those warnings that she’s going to regret missing out on all the “typical” high school things like parties and beach bashes in favor of studying and pulling all-nighters during production week at the paper and says, eff that, I do my thing. And you know what? I fully understood her there. Not everyone finds fulfillment in the same things. I also felt like I was never the same age as my peers and wanted to be taken seriously.

But. Allison is also judging people with limited world experience, and as a mid-thirties person, I can also agree with her mom that despite Allison’s general maturity, she’s still seventeen and doesn’t freaking know everything. So I was fine with her getting put in her place now and then. Not everyone is going to like her—she’s prickly, she can be myopic, and she doesn’t suffer fools—but you’re never gonna be everyone’s BFF, so why try, right?

Swoonworthy Scale: 8

This isn’t going to be a romance for everyone, because Ethan and Allison can be very unlikeable and, frankly, a bit insane with how competitive they are and the lengths they’re willing to go to win. Without a POV in the novel, Ethan at first can be quite enigmatic—what is he truly thinking behind those smirks and unreadable glares? But, y’all, although I would never put up with their nonsense IRL (bless Allison’s BFF, Dylan, for putting up with as much as she did), I loved it in the book. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing where all that tension ends up. What I think saves this from being a completely toxic relationship is that when real feelings start to develop, Allison and Ethan do change the way they treat one another.

Talky Talk: Based On A True Story

Knowing this love story was loosely based on the authors’ relationship strangely made me more invested in Allison and Ethan’s journey. It sounds like they had a much less tumultuous rivalry, which is a real-life good thing but, I gotta say, I thoroughly enjoyed the mental warfare that led to some delicious, angst-filled moments. And as someone who also met her husband at seventeen, I have a soft-spot for young love that works out.

My favorite part about Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka’s writing is how real and messy their characters are. They can be immature teenagers, sure, but there’s also this glimpse of the kind of cool-ass person they will grow up to be after they’ve gone through more life lessons. There were so many little moments I could relate to like Allison’s maturity issues above, or Ethan’s self-doubt about figuring out his life, especially in the face of Allison’s certainty. Neither one is perfect, but dang it if I wasn’t rooting for them to make each other happy and find what they wanted from life.

Bonus Factor: Party Planning

Ethan and Allison are tasked with planning a ten-year reunion on a very limited budget, and while, very often, event coordinating can be a total logistical nightmare…I also love organization and seeing everyone have a great time at a fun event. What can I say? Sometimes I like a good challenge.

Bonus Factor: Awesome Parents Award

Allison’s sister is seven years older than she is, so her parents are a little older than most of her friends’ and have a very laissez-faire attitude towards raising her. It drives her a little nuts, but obviously, for the most part, she’s a good kid, so they must’ve done something right. I’d like to be a cool parent one day who takes bets on when their kid will date their hot rival.  

Relationship Status: My Favorite Study Buddy

It’s hard to find someone who gets you and the way you like things done. You don’t highlight entire paragraphs in your textbook, and I am very liberal in sharing my chemistry notes. It’s a match made in homeroom. When people see us pull our books and study guides they know to leave us alone, because once we start we are going to be pulling an all-nighter.

Literary Matchmaking

Today Tonight Tomorrow

If you’re not ready to be done with the academic-rivals-turned-lovers setting, then I know you’ll love Rachel Lynn Solomons’ Today, Tonight, Tomorrow as much as I did.

Starry Eyes

Jenn Bennett is one of my favorite YA contemporary romance authors, and Starry Eyes features former friends turned antagonists, which is almost as good as enemies-to-lovers (some would say even better because they know where all the bodies are buried).

P.S. I Like You

If you’re looking for an author with a prolific back catalogue and a solid grasp on high-school swoon, you can stop right here at Kasie West. Might I suggest P.S. I Like You?

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Penguin Teen. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. What’s Not to Love is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.