Title: The Love Interest
Author: Cale Dietrich
Genres: YA, Contemporary
There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.
Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?
Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.
What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.
The Love Interest was one of my most anticipated releases of 2017, and I was so sure that it was going to be a new favorite of mine. The synopsis sounded absolutely incredible to me. Spies + LGBT+ themes? YES. SIGN ME UP. I’M GOING TO LOVE IT. Sadly, I didn’t love it, and this was probably one of my disappointing (and hurtful) reads this year. But let’s start with the positive, shall we?
The plot of the book was incredibly exciting. I loved how it turned the whole love triangle trope upside down. I personally don’t really love love triangles, so I will definitely be thinking about this book when I encounter one in the future, and just pretend like the 2 love interests are spies. It’ll make it a lot more exciting.
I also felt like the book was incredibly easy to read. It’s easy to get sucked into it, and it’s one of those books where it feels like you can read 100 pages within 5 minutes, and that’s great.
Another thing that I quite liked where the characters, because they were very morally grey, and I love characters like that. Sadly, they felt very one-dimensional. While the entire concept of Caden being a Nice but feeling like he doesn’t belong in that category is interesting at first, he keeps having that conversation in his head and with other people over and over again, and it just gets a bit boring and (obviously) very repetitive. Also, Juliet had so much potential! She was so incredibly sweet and intelligent, and she invented a lot of stuff which was amazing but again, she was so one-dimensional? She deserved a lot better.
So, that (obviously) moves us into the ‘things I didn’t like’ part of the book…
This book lacked so much world building. We know that there’s a company called the Love Interest Company and that they train guys to make girls fall for them, and girls to make guys fall for them so they can spy on them, but that’s it. Who funds all this? How exactly does it work? At the beginning you’re led to believe that it’s a giant company, but at the end the building is described as not being that big at all, so what is it? Is this only an American thing or does the LIC also exist in other countries? There were so many plot holes that it just became a bit messy.
If you read the previous paragraph you’ve probably noticed something: the world is incredibly allo cishet. The only queer people in this book were the 2 main characters and that’s literally it. The entire company focuses on straight relationships too. This also causes more plot holes, like what happens when a ‘target’ is queer?
(Spoiler) Besides, this big, giant company which has existed for hundreds of years is able to be taken down by 5 teenagers, who don’t really have a plan, within a day? Yeah, not realistic at all.
Now, let’s talk about the thing in this book that really hurt me. And this includes spoilers!
The Love Interest is marketed as being an m/m spy romance, and that was exactly why I picked it up. I really needed a good queer romance at the time, and this seemed perfect.
I fell in love with Dyl and Caden’s relationship from the start. They were incredibly cute together, going on long drives, looking at the stars, kissing, holding hands, going on a ferris wheel, etc. It was so great! But then came the moment where Juliet had to choose between who would be her partner and who would get killed (without her knowing of course) and she chose Caden.
Caden couldn’t handle the thought of Dyl, his first love, being killed, so he put his life on the line for him, confessing everything to Juliet, and going to the cabin where Dyl was planning to kill himself before the LIC could get to him. When Caden got to him and explained what he had done, and that he was there to save him, Dyl replied by saying “It’s not because of that gay thing, right?” and then confessed that he was faking the entire relationship, and that he was straight.
I felt devastated. I picked this book up because I needed a good queer romance, and now I was being… queerbated? This hit me so hard that I cried. This was just too much for me at the time. But this was an ARC, so I felt like I had to keep reading. So I did.
In the 100 pages that followed, Dyl and Caden didn’t interact much. They didn’t have any real conversations and things were just (understandably) awkward. Then, there was an epilogue, and Caden and Dyl were together again.
Now, turns out, there wasn’t any queerbating. Luckily. But the book hurt nonetheless. To me, it very much feels like Dyl’s sexuality was used to shock people. If the author had explored Dyl’s sexuality after the ‘I’m not gay’ scene, I could’ve understand if the scene was there. One’s sexuality is complicated after all, and accepting the fact that you have feelings for someone you feel like you ‘shouldn’t be’ having feelings for is hard. Believe me, I know. But nothing like that happened. The scene literally had no purpose in the book, other than to function as some sort of ‘plot twist’, and that just doesn’t sit well with me at all.
I really feel like this book should’ve at least been a duology. That way Dyl’s sexuality might’ve been explored, there might’ve been less plot holes, the characters could’ve been less one-dimensional and the ending could’ve been a bit more believeable. (Or, just a thought, they could’ve just skipped the ‘gay thing’ scene completely.)
(No spoilers) So, all in all, I really didn’t have a good time reading The Love Interest. It had some fun elements, and the concept was amazing, but it just ended up hurting me.