How (Not) to Ask a Boy to Prom, by S.J. Goslee
Goodreads ¦ Amazon
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: April 23, 2019
Length: 240 pages
Times Read: Once
Nolan Grant is sixteen, gay, and (definitely) still a virgin. He’s never had a boyfriend, or even been kissed. It’s not like Penn Valley is brimming with prospects. And when his big sister stages an elaborate “prom-posal” so Nolan can ask out his not-so-secret crush, Nolan freezes. He’s saved from further embarrassment by bad boy Bern, who, for his own reasons, offers to fake-date Nolan.
Nolan thinks it’s the perfect way to get Daphne off his back and spend the rest of the year drawing narwhals, tending to plants, and avoiding whatever died under his bed a few weeks ago. What he doesn’t think about is Bern’s ex-girlfriend, who seriously wants to kill him.
I don’t know why S.J. Goslee hasn’t been on my radar before this, but you can bet she is now.
♥ A truly excellent opening line:
“Spring renewal comes with many things–Sheffield family lawn-game tournaments, my part-time job at the Talbot plant nursery, an inexplicable increase in dick drawings on the outside of my locker.”
It really feels like we learn a lot about our main character from the start with this, doesn’t it? Nolan Grant is a junior, and has been adopted by the Sheffield family after a lifetime in foster care and group homes. We don’t get a lot more information on the ins and outs of the -madoption, how the Sheffields found him or why they chose him, but it doesn’t really matter because their family is so full of love and acceptance. Nolan and Daphne have one of the best sibling relationships I’ve ever seen, with family traditions, game nights, and movie screenings in the backyard. He describes Daphne as his “soul-twin, my one great platonic love affair”, and it’s honestly beautiful and I just love them.
♥ The cinnamon roll that is Bern. If you’re only taking things from Nolan’s side, you might think that Bern is a jerk at the beginning. After all, he asked Nolan out during freshman year as a joke just to mess with him. Nolan felt bullied and Bern has always been short and rude to him ever since.
But the thing is, Nolan is kind of an asshole, as his friends point out to him about halfway though the book. It’s complete news to Nolan, but once he hears it, he makes a conscious effort to recognize his moments of asshole-ness and work on them. When Bern’s friends are incredibly protective of him, Nolan is understandably confused. As far as he knows, they’re only fake dating, so there’s no reason that Bern should need protection. And besides that, Nolan is the one who was hurt before, the one who hid in the bathroom, sobbing into his sister’s shoulder.
But what if Bern wasn’t messing around all those years ago? What if he meant it, he actually wanted to go out with Nolan, and instead Nolan yelled at him to leave him alone? What if he went home and cried about it too?
What if it was all a massive misunderstanding that left two boys hurt?
♥ The fake dating trope always gets me, and I loved how very meta it was in the book, with Nolan looking it up online and finding all the fanfic about it. Things are especially tense here, as Nolan doesn’t seem to at all consider that Bern might be bi. Instead, he worries tirelessly about his growing feelings for a straight boy, and his concern that Bern just wants to get back together with his ex-girlfriend.
♥ And one more thing–it’s just REALLY FUNNY, GUYS.
“Bern smells like chocolate chip cookies and bad decisions.”
“‘You had a panic attack–‘
‘A very small one!’