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Reviewed by Ashika Hira
Opening sentence
I spot him as soon as I arrive at the party. At first I think it’s only someone who looks like Cody, because seeing him at Jamie Anderson’s birthday is like spotting a vegan at a steakhouse.
Jax Calder's The Other Brother is a wonderful romance that can easily be finished in one sitting. It was very hard to put down, and had me hooked from the first chapter. This book was published by One Tree House in 2023, and is the perfect book for those who want a nice, quick read. The Other Brother follows the story of Ryan and Cody, who are NOT step-brothers, NOT related in any way, but share two half-sisters. Told from Ryan’s perspective, they are polar opposites, however once they spend the summer together they learn more about each other and it turns out that Cody isn’t the nemesis Ryan once thought he was. We as the reader get to experience how the boys unknowingly become friends after being forced together at Cody’s family beach house, and see how that friendship then blossoms into love. This is definitely not a simple romance, but one that still tugs on the heartstrings, and was the perfect read for the summer!

Ryan has always been the jokester, the one who no one takes seriously, and Cody - his not quite nemesis - has always been the perfect brother; musical genius, academic weapon and overall favourite brother, and that has been fine with Ryan. He was content to be the prankster, always messing around with his half sisters Mel and Kate, but Ryan has always been a bit jealous of how perfect Cody is, being compared to him his whole life. But the good thing is, he gets to spend the summer at Cody’s family beach house, where he can surf all day and have a good time. However, Cody wasn’t supposed to be there. Cody was supposed to be in the city, but when Ryan comes in after a surf to find him in the kitchen he is more than annoyed that his chill time is interrupted and he now has to put up with Mr Perfect. But he also can’t ignore the sense of excitement at getting to spend time with Cody, who Ryan has to admit isn’t as bad as he thought, although he’s still a bit too perfect for Ryan’s liking. Like, who offers to do the dishes?! However, as they spend more time together, Ryan discovers there’s more to Cody than just his seemingly perfect exterior. Through this time together they discover more about each other and themselves, and unknowingly find themselves becoming friends, and then something more.

But the beach house isn’t their reality, and when they go back to the ‘real world’ outside of their little bubble at the beach, they find things to not be as straightforward as they were during summer. Their complicated family doesn't make things any easier, and they must learn how to navigate their feelings for each other as well as their family's relationship.

This is a lovely read, nice and short but still has a depth to the characters and storyline which I didn’t expect for the length of the book. I really liked how Calder also didn’t make the summer holiday the main part of the novel, as I've seen done in many other similar novels. He put equal focus, if not more, into the aftermath of them falling in love, which really allowed the readers to see the reality of what happens after, and makes it all the more realistic and relatable.

I loved the humour throughout this book, it definitely had me snickering to myself multiple times and was woven into the novel so seamlessly that it often took me by surprise, but in the best way possible. I really admire how Calder, and many other talented authors, are able to incorporate comedy into their work so flawlessly, as it really hooks the reader in and urges us to keep reading - at least that’s what happens to me!

I would have loved if we could have heard the story from both of their perspectives as it would have added more depth to the storyline and allowed us to better understand the characters. Cody seems like a complex character and I would have loved to delve deeper into his character and thoughts. He seemed very relatable, especially to someone like me who loves music and also strives to be perfect - though not to Cody’s extent. It would have been interesting to take a look into his mind and see how he deals with the pressure put on him by his parents, but also by himself, which could have also been a key takeaway from this novel. By doing this it would have allowed Cody’s character to develop more and made him, and the novel overall, more relatable to readers like myself. However, I understand that if Calder wanted to make a shorter read then doing this would have possibly made it longer and a bit more complex - but that doesn’t stop me from wishing!

The Other Brother also has a lovely message behind it, which ultimately comes down to prioritising your own happiness and trying not to focus on other people's opinions and judgments. Cody says at one point: “I can't spend my entire life doing stuff just to please my parents or worrying about what people will say. Ultimately, I've got to do what makes me happy.” I think that it is so important to do things that make you happy and I’m so glad that they are able to eventually understand this. It can be really hard to shut out other people's judgments, and I think this is something that everyone can relate to on some level, but doing what you truly enjoy without worrying about others’ opinions is so freeing and we are able to see this in The Other Brother. I think that this is such an important message to take away from Calder’s novel, and something we can all learn from and adapt into our lives.

This was such a fun and lighthearted read, and despite its length it didn’t lack depth which I think is quite rare and something I haven’t encountered in similar books. I would definitely recommend this book if you’re short on time and want to read a cute romance with a solid storyline and characters.

- Ashika is 18 and lives in Hastings.
Publisher: One Tree House
ISBN: 9781990035319
Format: Paperback
Publication: 2023
Ages: 16+
Themes: Coming of age, Contemporary