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Reviewed by Thora Moffat
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.
This book is an incredible story about the complexities of family and relationships. The story is told through the eyes of Ryan, a 17-year-old boy who has a very complex family life. His mother used to be married to Frank, Cody’s father, and they had 2 children together, Mel and Kate. After the divorce, Ryan’s mum married his dad and had him, and Frank married Heather and had Cody.

At the beginning of this story, Ryan hates Cody. As he and Cody are a similar age, they were constantly compared to each other, and unfortunately for Ryan, Cody is perfect in every way. However, one holiday, Cody and Ryan are being babysat at Cody’s family’s beach house by their sister Mel and they start to become friends. As their friendship grows, Ryan realises Cody’s life isn’t as perfect as he thought, and Cody is a lot more than a musical prodigy and people pleaser. Cody begins to see a side to Ryan that is bigger than his immature jokes and partying obsession. After the holiday their friendship progresses into something more. However, as family secrets are revealed, it becomes harder for them to keep their relationship a secret.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book was the complexity of the characters. From Ryan’s point of view, you get a deep understanding of his need to use jokes as a defence mechanism, and how it feels to always be second best. This becomes especially apparent with his sisters who seem to love Cody more than him, and how much it affects him although he tries not to show it. Cody is also a complex character as he battles the expectations of his parents and finding what he truly loves to do. The book really shows the reality of a broken family and how hard it is for all those involved. It also emphasises the problems with expectations from parents, both the high expectations that Cody’s parents have for him, but also how Ryan’s parents have somewhat low expectations of what he can do.

This book captivates you from the beginning, leaving you eager to read the next chapter. The descriptive language clearly details everything and the clever writing shows Ryan’s feelings clearly and in depth. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good romance, and anyone who perhaps relates to Ryan’s struggles. It was really inspiring how it depicted Ryan as a person who doesn’t care about much and then showed the other side to him and how that was not all entirely true.

Ryan is a very likeable main character, and one I’m sure many people can relate to. His battles with family and friends as well as his sense of self and other people’s views of him show the complexity of his character and how it is important not to judge someone too quickly. This is also reflected in Cody as Ryan begins to realise he is so much more than Ryan’s initial impression of him.

Overall, this book is a fun story that delves into issues that are rarely found in literature. It has cleverly written and relatable characters and draws you in from the first word.

- Thora is 16 years old and lives in Nelson.
Publisher: One Tree House
ISBN: 9781990035319
Format: Paperback
Publication: 2023
Ages: 16+
Themes: Coming of age, Contemporary