Ah high school. It’s so bizarre to think I graduated six years ago. I haven’t walked the halls or gone to classes and yet this book pulled me right back in and I loved it. With this enemies to lovers story, two rivals do everything in their power to outdo the other leading to an intensely passionate relationship that I am IN LOVE WITH.
Thank you to Penguin Teen for sending me an ARC for review. This is an honest, spoiler free, review and all thoughts and feelings are my own.
What’s Not to Love by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Published: April 20, 2021
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
An academic enemies-to-lovers YA with all the nerdy drama, high school antics, and heartpounding romance of the Netflix original series Never Have I Ever
Since high school began, Alison Sanger and Ethan Molloy have competed on almost everything. AP classes, the school paper, community service, it never ends. If Alison could avoid Ethan until graduation, she would. Except, naturally, for two over-achieving seniors with their sights on valedictorian and Harvard, they share all the same classes and extracurriculars. So when their school’s principal assigns them the task of co-planning a previous class’s ten-year reunion, with the promise of a recommendation for Harvard if they do, Ethan and Alison are willing to endure one more activity together if it means beating the other out of the lead.
But with all this extra time spent in each other’s company, their rivalry begins to feel closer to friendship. And as tension between them builds, Alison fights the growing realization that the only thing she wants more than winning…is Ethan.
Opening this book, we get to meet Alison, our protagonist, and her nemesis, Ethan, as they prepare to take an AP English test. Alison has food poisoning from dinner the night before that she got with her friend Dylan and her date, and forced herself to go to school while throwing up to take this test and beat Ethan. While I had healthy rivalries in high school (comparing scores and doing our best to “beat” the other person with better scores), it was never to this level. Alison and Ethan’s rivalry is all consuming – everything they do is centered around it: school work, extra curriculars, hobbies, even learning how to drive is a competition for them.
Meeting the two, I could see the passion behind their rivalry. They put in the effort at 110% just to say they won and everything between them is a competition. I was surprised with how extreme this was and how intense they got. Honestly, I should have expected their romance to be just as intense, but wow did I underestimate the passion between these two.
The romance in this book was phenomenal. I could see it slowly developing over time, as each of them got sad when the other wouldn’t play along, or the “hatred” in their eyes. As they slowly got closer to being more like friends, I could tell that something was waiting to snap and wow, did it snap. Their first kiss was an explosion of emotions and I literally was breathless reading it. Once I could catch my breath and understand what I just read, I was SCREAMING! I texted Alexa my reactions and it was a lot of screaming and agreeing with said screaming. Be sure to check out Alexa’s review over at Writing the Universe – we agree on a LOT!
When I wasn’t completely geeking out over their kiss and the chemistry between them, I was appreciating the growth that Alison and Ethan go through. Alison starts off pretty judgemental – she thinks she has all the answers and that things fit in their boxes. Her older sister, who moved home after quitting her job and being dumped by her fiance, is a deadbeat with no goals or aspirations. Her best friend Dylan is too blind to see how her ex-girlfriend Olivia treated her and doesn’t allow herself to find better. And Ethan? He’s a stuck up prick who loves nothing more than ruining her life.
But as Alison grows and learns, she realizes the error of her ways. Not everyone finds themself in high school or even right out of it. There’s no deadline on when you have to know what you want to do with your life and things are sometimes better when they change or come unexpectedly. It’s such a great message and I really loved watching her go through that emotional journey and come to a more balanced and accepting opinion.
Overall, this book is just top tier. The messages are wonderful, the romance is great, and the squeal factor is 10/10! I found myself falling in love with this book and I’m so excited to read the author’s other books now. I feel like I’ve found a new favorite duo.
If you’re looking for more great YA romance novels, check out their other books, like Always Never Yours!