Book Review by El: The Love Interest, by Cale Dietrich

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the love interest cale dietrich
The Love Interest, by Cale Dietrich
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (MacMillan)
Release Date: May 16, 2016

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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.

Young Adult
M/M Pairing
M/F Pairing
Gay Character
Bisexual Character
Straight Characters
Action/Suspense
Love Triangle
Spies
High School

Two boys, one girl. In a YA novel, that’s a recipe so bland that I can imagine the face you’re making at your screen right now. But what happens when the two boys start falling for each other, instead of for the girl?

From the moment I read the blurb for this book, I knew with my entire heart that this was the book for me. YA! Spies! TROPE INVERSIONS LIKE CRAZY! The Love Interest might not have been written for me, but it was definitely written for people like me: readers who love a smart, snarky, and unique take on some very over-used tropes. Plus, did I mention the spies?

The first thing you need to know about this book is that it’s not pulling any punches. In fact, there were moments were it made me distinctly uneasy. Teenagers who are effectively brainwashed and tortured to be perfect Love Interests and spies? Human beings physically and emotionally manipulated for a specific purpose? Yeah, it’s brutal. But it’s also done with full awareness, with intent– Dietrich wants you to squirm and feel uncomfortable.

I’m naked on a steel slab. I’m nothing more than a chunk of beef. Meat, to be sliced and chopped and turned into something usable. All offcuts will be discarded.

At the same time, the book doesn’t take itself seriously 100% of the time.

“No one finds the love of their life while they’re a teenager.”

“You haven’t ready any YA novels recently, have you?”

But it’s the emotions in this book that really grabbed me. The book is in  Caden’s POV, and through his eyes we get to experience his elation at being free from the LIC facility, his fears, his frustrations… and his dawning realization that he’s falling in love with Dyl– his enemy and opponent.

Guys, the romance in this is so beautiful.

There are a million reasons to stop.

I ignore them all and kiss him.

Two young men who are terrified, who know that their relationship is forbidden, and who refuse to give it up even in the face of excruciating death. Add in some really fantastic secondary characters (including Juliet, who is totally badass, and oh man I love her so much!) and you have a novel that keeps your flipping pages and on the edge of your seat.

The end was a tiny bit of a let-down, in that it felt extremely rushed after the intricate set-up for the first 95% or so. But the rest of the book was absolutely delightful. I love smart YA books, which subvert tropes and have engaging, three-dimensional characters. The Love Interest absolutely nailed that for me.

Cale Dietrich is a YA devotee, lifelong gamer, and tragic pop punk enthusiast. He was born in Perth, grew up on the Gold Coast, and now lives in Brisbane, Australia. The Love Interest is his first novel.

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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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