A&B, by J.C. Lillis
Series: Mechanical Hearts, Book #2
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Eighteen-year-old Barrie Krumholtz is a super-tall optimist hell-bent on a single goal: securing a slot on Pop University, a reality show for singer-songwriters helmed by her #1 musical idol. When she humiliates herself on national TV and loses a spot in the finals to smug balladeer Ava Alvarez, the door to Barrie’s well-hidden dark side swings open. Never a quitter, she uses her bitter envy of Ava to shape a bold new artistic direction, and people love it. But when Ava ropes her into a secret collaboration, it sparks feelings neither girl expected—feelings that might threaten their creative identities and distract them from their professional goals.
Can love and ambition live side by side? Is happiness an art-killer? They’ll figure it out with the help of a blue guitar named Fernando, a keyboard named Rosalinda, and a few new friends who feel like home.
(Rated R for Rivalry, Romance, and Really Neat Subplot featuring Brandon and Abel from HOW TO REPAIR A MECHANICAL HEART.)
WOC Main Character
Gay Secondary Characters
Enemies to Lovers
I just finished rereading A&B and I think I love it even more the second time. It’s one of those books that upon finishing I want to shout from the rooftops how good it is and tell everyone I know to read it. It can be read as a standalone but if you’ve read How to Repair a Mechanical Heart you’ll be pleased to know that we get lots more of Abel and Brandon. In fact, it’s really more of a two-for-one romance since we get to reconnect with those two as we follow Ava and Barrie’s main story arc. If you haven’t read HTRAMH then I implore you to do so because it’s absolutely adorable and another great example of Lillis’ stellar writing.
If became evident to me pretty early on that Barrie (and even her alter ego Evil B) are very relatable. I admired her will to see past her mother’s negativity to follow her hopes and dreams even when they lead her on a downward spiral. These are the learning lessons that we all must go through when we’re figuring out how to achieve our goals. They’re also the experiences that we remember and carry with us through life.
I also appreciated that the characters are flawed. Lillis seems to have a good handle on the teenage mind and she portrays her characters in a way that they’re aware of their shortcomings but they don’t become obsessed with them. This is something that I think any reader would be relieved to see but especially the younger ones. The author takes her understanding of human nature one step further by tackling feelings of jealousy and she does so in the most hilarious way. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much throughout a book. Barrie’s envy and jealousy is the fuel she needs to create the Sour Grapes Cabaret and the driving force behind her creative efforts. I enjoyed seeing her embrace her strongest talents and finding a way to make them work for her, and it was pretty cool to see her connect with the fans she gained by letting it all out on the stage, as well.
“ladythoughts12: Idk I feel like if more people talked about jealousy it wouldn’t feel so goddamn shameful like ‘you’re the world’s worst person if you aren’t instantly jumping out of your skin with joy when someone else gets what you want.’”
“virginia_creeper: …Like the song helped me bring my ugly feelings to the surface and purge them and laugh at them, and now I don’t have to waste my energy on them anymore.”
I really adored Barrie and Ava as a couple. Even though they were supposed to be against one another, it never felt malicious and you could definitely sense the chemistry between them right from the start. It was sweet to see this relationship bloom and seeing them collaborate on their music together made my heart sing.
“When you make things, people don’t fall in love with you. They fall in love with how you make them feel. They want heartbreak and drama and brokenness and envy from us. They want to see us feeling it, not faking it.”
The rest of the cast is also extremely likeable. Their quick wit and banter as they all play off one another was not only entertaining but also made them feel like one big supportive family that I wanted to be a part of. They made me wish they were real. I felt for them in times of woe and celebrated with them in times of cheer.
As if it wasn’t enough to be feeling all the best kinds of emotion there’s a twist at the end that I never saw coming. The writing is top notch and a good reminder of why I love to read so much. Sometimes it seems like the really great books are few and far between but this is definitely one of them.
Delightfully heartfelt and laugh out loud funny, I’m completely charmed by Lillis’ ability to capture the essence of her characters and tell their story so beautifully. A&B is the best F/F romance I’ve ever read and one of the overall best books I’ve read in a very long time. I really can’t recommend it enough!
“A&B and A&B. Two stories that need to keep going, forever and ever and ever.”
So about me. I am a veteran of eight tempestuous Internet fandoms, three Catholic schools, and countless crushes on fictional characters. I live in Baltimore with my awesome and patient family and a ragtag band of tropical fish, some of which will probably be dead by the time you read this. I obsess over thrift store art, homemade dollhouses, second-tier 80s sitcoms, koi ponds, retrofuturism, Game of Thrones, Edward Gorey, and peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
My mom still has my first batch of homemade books. I wrote them when I was six or seven, on stapled pieces of construction paper. They were about a family of talking silverware, a gray shoe who lost her mate, and my father’s grim adventures at his office and in “Giantland” (vastly different locales, though in both places he was shouted at by the disembodied head of his boss). I’ve been trying to top the Giantland story ever since. Maybe this will be my year.
You can purchase A&B from:
Barnes & Noble
Keep an eye out for paperbacks coming soon!
Or add it to Goodreads
I paid for this fine novel with my own bank.