❈ I received an ARC of The Love Interest from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group in exchange for a review ❈
Title: The Love Interest
Author: Cale Dietrich
Publication Date: May 16th 2017
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Thriller, LGBT
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.
Teens transformed into Young Adult tropes? A play on M/F/M love triangles that ends with the boys getting together? A mysterious organization that creates teenage spies? All that sounds like a recipe for a stellar new Young Adult novel, right?
And it is what The Love Interest had. However, The Love Interest failed to make use of all of its unique qualities, ultimately suffering from a lack of character depth and a plot that essentially goes nowhere.
Cale Dietrich’s debut novel, The Love Interest, follows two boys who were groomed from childhood by the Love Interest Compound to be spies. They are either given the role of the Bad or the Nice, and are trained to act like the classic Bad Boy or Nice guy. Then, they are selected to woo a girl who has potential to have a monumental impact on society. Whoever wins, lives and becomes a lifelong partner and spy. The other dies.
Despite not being a fan of teenage spies, I was psyched to read The Love Interest. The Love Interest promises a play on Young Adult love triangles that ends up with the boys falling for each other along with trope subversions. Anytime there’s a new Young Adult release with gay main characters, I’m excited. The trope aspect was a bonus. I wanted to like The Love Interest so badly. After finishing it, I was left with mixed, disappointing feelings.
In the beginning, there were moments when I loved The Love Interest. There were some great subversions to Young Adult tropes. Caden’s, aka the Nice’s, inner thoughts about how he was placed into this role of being a Nice were strong points of the novel. A ton of potential for exploring how the roles we are given define us was there. Caden’s thoughts about how he wasn’t such a nice guy and trope subversions ended up being dropped at the midway point. As someone who loves analyzing tropes, I was extremely disappointed because beginnings of interesting dialogue about the Bad Boy vs Nice Guy trope in YA were there, but they didn’t quite get there.
Much like with Caden, there other characters had potential, but were not taken advantage of. The female characters suffered greatly from one dimensional-ness. Their lack of depth and character along with the minute focus on them was detrimental to the story. Jules, the girl who Caden and Dylan were assigned to, was supposed to be this science genius who invents in her free time. She didn’t come off as anything remarkable. The fact that she was chosen by the LIC made it seem like she would be this really awesome, kickass girl and then we are introduced to her and she felt flat. I don’t like the doormat comparison, but if any character is a doormat, she is. The biggest character disappointment for me was Natalie. She was fascinating and opened up a lot of doors plotwise, but she was shoved aside for the Caden (who still didn’t get the depth he should’ve) when she could’ve been taken advantage of. Natalie’s only use was to do work that Caden needed to progress his plot line.
Right after I hit the midway point, I knew The Love Interest wasn’t going to be a new favorite of mine. I became bored and started wondering why I was supposed to care about the characters. I trekked on in hopes the resolution would remind me why I liked the book so much at the start.
At the end, the book fell apart, mostly due to the fact that there wasn’t much world building. It became hard to ignore how little of an explanation about the LIC we got. I wasn’t satisfied with ending for any of the characters. The ending was a generic afterthought that could’ve been the ending for literally any other story ever. Nothing about it was unique or a true resolution of the events that happened in The Love Interest.