In this queer Grease retelling, we follow Ollie as his life gets uprooted to North Carolina after he had a summer romance while there, and while the boy he spent his days and nights with isn’t texting him back, he still thinks about him. Will, the dream boy from summer who somehow ends up going to the new school that Ollie has just joined. The only thing is, Will is still in the closet.
The main plot of this story vaguely resembles Grease. There are no drag races (as opposed to Drag races), no beauty school dropout numbers (sadly), and no final carnival for the graduating seniors (again, very sad). BUT! There is a heartfelt and emotional storyline about Ollie’s Aunt Linda, there’s the scene from the dance (blue moooooon), but remixed for contemporary reasons, and there’s a final basketball game that changes the world of Ollie as he knows it. It may not be a direct copy, but I think we would have been a little upset if it was just an exact copy tbh. We can always watch the movie whenever we feel nostalgic.
So what are the things I liked about this book? I think the first, obvious answer is that it’s QUEER! We have bisexuals, homosexuals… that’s really it but there’s more than one bisexual person and that’s big! It’s hard enough getting one bisexual person and to have it named on the page, there’s plenty of that here. AND it’s not just bisexual women. Another thing I loved was the relationship between Ollie and his family. There was such an intense bond and focus on the family given the plot line of his Aunt Linda having cancer. So many people complain that YA books never have parents in them and well here you go, parents, aunts and uncles, and nieces and nephews too. There’s also some diversity going on here as Will and his family are Venezuelan and we get to experience a little bit of that culture. We love to see more cultures represented, and I have to admit I believe this is the first fiction book I’ve read with a character who is Venezuelan. Plus the wider group of friends is also diverse so this book is not White™ like the movie is.
What I will say is that if you were hoping for a more direct copy of Grease, then this may disappoint you. There are some Grease references sprinkled throughout the book and it brought me great pleasure finding them. I honestly think this romance is really cute and tackles really important conversations with tact. If you remember my review about The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life, I was upset that the trope of “I won’t date you unless you’re out” (which is more than a trope as it is a pervasive belief in many people within the queer community) was not examined as a bad thing and instead was a “yes that is the right thing to do” thing. Ollie explicitly states that Will shouldn’t have to come out for them to date, that that is not why Ollie is upset with what’s happening. There are multiple scenes surrounding the conversation of being outed and I think their inclusion is important and shows that they can be handled well. I already knew I liked Sophie Gonzales after I read Perfect On Paper last year, but I think this has solidified her as an instant read. I can’t wait to read whatever Sophie publishes next, I’m just sad I’ll have so long to wait for it.