Review—How Not to Ask a Boy to Prom by S.J. Goslee

[Goodreads Link]
Published by Macmillan Publishers / Roaring Brook Press Imprint


Content Warnings:
Mentions of bullying, genre-typical depictions of drinking, mild violence.

The Good
– Sweet, sometimes funny
– Attempt at representation
– Nolan’s character growth was kind of funny

The Bad
– Trying too hard for quirkiness
– An overabundance of characters who contribute little
– Annoying secondary and tertiary characters
– Mediocre writing
– For all the big deal made about the prom, it was barely existent
– Short, but somehow could still be much tighter

How (Not) to Ask a Boy to Prom is short, light and sweet. It’s also perfectly mediocre and utterly forgettable.

From the opening paragraph ’til the ending, the author is trying much, much too hard for everything to be loud and quirky. And quirky is good and fun when done right, but this isn’t done right. It’s the equivalent of the mid-2000s “rawr! im random lulz” in book format. Not a single element passes by without a slap of quirky paint and few thoughts from Nolan scrape by that aren’t dripping with lazy snark. The author is trying too hard and the book is straining at the edges for it.

Fortunately, there’s not much plot to screw up. Nolan hangs out and does nothing with Bern while slowly developing feelings for him. This doesn’t coincide with anything, even though Bern could do several things with Nolan while “bonding.” Lots of brief scenes with very little of relevance in them tied awkwardly to another scene with very little of relevance in it. By and large, the book feels like an early draft instead of a published thing, as there are so many excess, contrived bits to get characters from Point A to Point B and somehow almost nothing of weight or value by the end.

Nolan is a weak and wishy-washy main character, who apparently requires extreme bullying by his well-meaning sister to accomplish anything. His only defining character trait is how he’s kind of pretentious; everything else about him is more like a quirky blurb than anything about his actual personality. Example: he hoards succulents and has a cat named Fuzzbutt McGundersnoot. (Again, trying way too hard.) The author comes dangerously close to a meaningful conversation about boundaries when it comes to Nolan and his sister, Daphne’s, meddling, but somehow avoids a healthy conversation about supporting your loved ones in favour of Daphne insisting she needs to manhandle his future because he didn’t ask for help.

That said, Daphne is annoying. Her friends, when they aren’t forgettable, are also annoying. Same for Nolan’s friends and Bern’s friends. Outside of Daphne’s Mean Best Friend and Nolan’s Mean Best Friend, they all blur together. Someone’s always doing something random, and again, while this is funny when used correctly, everyone doing something stupid all the time just gets annoying.

Writing Style
The writing style is conversationally readable but full of short, choppy, sloppy paragraphs. It’s occasionally funnyI definitely snorted at a few linesbut less delberately, and more in how something is bound to stick with the author throwing something quirky or snarky at the reader in every line.

Themes and Representation
Although it’s probably a good thing the author (an apparently straight woman with a husband) didn’t try to write a storyline dealing with homophobia, her entire approach to representation is rather awkward and sideways. There are, apparently, characters of colour, judging by their last namesEvie Cho, Missy Delgadobut they’re never specifically called such or even described. I mean, it’s a nice thought, but if the extent of your inclusion is control+f replacing some last names, what’s the point?

Recommended For…
If you want a light read about faking dating and a boy asking another boy to prom, How (Not) to Ask a Boy to Prom is light, sweet and relatively harmless. It’s just, y’know, a very mediocre a light read about faking dating and a boy asking another boy to prom.

Genres: Young Adult, LGBT+, Romance

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