First off, I would like to thank the publisher and author for providing me this ARC to review. Please note that the version I read was an advanced copy, and certain events/language may be changed in the published edition. While the copy was provided for free, all opinions are honest and my own.
FSOTUS Alex (First Son of the United States) and Prince Henry have always had strong feelings for each other. They have been arch-enemies since the first time they met, after all. But when their latest interaction goes horribly wrong, at a royal wedding no less, the two are forced to spend time together in order to convince the public they’re actually the best of friends. But will their fake friendship become real? Or maybe even something more?
I requested this ARC because it seemed like a super cute gay romance and we honestly need more of that in YA. What I got was exactly that, and so, so, much more. This book honestly has it all, but a cute yet healthy relationship to issues that are relevant to today’s society, all of it packaged in wonderful writing.
I honestly don’t even know if I can discuss my feelings for Alex and Henry, and all the other characters of this book, without devolving into incoherent screeching. From the very first chapter these characters were fantastic, and by the end, I loved them all deeply. The bond you make with these characters in this single novel is deeper than some bonds you make with characters you read 5+ books on, and there are some very good reasons for that. First off, all the characters feel utterly and extremely real, from Alex and Henry to the side characters, Nora, June, Pez, Bea, etc. They all have unique passions and dreams that play a large role in the story, as well as real and sometimes debilitating flaws. It allows McQuiston to fully real human experience on the page while making us care very deeply for the events and emotions of the characters. Then on top of all that technical stuff, all the characters were such pure wholesome people? Like yes, the book has quite a bit of smut but this book is far from a “sexy” book, the relationships and characters are all just so cute and lovely, and I am endlessly sad that this book is over and I’m not sure if I’ll get more of them. If you like supportive friendships and pure relationships, fully fleshed characters and relatable emotions, this book is already for you.
Then there’s also how McQuiston writes these characters, the style she uses to describe these people and events. I was honestly blown away. I can honestly say that the writing is this style is simply beautiful, that it goes above and beyond just telling you and showing you a story. While it isn’t lyrically beautiful, in the fairy tale style of authors like Laini Taylor and Naomi Novik, it is emotionally beautiful, the type of writing that seems to directly transfer emotion on to the page and allows the reader to experience the story alongside the characters. There are some moments where the emotions of the characters are written so beautifully that I wanted to stop and reread certain paragraphs over and over again. This book is the definition of an emotional rollercoaster, and Mcquiston’s writing makes sure you feel ever magical and magnificent part of it.
On top of all that, you’re getting more than just a wonderfully written gay romance story. You’re also getting commentary on American society, as well as a bit on British. This story does still partially follow the re-election campaign of the first female president, of characters that are struggling with their sexuality and identity while in the public sphere, of a mixed First Son and First Daughter of the United States. It manages to comment on all of this throughout the story, especially the American political sphere of today. Since this book is parallel to the recent election, playing out similar scenarios in the 2020 election that takes place in the book, there are moments that just plain hurt, that connect so strongly to emotions you, as a reader, have felt in terms of Trump and other terrible, horrendous things that have happened recently. It shows the fragility of the love and fame of a nation, as well as the love of a family, how that can hinge on you continuing to follow the path that they have set aside for you. It’s a book that will sucker punch you in the gut. But it’s also the book that shines a light on the beauty of the world, on the strength and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community and just how much love there is out in the world for each other. In this sense, the novel also perfectly represents our society, the combination of pain and fresh hurt that exists on a global, national, and local level to the hope that penetrates through it all.
If it’s not clear by now, I really, truly, deeply love this book. It’s a story that’ll stick with me for a long time to come, characters that will never truly leave my mind and my heart. It’s a book that is important now and will stay important for years to come. It’s a book I really think you all should preorder, read, listen to, any and all of it. I know it’s a book I’ll be ecstatic to have on my shelves.