Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Review on Date Me, Bryson Keller




Bryson Keller thinks that dating in high school is pointless, so when he is dared to date anyone who asks him he accepts. The rules are simple, he must date the first person who asks him out on Monday morning and date them until Friday afternoon, then it all starts again the next week. What Bryson isn’t expecting is for Kai Sheridan to ask him out. Kai is still in the closet and has his heart set on another boy in his class, but when Bryson’s antics cause him to be late for class, he decides to get his revenge by making Bryson date him for a week. However, as the week progresses, Kai soon learns there’s more to Bryson than being the popular jock. Kai’s feelings for Bryson soon change, but falling for the captain of the soccer team will only end in disaster right?

I was pre-approved for this book on Netgalley, and as it sounded super adorable I just had to read it! I was a little skeptical when I found out it was based on a yaoi manga, as yaoi is written for teen girls who fetishize gay men and is usually super problematic. I read some yaoi and watched the anime adaptations when I was around 14, and looking back on it now it was pretty problematic, and I pretty much avoid yaoi like the plague now (if you want manga or anime with good gay rep I recommend Given and Yuri on Ice). However, as the book is own voices I thought I’d try to put my thoughts on the book's roots aside and give it a chance!

The book follows Kai, a boy in his senior year of high school who is still in the closet. Kai is witness to a dare given to his classmate Bryson, who has agreed to date someone new for a week for the rest of his senior year. If at any point he breaks up with someone early or no one asks him out, the dare is over and he must ride the school bus for the rest of the year instead of driving his snazzy white jeep. The plot is somewhat silly but I found it completely adorable. A lot of this book is just straight up fluff and I loved it!

The relationship between Kai and Bryson developed naturally, and although the whole book happens over the course of two weeks, nothing felt rushed. The boys feelings for each other grow over the course of the book, but there are no proclamations of love, which I adored as I hate instalove. I feel like you need to get to know a person for an extended period of time before you can truly be in love with them, so I loved that there were no ‘I love yous’ and both boys wanted to take the relationship slowly.

Something I loved was that Bryson never labeled himself. He has feelings for Kai, but he is still figuring things out and isn’t sure which label fits him. I feel like we put too much pressure on young people to label themselves when they’re still figuring everything out. I actually went through a few labels before finding one that felt right, and honestly, I wish I hadn’t felt so pressured to choose one as a teen. I feel like we need more characters like Bryson so teens know it’s ok to not have everything figured out yet. Teens should be free to come to terms with their sexuality on their own rather than feeling pressured to accept a label that doesn’t feel right.

Even though I knew it was a coming out story, I was disappointed with how it was executed. As the romance was adorable fluff I was hoping the rest of the book would go the same way, and Kai would have a positive coming out experience. I was disappointed when Kai’s religious mum reacted negatively and made Kai feel horrible. So many YA coming out stories have the characters go through a bad experience, and I feel like this could put LGBT+ teens in a negative mindset. Having to read about a character who is like you have a bad coming out experience over and over again can easily make you believe the same thing will happen to you. The sad thing is that these negative experiences happen, but if that’s all they ever see in books and the media, they will assume the same thing will happen to them and be reluctant to come out.

Another thing I didn’t like was that Kai was outed against his will, and was forced to come out first to his family and then to his whole school. It felt like this was added just to create some drama, and I honestly hated it. Kai was bullied both verbally and physically, and I felt like it just wasn’t needed. There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing a cute fluff romance just because, and sometimes that’s exactly what LGBT+ teens need rather than the constant reminder that some people hate them for something they can’t control. The outing and bullying is the one thing that stopped me giving the book a 5 star review as I was hoping to get away from this negativity for a while!

Even though I had issues with the book and it didn’t turn out to be the escapism I was looking for, it did give an overall good message about the importance of accepting those who are different from you, and I loved the first 75% of the book. It was just a shame that the adorable romance I thought I was reading had to take a dark turn. I would definitely recommend this book, but it’s probably best to avoid it if you’re not in the right headspace for darker subjects like homophobia and bullying.

Date Me, Bryson Keller is now available to purchase!

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