by Annabeth Albert
Series: True Colors #1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: June 2, 2020
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
When two "big name fans" go head-to-head at a convention, love isn't the only thing at stake.
Charming, charismatic, and effortlessly popular, Conrad Stewart seems to have it all...but in reality, he's scrambling to keep his life from tumbling out of control.
Brilliant, guarded, and endlessly driven, Alden Roth may as well be the poster boy for perfection...but even he can't help but feel a little broken inside.
When these mortal enemies are stuck together on a cross-country road trip to the biggest fan convention of their lives, their infamous rivalry takes a backseat as an unexpected connection is forged. Yet each has a reason why they have to win the upcoming Odyssey gaming tournament and neither is willing to let emotion get in the way―even if it means giving up their one chance at something truly magical.
Content warnings: View Spoiler »homophobia, MC is kicked out of house by parent and forbidden from speaking with his family, verbal abuse (off-page), death of a parent in a plane crash (off-page, before book), anxiety, outing without consent, asthma, secondary character is injured in a fall and has to be hospitalized, financial insecurity (including homelessness) « Hide Spoiler
This is an adorably cute and geeky new adult enemies-to-lovers road trip romance, with a “just one bed!” appearance. While there’s some heavier content that both characters are dealing with, it’s ultimately perfect summer fluff.
The rivalry between players Conrad and Alden is a mainstay of the popular Gamer Grandpa Youtube channel, but when a chance to compete in a prestigious Odyssey convention in Las Vegas comes up, they have to put aside their enmity for the length of the road trip there. But as the trip goes on, they each discover that their perceptions of the other are off, and that maybe they could actually be friends – or something more.
“Life has a way of screwing people over regardless, so you might as well find fun where you can.”
I scoffed at that. “In my experience, a careful plan goes a long way to avoiding disaster.”
Conrad’s mantra has been to just make it til tomorrow – or just one more turn, if he’s playing Odyssey. He’s had a rough year and winning the tournament would be both the answer to his money problems and a chance to prove that he can make something of himself. In life as well as in Odyssey, Conrad’s strength is in coming up with strategies on the fly, rolling with the punches and eking a win out of impossible circumstances. Alden, on the other hand, is his complete opposite. He likes having a plan, even if right now he’s frustrated by his moms’ insistence on having him map out what he wants to do with his life – like becoming a doctor, if they have any choice in it. Alden’s neurodiverse, and his moms have been trying to put a label on him since he was a kid. He’s literal and misses a lot of jokes and subtext, which lead to him coming off as abrupt and causes a lot of social anxiety for him.
“In so many other ways though, he was far from my type—too prickly, too adverse to fun, too rule-driven, and too immune to my charm. I needed to remember all that before I went labeling him cute and making everything far more complicated than it needed to be.”
I think some familiarity with card games like Magic: The Gathering would be helpful, as it’s assumed that you’ll understand what they mean by scrolls and turns. The pacing is slow and gentle. There’s a lot of time spent on the mechanics of the road trip – driving to the next gaming store, playing a game there, finding food, finding somewhere to stop. It doesn’t really pick up until they get to the gaming competition. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it gives plenty of time for their relationship to change. Like the pacing, this is a very slow burn romance. It’s not that Alden or Conrad change who they are, but rather that the forced proximity makes them interact and overcome their prejudices. Alden thinks Conrad’s a party boy who’s not really serious about the game, while Alden seems unapproachable and rude to Conrad. They slowly open up to each other and become friends, before they both finally accept that some of their animosity stemmed from attraction to each other.
Overall, this is an enjoyable book, a great summer read if you’re looking for something fun and geeky.