by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 8, 2021
Genres: Young Adult, Romance
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:
A wedding harpist disillusioned with love and a hopeless romantic cater-waiter flirt and fight their way through a summer of weddings in this effervescent romantic comedy from the acclaimed author of Today Tonight Tomorrow.
Quinn Berkowitz and Tarek Mansour’s families have been in business together for years: Quinn’s parents are wedding planners, and Tarek’s own a catering company. At the end of last summer, Quinn confessed her crush on him in the form of a rambling email—and then he left for college without a response.
Quinn has been dreading seeing him again almost as much as she dreads another summer playing the harp for her parents’ weddings. When he shows up at the first wedding of the summer, looking cuter than ever after a year apart, they clash immediately. Tarek’s always loved the grand gestures in weddings—the flashier, the better—while Quinn can’t see them as anything but fake. Even as they can’t seem to have one civil conversation, Quinn’s thrown together with Tarek wedding after wedding, from performing a daring cake rescue to filling in for a missing bridesmaid and groomsman.
Quinn can’t deny her feelings for him are still there, especially after she learns the truth about his silence, opens up about her own fears, and begins learning the art of harp-making from an enigmatic teacher.
Maybe love isn’t the enemy after all—and maybe allowing herself to fall is the most honest thing Quinn’s ever done.
This cover, y’all, I cannot deal with the cuteness. And it’s a perfect representation of the book inside, filled with honest conversations about mental health, hilarious characters, and a delightful friends-to-lovers, opposites-attract romance.
Quinn and Tarek were friends as children because of their parents’ businesses – Quinn’s family runs a wedding planning business while Tarek’s does catering. While they spent a lot of time together, they never hung out outside of those events, but Quinn still managed to develop a crush on Tarek, which culminates the summer before he goes off to college. After watching his “grand gestures” with his various past girlfriends, she finally confesses that she has a crush for him in an email…. and then he completely ghosts her. With him back for the summer and working many of the same events, it’s awkward, especially since Quinn thought she was finally over the crush (spoiler: she’s not). But in trying to resurrect their friendship, they end up opening up to each other, and maybe.. jut maybe, that unrequited crush isn’t so unrequited after all.
“I did like kissing him. But I’ve seen so many miserable brides, miserable grooms, miserable families putting on a show because they think they’re supposed to. I’ve seen the expressions my parents wear with their clients. None of it is real, and I already do enough pretending.
I learned from my parents like I learned how to bustle a wedding dress: love is a performance.”
The book is told solely from Quinn’s first person POV, and she was a character you could really root for. The thought of a teenage wedding harpist was, honestly, one of the things that really interested me in this book, and I was glad to see how much it played a part in her arc. With high school over, she’s looking forward to her first year of college… or at least she would be if her parents hadn’t hand-picked all of her courses in order to make her a better employee for the family business. Problem is, Quinn doesn’t want to join the family business. After watching her parents separate temporarily as a child (and then never talking about it again) she has a dim view of romance, especially her own chances for it. But her family’s life is tied so inextricably to the business – their “family brunches” are actually used to update everyone on work hurdles – that she doesn’t know how to fit into the family without being a part of the business, and it’s not really like she knows what she wants to do with her life anyway. So rather than spending her last summer before college hanging out with her friends, she’s unenthusiastically playing the harp or trying to live up to her parents’ high expectations at various cake tastings, bridal fittings, and weddings. But a chance encounter at a wedding opens a new door to her, something she’s actually passionate about, and telling her family she doesn’t want to work with them becomes more pressing.
Tarek’s the complete opposite of Quinn in many ways. He loves working with his family, especially doing the desserts, and his main concern is convincing them that he could handle more. His love of baking really shown through in the book and I loved his passion. Tarek’s parents got together due to a grand gesture, and for Tarek, love is supposed to be big and splashy. But he’s a great friend (he saves Quinn desserts! *swoon*), and he’s very invested into rescuing the friendship between him and Quinn. Unlike previously, though, their friendship goes deeper, and they start talking about their hopes and aspirations (or lack of them), and their new closeness leads to a romantic relationship. They have differing ideas about how romance “works” and, unlike other books, the hurdles they had to overcome felt evenly balanced.
“We’re all hurting, Quinn. In different ways, some that we can treat with medication and therapy and some only with time. And some in ways that might never heal. Sometimes the good outweighs the bad. Sometimes those great times are so fucking great that they make the bad times a little easier to handle.”
There’s quite a bit of rep in this book. From a mental health standpoint, Quinn has anxiety and OCD, which she treats with a combination of therapy and medication, and she talks about it a lot in the book. I thought her description of OCD was excellent and really helped me understand the thought process behind it. Tarek also had some mental health struggles, though they’re a bit spoilery, so all I’ll say is that I felt like it was handled well. Their discussions about their mental health are so honest and accepting and yes, please, more of this in YA, thanks. Quinn’s also Jewish, though her family isn’t particularly observant, but it’s something that’s woven into her family life, as is the fact that Tarek’s Muslim. Neither of their religions is a pain point, it’s just part of their identities, and I loved that.
Overall, I very much enjoyed how sweet and fun this book was, along with the stellar mental health rep. I’ll definitely be picking up this author’s backlist!