by Cathy Yardley
Series: Ponto Beach Reunion #1
Also in this series: Gouda Friends
Publication Date: October 1, 2021
Back in high school, Lily Wang wanted to be popular, but she considered herself lucky to be part of a tight group of oddballs and honors students called the Nerd Herd. Now, at twenty-eight, she feels like she’s finally on the cusp of succeeding as a beauty influencer—if she can hit five million subscribers, brands will take notice and she could get her own makeup line.
Fellow Nerd Herd alum Tobin Bui has had a lot of success as a YouTube gamer. But the road to online stardom has been rocky. First, he disappointed his parents by dropping out of college, and now, after years of pranks, skits, and playthroughs, he’s struggling to come up with new content to satisfy his ever-growing fan base. His agents say he needs cross-audience appeal, a new twist.
When Nerd Herd frenemy Lily approaches Tobin about teaming up to do a video to bolster her brand and reinvigorate his, he agrees. But when their first collab video goes viral, their relationship heats up too. With the whole internet watching, will these two former misfits finally realize they’re perfect together?
Is this the part where I confess that I don’t get the whole YouTuber thing? Because, ok, while I’d heard lots of praise for this book, I wasn’t sure about whether I’d be interested in a romance with two influencer MCs. Luckily, this book drew me in with all of its geeky, cute glory.
“I don’t know. Beauty influencer and game geek. It’s not intuitive.”
“We’re not that different, though,” he said, and he wasn’t quite sure why he was making his case; at least, he wasn’t sure why he was putting it so strongly. “We were friends back in the day—even if you felt that it was by default.”
Even though her ten year high school reunion is coming up, Lily has no intentions of going. Her life as a beauty vlogger is scheduled to the minute with content planning, editing, and attending launch parties to make connections, worlds away from her high school clique of outcast nerds and geeks. But when one of her high school frenemy’s videos goes viral, she’s forced to reconnect with the last person she ever wanted to.
Tobin, known for his humorous and geeky videos, hasn’t changed much since high school. And sure, the last video (a recreation of the lighting of the beacons of Minas Tirith with inflatable tube guys) was a huge success, but it took a long time to plan and, frankly, he’s burned out. But with his agents pushing him, he decides maybe the collab with Lily might not be such a bad thing after all… if they can survive being around each other for so long.
“For someone who runs one of the most chill, positive beauty channels I’ve ever seen, you sure are murderous,” Mikki said with a smirk. She let out a low groan of frustration. “All I’m saying is, you two have chemistry.”
“We have history,” she corrected, then scrambled to explain herself. “Not that kind of history! We’ve known each other since we were kids, and I’ve actively hated him for a good portion of that time. It’s not like that.”
Lily’s a lovely character. She’s managed to avoid the catty atmosphere that permeates a lot of beauty vloggers. She won’t even post negative reviews! She curates the rest of her life as well, hanging out mostly with other up-and-coming MUAs and socializing mainly at product parties and the like. One of my quibbles with the book is that Lily especially reads a lot younger than 28. A lot of her issues stem from wanting the approval of the “cool kids.” While she has an incredible work ethic, at the end of the day, it doesn’t feel like that work is for her: it’s to prove she can hang with the cool kids. She makes the same mistakes again with the popular beauty vlogger crowd, which is part of what ends up leading her to reconnect with Tobin and the rest of the Nerd Herd.
“You should’ve seen them in high school. It was even worse.”
Josh snickered. “Like ‘get a room’ worse.”
“Trust me, we have never gotten together,” Tobin said with a grin. “She would probably literally kill me.”
But what a way to go.
He frowned at himself. No. He didn’t think that.
While Lily’s dealing with her workaholism and drive for approval, Tobin’s trying to balance his newfound popularity with the fact that, well, he’s not feeling it anymore. It’s clear he has ADHD, and Lily’s attempts to force him into her intricately structured workflow go about as well as you’d expect. There’s a particularly funny bit early on where Tobin describes why he and Lily could never work together. He’s a friendly go-with-the-flow golden retriever and she’s a finicky cat, so it’s no surprise that they fought like cats and dogs in high school. But what neither of them are expecting is that while working together does have its frustrations, it’s also a lot more fun and creative – something both of them have been missing from their lives. And when their renewed friendship starts hinting at taking a new turn, well, let’s just say I was completely with all the commenters shipping them. I also really liked how their romance didn’t automatically fix all of their issues, but it definitely forced both of them to put their work/life balance into perspective.
There’s a lot about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into each of their videos, the careful planning of content, and the constant hustle to stay relevant. Luckily (kinda) Tobin’s parents are there to critique every bit of “hobby” so we can hear the counterpoints. I really enjoyed this part and it definitely served to reinforce keeping blogging as a hobby!
Overall, this book had me smiling pretty much the whole time I was reading this. I can’t believe I haven’t read anything by this author before but I will definitely be fixing that!