Book Review: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

Sometimes, you can be hyped for a long-awaited book, and when you finally read it, it lets you down. I'm happy to say that the topic of today's post is not like that at all.

THE LOVE INTEREST has been on my TBR since before it even came out, but it was only last weekend that I encountered it at my local B&N and decided to drop $11 on the paperback version. I was super excited to finally read it, and boy, did it deliver.

Book Title:
 The Love Interest
Author: Cale Dietrich
Age Category: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction/Romance
Number of Pages (According to Goodreads): 377
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Book description (from Goodreads):

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection.
Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome.

The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be - whoever the girl doesn't choose will die.

What the boys don't expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

Before reading THE LOVE INTEREST, I thought it would mostly be about poking fun at the love triangle trope. Turns out, it's less about that as it is about exploring the concepts of love, freedom, and friendship -- and somehow, that makes it even better.

Caden was a protagonist I could really empathize with, and I thought the character of Juliet was especially intriguing (I'm a sucker for genius girl scientists). Dylan felt a bit flat to me at first, but that's probably because Caden was unsure of his rival's motives throughout most of the story.

The plot itself kept barreling forward at a breathless pace, and because of this, I through this book in the space of a day. It's definitely one of those stories that coerces you to read "just one more chapter" until you look at the clock and realize it's 11 p.m. and you haven't eaten dinner yet.

The premise is, for the most part, executed brilliantly, but there was one part that I found a bit jarring -- the scene in Chapter Three when Caden questions the methods of the LIC.

"There is one thing that's always bugged me," I say. "I'd like to know why the LIC is so focused on pairing us in high school. Like, wouldn't it be better to send us in when we're a bit older? No one finds the love of their life while they're a teenager."
"You haven't read any YA novels recently, have you?"
I shake my head. "I prefer sci-fi. Why? What does that have to do with anything?"
She looks up at the camera that's attached to the ceiling and shrugs.

(The Love Interest, p. 32)

This is really the only time in the book where it comes close to breaking the fourth wall, and I was expecting this conversation to be addressed again later -- maybe even in a fully meta way, where the protagonist realizes that he himself is a character in a YA novel. However, it never happened, so this snippet of dialogue only served to make my suspension of disbelief wobble a bit (I was already suspending it quite a lot, given the trope-twisting nature of the book). Luckily, this is only a small quibble.

Overall, I would highly recommend THE LOVE INTEREST to anyone who has read a lot of YA books and wants to poke fun at love triangles while still being swept away by a brilliant, emotional plot and likable characters.

Add THE LOVE INTEREST to Goodreads here.

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