I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.
Summary: Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them.
Release date: June 7th
*translation for those who don’t speak Gay: THIS WAS SO SWEET AND GAY I’M SCREAMING
Right from the description this book sounded right up my alley and it did not disappoint. It’s not a perfect book and you can feel that it’s a debut, but the characters were well rounded and I just wanted to keep reading to see what happened next, and I think the romance was believable. All these elements, paired with how diverse and how awesomely queer this was, made this book a four stars for me.
I want to start by talking about the queer elements in this, because it was my favorite thing ever. Right from the start we’re introduced to Sebastian, who is bisexual and not afraid to say it (well, except to his mom). His best friends are Mason, also bi, and Willie, who’s gay. Throughout the novel we meet at least two more queer side characters, one of which is Sebastian’s love interest (who is also a practicing Muslim), and also one of the coaches is gay and has a husband. This is also not a “everyone is queer and everyone is fully accepted” kind of world. People still have to come out and deal with everyday shit including homophobia, but the soccer team the book follows is open to all queer people and I think that gives a better, more welcoming feeling to the reader because it doesn’t erase our struggles while still delivering a very queer-positive environment.
This is introduction is just to say that this kind of representation was what every queer person deserves in their life.
Moving on to the plot, this is very much character driven and I think all main and side characters were given enough depth for the reader to be able to really feel a connection to them, both individually and as a team. Sebastian is kind of the peacekeeper and he always feels responsible for his team members, Mason is the troublemaker, and so on. I think something like that is really important to have in sport romances and this aspect was done very well.
The romance itself I only started liking after a while. I guess maybe I wanted more of the enemies element but the whole deal with why their former friendship ended was kind of underwhelming. I still enjoyed reading it though and I eventually started shipping it.
I really want more books like these because they feel real and positive and they’re truly catered towards queer people. Please support this book when it’s out!
TWs: Discussions of body shaming, bullying, Islamophobia, and a scene featuring homophobic taunting/language.