We are back at it with book review #2 for 2022! I’m excited to keep going. NGL. As a note, I actually have enough for 10 weeks. After that? Who knows? For now, we are two for two! Onwards to the review!
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich
Synopsis From The Book
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.
Thriller – Drama | YA – M |threat of death, romance manipulation, identity lying, taking advantage of someone else’s feelings, coercion, character death | True Love, Coming-of-age, survival, friendship
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
alright so. I… I heard about this book a few weeks ago and was like, that’s a cool concept. Two days ago I thought of it again and from that point on it was the strongest need I’ve had to read a book in months.
I bought to book.
I am so frickin hype to read this. I can’t really explain why my head was like, you need to read that spy novel, but it was. So here we go.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
What a fun book. I really wish the ending was a bit different. Things just happened so fast and I have so many questions on if it is truly over it not. I can’t be certain but I can say that I really love this premise so much. Can we get this again but sapphic? Or like a period drama? Please set me up with that.
Either way this was super fun and actually a really great commentary on the Bad Boy and Nice Guy stereotypes.
I was torn between PW and M, because frankly most of the book is pretty chill (there are some make out scenes but nothing too bad). I decided on M rating for two reasons. One, coercion. I don’t think that some younger YA readers should go into this and think, oh hey that’s how relationships should be. And while I love the main romance, it isn’t healthy. There’s a lot of manipulation happening in their inner thoughts, all for the sake of not dying. Two, a character actually dies and they have guns. Lots of guns. TBH most of this comes down to guns.
Number 412 has been perfecting himself for when he will be chosen as a Love Interest. Love Interests are spies sent to special people to collect their secrets so that they can be sold for profit. The opportunity comes, and he makes the cut. After meeting his rival, his face and body are transformed. He becomes the perfect blonde haired blue eyed boy next door. He is given the name Caden and Dylan is his rival. There is always a Nice and a Bad given to potential special people of the world. The person will decide on which Love Interest they want and with that choice, the other will die. Caden is to be the Nice and Dylan is the Bad.
Dylan is the love lord mysterious boy with black hair and green eyes. He charms Caden but Caden knows it is all a tactic. Caden is the first to meet Juliet, pretending to be her long lost best friend. They hit it off easily and at first things seem easy. Then Dylan arrives at Caden’s house that first night and they watch the stars together. By the third night Caden knows that Dylan is trying to get him to do something, and Caden’s body is wavering. He likes guys, but it is his job to get Juliet to like him. Dylan’s big entrance to Juliet’s life is by fighting off some men who were hired to mug Juliet as Caden and Juliet were headed to her house for dinner. Dylan does so, and Caden charms her parents.
Time passes and both boys grow closer. Caden knows he is falling for Dylan but he’ll never admit it. Caden grows closer to her friends Trevor and Natalie. Both love interests woo her. Caden is winning. Caden participates in a swimming competition with Trevor, and he qualifies for nationals. Caden and Dylan make out in a shed, after Dylan convinces Caden that Dylan wants to kiss him.
At the Halloween costume party, Caden dresses as Superman and gets the date. Dylan dresses as the Devil and gets the kiss. Caden and Juliet go on their date. Trevor qualifies for the Olympic trial but breaks up with Natalie because he cheated on her. This is how Caden realizes she’s a love interest.
She tells Caden that Juliet will make her decision at Dylan’s party.
Caden tells this to Dylan who freaks out. The two go on a date to the fair. At the party, Dylan and Juliet talk. Caden avoids her and tries to talk to Dylan and kisses him one last time. He confesses to Juliet who says she likes him. She then goes to talk to scientists, and Dylan intercepts her. She rejects him and it’s over.
Caden breaks all protocols. He chases Dylan with Juliet to the lookout and tells her everything. He then tells Dylan he wants to run away and Dylan breaks his heart telling him everything between them was a lie. Caden is forced to go through with it when his coach (a girl who can talk to him in his head via and implant which they take out later) sets the Stalkers on them (violent robots who take care of rebelling Love Interests.). Natalie, Trevor, Dylan, Caden, and Juliet go on the run. Juliet manages to destroy the Stalker after them and find out a way to the Compound where the base of operations is. Juliet tells Caden that Dylan loves him, but he might not know how to come to terms with that. Dylan kisses Caden before the big day, and Caden goes into the facility on his own. He shoots the man in charge of the Love Interest development and helps the others in. They then take out the Stalkers but Trevor dies. Juliet tries to shut the whole thing down but the director shoots her. She survives and they are able to free all the love interests.
A year later, Dylan and Caden are living together happily.
What I Liked:
Caden; I actually really like him as a main character. His fear is palpable and I really liked reading the book from his perspective. I am happy that he was able to get a happy ending. He really did deserve it.
Dylan; I actually like him as the scared boy, dark haired mystery. He was this person for both Caden and Juliet ultimately. Albeit in a different way for both people. Also, the fact that he was able to keep two lies going on at once, just to keep himself alive? Mad props.
Juliet; I love her. That’s it. I’ll protect her. I’ll fight anyone who says she was terrible. Girl did not deserve to have all this nonsense thrown into her lap. Heart manipulated, friend killed, life changed. She deserves the world, and a nice massage tbh.
Trevor; I’M CRYING. I really did like him as the comedic friend. I also think that it was relatively well done, how much more we got from him despite him being a more secondary character.
Natalie; I had a feeling about her twist pretty early, so I think that was well done. I wish I got to know more about her as a person outside of the dream girl persona that she had to be as a Love Interest.
Dylan x Caden; Look, I actually really like this relationship, for what it’s worth. I thought the progress was well done. The hanging out under the stars and car rides at night, all in secret were well done. Super YA romantic sort of feels. I do recognize that there is A LOT wrong with it, however. From the onset, it was manipulation and coercion as a way to not die (on both sides). Even when Caden fell (and Dylan may not have) it was a mess. However, I think I’m a bit more forgiving for the issues, one because of the commentary being had (Caden is manipulating Juliet the way Dylan is manipulating him) and because its legit life or death stakes. Others might disagree, but I actually like the way this was done, even if the reveal for Dylan devastated me.
Concept; I LOVE this concept, so much. Not only the idea that the two love interests idea is manufactured, but just the social commentary on it in general. I won’t lie. If there are more of these books out there, I will devour them. I really love a good deconstruction, and while I think this book was not perfect: I sure did enjoy the ride. Def a fun, quick, high emotion fun read.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
Trevor’s Death; now I’m torn. I like this for the stakes of it but I also feel his death is sort of unnecessary. There is no real consequence to it. The characters can’t grieve the loss, and while not all character deaths have to be that way, I feel in this case it was needed. Trevor meant A LOT to Juliet, Natalie, and Caden. His death should have hit them so much more. Which is not to say it didn’t, but I feel like we didn’t have the proper time to sit with it. The stakes were already high. I didn’t need to have a major character death to see that. Although I will admit that I did like having it. Major character death always guts a person. His death says a lot, but still… idk. Maybe I just really wish he lived. He was gonna swim at the olympics!
Dylan and his feelings; this was an author choice that I’m like, heart torn about in a way. I feel as devastated as Caden did finding out that it was all one scripted lie and that it was “the gay thing”. The whole time Dylan was saying that nonsense, I was hoping that it wasn’t true but that he was just saying the stuff to make Caden stay alive by breaking his heart. I was waiting for Dylan to say he lied that he loved Caden the whole time once they had to run away. What we got hurt so much more because it was all a ploy. While Dylan did love Caden, he still hadn’t come to terms with that and probably had confused himself in the process. I just wanted a part of their clandestine relationship not to be tinged in that dark truth. I had wished a part of it was always real. It was all a lie (or rather a scripted ploy. Dylan did love Caden even if he hadn’t said that). I will admit that the whole getting tricked into falling in love commentary for Juliet strikes so much more true when its paralleled with Caden’s own experience, so I’m not fully angry about this. I just am like. GD Dylan. I TRUSTED YOU. (That’s the point tho. That’s the point.)
Dylan as a POV; what I think this story would have really benefitted from was Dylan’s POV. I would have loved to see Caden from his eyes. I really wish we saw some of this book through his eyes, because I really do want to know more about him and how everyone else viewed Caden.
The ending; let’s talk five teens walking into the top super villain organization and destroying it. I get the whole, teens save the day thing, but this really bothered me. Because, HOW? How did the four teens do it? It just seems strange that a highly sophisticated group who has operated for years, to be destroyed that fast. Somehow out of everything this was the most unrealistic for me. (But like, out of everything. THIS is what was unrealistic for me? God. I need to stop taking myself so seriously.)
The organization; I’ve seen some compelling reviews online saying the organization should have never existed. And honestly I do kind of want to read the book where the two love interest fall in love without all the stakes and spy story lines. It would be a very different novel, however. I suppose, since I knew going in that this was a spy novel, it didn’t bother me as much. However this spy organization is lowkey incompetent if they could be taken down by five teens.
Why You Should Read:
Deconstruction of the two love interest trope. High stakes, high emotions. If you like angsty teen romance with an added bit of fear for ones life, this book is for you. Weaving together friends, family, identity, and the concept of love, this novel will make you laugh (and probably cry). If you love hidden feelings and star-crossed romances, this fast paced romance is probably for you!
“People don’t have to save the word to be good… all you have to be is honest and kind, and then you’re good.”
His words ring in my mind. Because, by his criteria, I’m a bad person. -pg 185
“Don’t make this a big thing, Dyl. Just drive.” -pg 369