ARC REVIEW: The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth

Summary:

  • published by: HarperTeen
  • genres: contemporary romance, YA
  • content warnings: depiction of a family member with dementia, surprise pregnancy
  • For fans of: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman

Synopsis:

Saoirse doesn’t believe in love at first sight or happy endings. If they were real, her mother would still be able to remember her name and not in a care home with early onset dementia. A condition that Saoirse may one day turn out to have inherited. So she’s not looking for a relationship. She doesn’t see the point in igniting any romantic sparks if she’s bound to burn out.

But after a chance encounter at an end-of-term house party, Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.

Unbothered by Saoirse’s no-relationships rulebook, Ruby proposes a loophole: They don’t need true love to have one summer of fun, complete with every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up—and a binding agreement to end their romance come fall. It would be the perfect plan, if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters actually fall in love… for real.

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❝  I don’t want to forget what we had. Ever. In the past, we’re perfectly preserved. Best friends in love forever

I remember this book getting announced on twitter, and the subsequent outpouring of love, support and excitement from a lot of sapphic women, especially lesbians. I think this is going to be the exact book a lot of people are hoping for because it is exactly what it says on the bill. A lesbian girl called Saorise meets another girl, Ruby, at a party, and the two set off on a casual, no strings attached relationship where they enact out romantic scenes from romantic comedies. Meanwhile, Saorise is coming to terms with her mother’s early-onset dementia, the reality of it being potentially hereditary, and her father deciding to remarry. Also, it is set in The Republic of Ireland, which was nice! It’s a setting I don’t read enough from.

The Falling in Love Montage nailed one of my favourite aspects of YA contemporary. That is, the ability to show teenagers dealing with hard situations and navigating complex relationships while allowing them the space to act out emotionally. Although the centrepiece of this novel could arguably be the romance, for me it was more so the relationship between Saorise and her father, and her feelings about her mother’s dementia. For me, that aspect of the story drew more interest than the romance.

That is not to say the romance is bad. I liked the solid f/f representation that was conveyed through the romance. Saorise is a lesbian, and is labelled so by herself and others often in the text. This in itself is a triumph, given how many YA books attempt to skirt around labels. I also enjoyed the portrayals of different types of sapphic relationships. Attention is given to Hannah, Saorise ex-girlfriend who was first her best friend. Then there are girls Saorise hooks up with, oftentimes who are ‘straight’, who want to explore their sexuality. And the there is her romance with Ruby, which is a meet-cute followed by casual, no string attached dates and make outs. I loved the various relationships here because I feel YA oftentimes tries to sanitise wlw experiences into the most acceptable form. Portraying a range of types of relationships, and showing that f/f relationships do not fit within certain boundaries was something I enjoyed. I didn’t find myself hugely invested in Ruby and Saorise in the sense of them being a ship, but I liked their dynamic and thought they were sweet. And I liked this book portrayed dating, kissing, and having sex openly and frankly.

The discussion around dementia is one I appreciated. I’m not sure the author’s experience with this, but as someone who has family experience with it I related to Saorise and her feelings on the matter. I liked how Saorise feelings on the matter were dealt with complexity, and how there was room for her to be angry, upset and scared. I thought it was nice to show the realistic burden a situation can take on a teenager.

So although I liked Ruby and Saorise, my favourite relationships in this book turned out to be the ones outside of that. Saorise arc with her father and the way this book dealt with the tensions of their relationship was the highlight for me. It was a relationship unlike any other I have seen portrayed in YA, and I liked how it did not come to a conclusive end because there was an acknowledgement that an issue could not so simply be resolved. There would need to be further work

There is also a side relationship between Saorise and Ruby’s cousin Oliver, who goes to school with Saorise. They’re ‘we kissed once before I realised I was a lesbian’ to enemies to friends and I thought they were just fun. They had good banter, and there is one scene between them that is one of my favourites in this book.

Despite how I have gushed about this book, I want to address my faults. First, the writing style. I’ve said it SO many times so I feel I don’t need to clarify but … first-person narration addressing the reader… I just don’t enjoy it. It always makes me feel distant and outside the story. (Ironic, since it’s intended to give the opposite effect). But the use of this style and some of Saorise’s thoughts were a little too corny for me and I couldn’t completely fall into the story. I also thought it started a little slow and fell into some debut cliche’s which I can forgive, but still noticed. For example, over describing the main character and occasionally telling rather than showing.

Overall, I would highly recommend The Falling in Love Montage for people looking for lesbian representation and f/f representation. People anticipating this book will not be disappointed. It brings out the best of the YA contemporary genre, showcasing complex relationships, good representation and dealing with serious topics for teenagers while allowing them the space to grow, love, change and maybe throw the occasional temper tantrum.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

this is an ARC and included quotes are subject to change.
thank you to HarperCollins for sending me an advanced copy of this title

until next time

sign off

3 thoughts on “ARC REVIEW: The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth

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