Though I have only ever read one other of her novels, Sophie Gonzales has become one of those writers that I purposely follow to see if they have anything new coming out. I find her voice so refreshing and humourous—and she brings a different point of view to the typical young adult romance experience. When I saw that Never Ever Getting Back Together was going to be framed as a reality TV show like The Bachelor, I knew I had to dive in. One of my favourite books of recent years was One To Watch, which was also a TV dating show trope that was turned on its head. And Perfect on Paper by Gonzales herself was another highlight in recent years. Clearly, I’m one of those people who, once I find a formula I like, don’t mind seeing it again and again as long as it’s done well.
It’s been two years since Maya’s ex-boyfriend cheated on her, and she still can’t escape him: his sister married the crown prince of a minor European country and he captured hearts as her charming younger brother. If the world only knew the real Jordy, the manipulative liar who broke Maya’s heart.
Skye Kaplan was always cautious with her heart until Jordy said all the right things and earned her trust. Now his face is all over the media and Skye is still wondering why he stopped calling.
When Maya and Skye are invited to star on the reality dating show Second-Chance Romance, they’re whisked away to a beautiful mansion—along with four more of Jordy’s exes— to compete for his affections while the whole world watches. Skye wonders if she and Jordy can recapture the spark she knows they had, but Maya has other plans: exposing Jordy and getting revenge. As they navigate the competition, Skye and Maya discover that their real happily ever after is nothing they could have scripted.
This was a cute read. I love a good revenge story (especially relatively innocent ones like this one) and enemies-to-lovers is one of my favourite tropes. There’s something so magical about Sophie Gonzales’s writing that it seems almost effortless.
The characters in this book are not the most complex—they kind of seem a bit like personas on a page instead of fully developed characters, but because of the tone of the story, it didn’t really bother me. We do get bits about both Maya’s and Skye’s home lives outside of the dating show, but no more than we would normally get if we were watching a similar TV show at home, which I think is why it worked here. And whether we knew anything about Jordy other than how he treated the women wasn’t important either—though I wish we got to see a bit more about his sister.
I had a really hard time with the fact that these were basically teenagers who were being exploited like adults on television. Maybe I’m just getting old, but in my mind, there’s a big difference between a producer or a network taking advantage of a twenty-five-year-old who is making silly decisions or saying stupid things on TV, but it feels wrong when it’s a bunch of people who are basically just out of high school. For some reason, I couldn’t suspend the reality of that. So any of the made-for-TV parts that were twisty near the end I was just kind of mad about. It didn’t take away from the rest of the story enough for me to penalize it, though.
I loved seeing the way the girls interacted with each other and how they banded together more than any group of adults would. There was something empowering about a group of young women working together toward a common goal—even if this book doesn’t really pass the Bechdel test much in that regard (other than with Skye and Maya).
Despite the shortcomings I’ve mentioned, I will still read whatever Gonzales puts out next because her style and tone is exactly what I want when I’m reading a lighter book like this. If you like YA, if you like reality TV or if you like sapphic stories (that are VERY PG-13), you won’t be disappointed.
“I figured if I can get to the very end, I can break his heart, just like he broke mine.” —Sophie Gonzales, Never Ever Getting Back Together
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the advanced copy and Marc Zimmer on Unsplash for the featured photo.