Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales
I grabbed this ARC based on my enjoyment of Only Mostly Devastated, which left me with both tears and a full heart; I knew I needed to read more of Australian author Sophie Gonzales. Perfect on Paper didn't have any tears (thankfully), but a full heart was on point.
Locker eighty-nine is infamous at Darcy's private school. It's where the forlorn and lovesick seek advice from an anonymous advice-giver who charges a paltry $10 a letter. No one knows who writes them, and it's never short of requests. Darcy clears out this locker each week while she waits for her mom, a teacher at the school, to finish up for the day. She takes them home and responds, not just using a gut feeling, but she looks to books and YouTube channels devoted to relationship advice. Darcy loves helping people, and she's good at it. She's got a money-back guarantee if the writer isn't satisfied, and she's only refunded a few people in the last few years. No one except her sister Ainsley (a trans character) knows she's the one behind the locker, not even her BFF, Brooke. So when she is caught by someone she barely knows, she's a little thrown. Although Darcy doesn't quite see it, Brougham is good looking and offers a hefty sum of money if she helps him get back with his ex-girlfriend. She's got him pegged after just one conversation, and she's not so sure she can help, but the money is too enticing to pass up. Plus, he might reveal her secret.
Okay, of course, we all know where this is going. It's the perfect set-up for a rom-com, and I was here for it. But you just never know what the in-between holds. Things are starting to get complicated in Darcy's life right now. She's been in love with Brooke for years but has never told her how she feels. She's not handling Brooke's new relationship with Ray (Brooke's new GF) well and may have abused her locker eighty-nine powers a smidge when she gets a letter from Ray revealing a secret that could harm the new romance. On top of that, she's having feelings for a boy who may or may not have a girlfriend. Darcy is bisexual but going out with a guy isn't something she's ever seen herself doing. It feels like she's dismissing her queer side and her identity. Thankfully, she has a built-in support system with her Queer and Questioning club at school. There is a heartfelt conversation about biphobia among the LGBTQ students, and it's handled so well. An ally or someone in the same frame of mind could learn a lot from it. In fact, all the club interactions were positive and never felt like the author was trying to have a checklist of issues to get through. It was all very organic. Things are looking up for Darcy when her guilt hits a wall, and she confesses to Brooke about the locker, among other things. It takes a while for Darcy, who has all the answers for everyone else, to figure out her own life. Brougham is broody, Australian (chicks dig an accent), and full of surprises. I loved the conversations (as he saw them) or arguments (as Darcy saw them) between the two. Regardless of Darcy's mistakes (and there are a lot), she remains a loyal friend and someone who will do anything to make sure you are happy. Easy recommendation!
Thank you to Edelweiss for the ARC.