Thank you to NetGalley for providing an ARC for Only When It’s Us by Chloe Liese my honest review.
Only When It’s Us follows two main characters: Willa, who is a Division 1 soccer player struggling to balance soccer, school, and her mother’s illness, and Ryder, who has pretty much become a recluse ever since he lost the majority of his hearing two years ago. The two meet in business mathematics class and are pretty much forced together by their professor. Their frenemy relationship is full of witty banter, lots of competition, sexual tension, and unexpected secrets.
One of my favorite things about this novel was the Spotify playlist accompaniment. I always find that when I’m writing, music can set the mood. As a lover of both music and writing, I truly appreciated the music that went along with each chapter. I had fun listening to the song before I read the chapter and getting little clues about what was going to happen next. The mood changes so much in the book, and the Spotify playlist is a perfect reflection of that.
As far as characters go, I really enjoyed Ryder. There were times when he was frustrating, but he definitely showed the most growth throughout the novel. What I liked about his growth was that it was gradual and believable. There was one point in the book where I was like “I hope he’s not doing this all for Willa,” but when you learn about the dynamic of his family and peel back the layers of his past, you can tell that Willa is a good excuse for him to make some big life changes, but she isn’t the only reason he would want to. Of course, at the novel’s core is the love story, but I liked that there was a lot to uncover with Ryder.
Willa, on the other hand, I was not a fan of. I was surprised by this because I usually gravitate toward the female story. My favorite books are those that have female protagonists that I can relate to. Willa does have a lot going on in her life, but the depth of her stubbornness and downright selfishness made her such an unlikable character for me. Her growth was more like a light switch. She’s the same person until the end, and then all of sudden, the author flipped a switch and *BOOM* growth. I wasn’t a big fan of how her character developed.
The enemies-to-lovers, or in this case frenemies-to-lovers, trope is usually a hit or miss for me. I’m happy to say that this was a definite hit for me. I enjoyed the witty banter and sexual tension between the two main characters. The build-up is believable, and I liked Ryder’s character enough to want to cheer for a happy ending for the both of them. I also really liked a lot of the side characters and actually wanted to see more of them, particularly the roommates. I found myself getting frustrated when the main characters would have a conversation with one of their parents that would be more believable if the conversation was talking to a friend. There was one conversation in particular that Ryder had with his mom, and I was like “I feel like this conversation would have been better served if he was talking to one of his brothers or one of his roommates.” But that’s probably just me being selfish and wanting to see more of Rooney, Becks, and Tucker.
One thing that I can’t decide if I enjoyed or disliked was how many ways Ryder and Willa’s stories were either connected or were parallel to each other. I felt that some of the connections or parallels were unnecessary and made the story less believable. I know that coincidences happen, but sometimes, I just got frustrated by the things that overlapped in the characters’ lives. I don’t want to elaborate on this because *spoilers.* I understand what the author was trying to do, but I felt that some of the parallels were unnecessary and didn’t really add to the story or the background of the characters. I will say that I was a fan of the big thing that caused the characters’ lives to overlap (you’ll know which one I’m talking about once you read the book), but some of the smaller things were just unneeded.
I realize that I read the ARC for this book, but some of the typos were actually pretty distracting, and there were A LOT of them. There was even one point where Ryder was referred to as Ryan, and I was like “Where the heck did Ryan come from?” My hope is that a lot of these typos get corrected before the book is released in April. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the writing in that the author used the same words over and over to describe the characters. Ryder was referred to as a “lumberjack” throughout the book. Cool, but I got so tired of seeing the word “lumberjack” on every other page. When she made references to his lumberjack-ness in other ways, I enjoyed the sarcasm and creativity, but I started to hate the word “lumberjack.” She also used the word “velvety” to describe lips and skin so many times throughout the book. There was just a lot of redundancy with some of her descriptions, and it made me enjoy the book less because I was tired of reading those same words and descriptions over and over again.
Overall, I give this book 3 out of 5 stars. I really liked Ryder as a main character, and I enjoyed the parts of the book where the roommates were around, so much so that I craved more of their presence. I enjoyed how the storyline unfolded overall, especially when secrets from their past were being revealed in little pockets overtime. I, however, did not enjoy parts of Willa’s personality, particularly her stubbornness and the amount of selfishness she showed throughout the book.
Only When It’s Us is set to publish on April 1, 2020. This is the first in a series where we get to learn more about Ryder and his brothers, so if you’re a fan of Ryder’s family dynamic, you’ll definitely look forward to the rest of the books in the upcoming series. To learn more about the author and the rest of her works, https://chloeliese.com/.