Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales
“I was fairly sure Lara buying me a present was listed as an end of times sign in the Bible, between false prophets and stars falling from the sky.”
Shifting away from fantasy again, I have another contemporary YA on the review list today. This one, according to some of the synopsis I’ve read of it, does have an interesting back history though. It seems this book is a retelling of Grease, which was a 1978 movie, which was a retelling of a 1971 play of the same name.
Now, I should say that while I’ve seen the movie version of Grease, it was a long time ago and my memory of it is pretty sketchy. Possibly this is why I only saw a few general, overarching themes in this book that appeared to hearken back to the movie. (Assuming the movie version was, in fact, the Grease this book retells.) Or perhaps that’s just the way the book is–after all, a retelling is supposed to be original in its own right, not a verbatim reiteration of the work that inspired it. In any case, I must admit I found Only Mostly Devastated more to my liking than I found Grease, for many reasons.
One of the reasons I liked this book so much was that I could identify with the main character more than in many contemporary YAs I’ve read in recent years. Ollie is one of those oddball teenagers who doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, and is generally uncomfortable at the few parties he attends. A large portion of YA characters seem to be fond of the reckless nightlife, and although I’m sure that’s a true representation of many teenagers, it’s certainly not a representation of all. (Yes, I was one of those introverted oddballs who never got into that stuff. Still am, actually.) Because of this, I loved seeing a YA contemporary character who really wasn’t into those things either, although through the course of the book Ollie is willing to hang around his friends while they enjoy a party or two.
Also, I was interested to see how well I could understand both Ollie’s and Will’s perspectives, though Ollie is the only lead character. During much of their back and forth conflict in the book I didn’t side wholly with one or the other. Instead, I found that while both could be idiots at times (as any good character is want to do), I usually considered both to have valid reasons for their actions. Often I end up siding entirely with the main character in a book, so I enjoyed reading a book where I didn’t always think the MC was right, and the other characters wrong.
Going back to the mention of this book being a retelling, I did spend some time wondering just how it would end, since the end of Grease is one of the few things I remember. To my delight, it did not end very much like Grease did, by which I mean there was no “turn the shy bookish character into a sultry rebel.” I suspect from the dedication that this was one of Sophie Gonzales’ goals in writing Only Mostly Devastated, and I applaud her for it. All told, I loved this book, both as a retelling and as an original work that can stand on its own right. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️