Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West–and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing–down to number four.
Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben’s, including give up sleep and comic books–well, maybe not comic books–but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it’s time to declare a champion once and for all.
The war is Trixie’s for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben’s best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben’s cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie’s best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they’re on–and they might not pick the same side.
To say I enjoyed this book would be an understatement. Never have I read a contemporary YA book that really grasps the feelings I hold to my heart as this one did. The whole time I was reading, I was thinking “this book was made for me.” From the clever characters, to their wicked funny banter, to the truths that the author manages to insert about students – it was all an equation to create a book that I fell head over heels in love with.
First things first, this story is based on Much Ado About Nothing, so if you like that kind of cute comedy, then definitely think about picking this one up. The main character Trixie goes to this Gifted School for exceptionally smart students, and I really, really liked how she was written. Trixie is flawed, determined, and delivers the wittiest comments. Her banter with Ben is hilarious and had me giggling like a lunatic (given that I was alone in the house and laughing into a book). I loved their antagonistic relationship, and how when things got a bit too far, they always knew to apologize. It’s a battle of the wits that also has as basis of respect for each other, as well as developing feelings. And similar preferences with fandoms.
Oh LORDY, the fandom references in this one were just too awesome. There were loads that I was like “BRUHH YES FOR REAL” and others that I didn’t get, yet enjoyed all the same. It just really adds depth to the characters, and adds a side to them that we don’t usually see in characters in YA. I’m sure it’ll resonate with a lot of readers as well, seeing as they probably know of many of the references made.
I love the friend group that Trixie and Ben were in. Each of them had their imperfections, which made them even more realistic. There’s many things remnant of Much Ado About Nothing, which I found quite charming, including the plot of the book. It’s not just fun and games with your friends going on in here. Someone’s also been tampering with school records and accusing students of cheating. In such a school where student rankings mean everything, that is a DISASTER.
So I’d like to insert a paragraph of appreciation towards the author for reflecting on what students may (or may not) feel about school. Listening to these characters was like listening to the things in my own mind, because they hit all the points that I feel whenever I go to school. My course load is rigorous, and the competition is fierce in my classes. The characters in The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You start questioning how the school and the ranking list is affecting their lives, and I agreed with so many things. The ranking list was negatively affecting both their mentalities AND personal relationships. They expressed uncertainties about the fact that they work so hard to have a number ranking that really doesn’t mean much in the scope of things. And I could connect to them on a spiritual level. (More of a rant on other things this book has that YA contemporary sometimes forgets can be found in my GR review here).
“‘Has anyone else considered the insane amount of pressure they put on us here?’ Harper hissed, a wild glint behind her specs. ‘Do you know what other seniors are doing right now? They’re reading Jane Austen – for the first time. They’re taking pre-calc and getting a full night’s sleep every night. When was the last time any of you got eight hours of sleep?’
A longing silence passed over the table. I distantly remembered waking up at noon sometime in July.”
The romance that develops had a steady build-up, already cemented by the tension between Trixie and Ben whenever they sniped at each other. I loved the fact that they had the same fandoms, and how they just understood each other. You could really tell that they cared for each other and brought one another’s best parts out. All the characters were just so heartfelt, despite the mistakes and decisions they make and the consequences that came with it. Also, I’ve never enjoyed the description of a kiss the way I did with this couple’s.
“Suddenly, everything I’d ever read made sense. All of the cliches about electricity and drowning and falling and other sinister meatphors for a kiss all swept over me. It was nuclear fusion. It was the door to Narnia. It was a cacophonic wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey symphony regenerating us into a spectacular and overwhelming new form.”
At first glance, The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You may seem like a light and fun contemporary that passes the time – and it is. But it also delivers clever dialogue with fandom references that’ll make readers tickle with laughter. And most importantly: for me, it showed a group of students that had the similar worries and experiences that I have. How often is it that we see students in a YA contemporary actually try to do their homework and earn good grades? That aspect really resonated in me as a reader, and I can only hope to find more books like this one in the future.