#IMWAYR: If You'll Have Me!

Hey everyone! I'm glad to be back for the second week in a row—I've realized I missed reading so much, and getting back into books has been astoundingly good for my mental health. So for once, I'm going to try to heed this message, and actually continue reading—I've got some more books on the horizon I'm excited to try next.

In the meantime, I've got a review of a truly delightful YA romance graphic novel for y'all today—so let's dive in!

Young Adult:

If You'll Have Me

Written and illustrated by Eunnie
Graphic novel · 2023

· · · The publisher says: · · ·

Momo Gardner is the kind of friend who’s always ready to lend a helping hand. She’s introverted, sensitive, and maybe a little too trusting, but she likes to believe the best in people. PG, on the other hand, is a bit of a lone wolf, despite her reputation for being a flirt and a player. Underneath all that cool mystery, she’s actually quick to smile, and when she falls for someone, she falls hard. An unexpected meet-cute brings the two together, kicking off the beginning of an awkward yet endearing courtship—but with their drastically different personalities, Momo’s overprotective friend, and PG’s past coming back to haunt her, Momo and PG’s romance is put to the test.

· · · · · ·

Oh my gosh, I loved this book. You know those times when amazing books just find you exactly when you're looking for them? Between 49 Days last week and this book this week, I'm definitely in one of those stretches, and I'm living it up.

It's funny, this book is blurbed by both Alice Oseman and Trung Le Nguyen (!!!), and while both of them mention how adorable and sweet and delightful this story is, they don't mention how incredibly wise it is too. One of the core questions in If You'll Have Me is a truly beautiful one: How do you let yourself believe that someone else loves you? That for them, you could be the one? Us younger folks are saddled with a surprising amount of insecurity about who we are, for whatever reason, and although this book doesn't mention it, I don't think it helps that those of us who are queer probably spent at least a minute believing we would never find true love in the first place. But the problem, as If You'll Have Me so elegantly shows us, is that when you believe you could never be loved, not only do you miss out on love, but you risk other people feeling like you don't believe in their capability to love back. It's so, so hard to remember that people in our lives could actually form a picture of us, made of all the details they know about who we are, and that picture could take up space in their mind in a way that isn't temporary and means something—it feels like it could never happen, but maybe we can practice remembering that it happens every day, to every single person, including us. But anyway, besides my soapbox, the point is that If You'll Have Me gets right to the heart of an experience that I think any young person who's looking for love will immediately relate to.

I'm honestly a little frightened by how much I related to this book—it genuinely felt like Eunnie went into my head while I was asleep and stole my thoughts as plot material. I definitely related to the experience in the previous paragraph, and I also related so deeply to the themes of giving and giving too much to other people without taking care of yourself—and also the theme of worrying you give for impure reasons, because you want other people to like you. (When I worry about this, I tell myself, not only is altruism kind of a construct anyway because we all do nice things to feel good ourselves, but also, there are so many worse things to want in exchange for kindness than...kindness and care back. I'm not asking anyone to join a cult or solve difficult math problems!) And even besides all these freaking amazing themes, there are tiny little plot details that mirrored my own life too—I kept having to pause and be like, "THAT! THAT'S THE THING!"

Moving away from unpacking all my insecurities, there truly is so much to love about If You'll Have Me. Momo is the most adorable protagonist you could possibly imagine, loving beyond belief and introverted and nerdy and funny too, when she gives herself the grace to express it. And PG is so good as well—she reminds me so much of my own boyfriend in how she can bring fun and laughter and kindness to pretty much any moment. There is a scene with Momo and PG together that I can't even talk about because of spoilers, but ugh, it was so good!!

And romance doesn't happen in a vacuum, which is why I love the world that If You'll Have Me takes place in. I can confirm as a recent college graduate that the college setting is incredibly realistic—this is one of the rare books that remembers that homework is actually a major part of young people's lives, and we don't just run around having idyllic youthful experiences all day. We've got to buckle down and get that diploma! I'm delighted by the amount of diversity in this story too—it's basically a given where Momo and PG go to school that women date women and it's normal, and I love that the story is intentional about incorporating racial diversity as well. Also, the places where things happen in the story are so fun—dorm rooms, the grocery store, a cat café, a club, a beautiful grassy field, like, there is so much life and vibrance in the world of this book and I'm here for it. It helps that Eunnie's art is full of rich colors and vivid facial expressions—the candy-sweet appearance belies the wisdom and introspection that the whole book, and especially certain scenes, brings to the table. Like I said earlier, this book is adorable and wise!

Between this and Heartstopper and Crumbs, I feel like I've been able to find so many graphic novels lately that (a) are unabashedly queer (love it), (b) are delightful and sweet and heartwarming, and (c) really dig into the psychology and practical realities of romantic relationships in a way that I feel like YA romance often...doesn't? (You'd have to tell me, because I almost never touch non-graphic novel YA romances—I personally don't jive with all the tropes.) This book made me feel seen in deep, deep ways I was not expecting when I picked it up, and it has carved out a space in my heart because of that. And I suspect I'm not alone—pretty much anyone trying to find their place in the world, and how romance fits in it, will likely find something to relate to, and a WHOLE LOT to squeal excitedly about, in If You'll Have Me.

That's everything for now—have a restful, book-filled week! ✨✨

Comments

  1. I love that feeling of being on a reading role with every book I read is sooooo good. There is an inner feeling when a book resonates with me so I am happy for your good run!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Reading is an essential part of my mental health care too. I'm glad you loved this book so much and that it accurately portrayed college life. Yes, there's lots of homework. I remember those days. I'm impressed you have time to read for enjoyment.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's a beautifully thoughtful, and wise, post, Max! I love that you made such a loving connection to it and then shared! And I love this wisdom: "when you believe you could never be loved, not only do you miss out on love, but you risk other people feeling like you don't believe in their capability to love back. " I bookmarked the book! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm amazed when anyone can get any reading done in college; the only thing I remember reading was THE AGONY AND THE ECSTACY, and that only because I had six midterms in a week and had no homework at all! Graphic novels would certainly be easier to read. Glad to hear about the YA graphic novels that you mention, even if I probably won't buy most of the for my middle school library.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This sounds like a book that will be really relevant to a lot of readers' lives. Our young adults (and really all readers!) need books that make them feel seen.

    ReplyDelete
  6. You definitely sold this book to me! I need to get it <3

    Happy reading this week!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I’m so happy you connected with this graphic novel! Your review was a joy to read!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you so much for writing about this book Max. I love that you were able to connect so personally to this story. I'm currently listening to the CBC Massey lectures given by Astra Taylor. She's talking about the universal truths of security and insecurity and where they come from. As I watch my grandchildren (especially the girls) consume media, I worry about the messages they get about about not being good enough.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Please feel free to leave a comment—I always love reading them! ✨✨

Popular posts from this blog

MMGM and #IMWAYR: Saving Sunshine and 49 Days!

MMGM and #IMWAYR: Allergic, written by Megan Wagner Lloyd and illustrated by Michelle Mee Nutter

MMGM and #IMWAYR: Princess Princess Ever After!