Author: Bethany Mangle
Publication date: February 15, 2022
Genre: YA Contemporary
My rating: 4/5 stars
Fans of Gilmore Girls, this book was basically made for you. A story of a single mother and her daughter, both struggling to find love, propelled by hefty doses of sarcasm and coffee, this is a great read if you’re looking for something sweet, fast, and fun. And, more importantly, it has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome representation! Read on for more about the book and my thoughts on it.
The Bachelor meets Gilmore Girls in this laugh-out-loud young adult romance about a girl who joins her mother on a reality dating show for single parents—only to fall for a contestant’s son.
Cara Hawn’s life fell apart after her father cheated on her mother and got remarried to a woman Cara can’t stand. When Cara accidentally posts a rant about her father online, it goes viral—and catches the attention of the TV producers behind a new reality dating show for single parent families.
The next thing Cara and her mother know, they’ve been cast as leads on the show and are whisked away to sunny Key West where they’re asked to narrow a field of suitors and their kids down to one winning pair. All of this is outside of Cara’s comfort zone, from the meddling producers to the camera-hungry contestants, especially as Cara and her mother begin to clash on which suitors are worth keeping around. And then comes Connor.
As the son of a contestant, Connor is decidedly off-limits. Except that he doesn’t fit in with the cutthroat atmosphere in all the same ways as Cara, and she can’t get him out of her head. Now Cara must juggle her growing feelings while dodging the cameras and helping her mom pick a bachelor they both love, or else risk fracturing their family even more for the sake of ratings. Maybe there’s a reason most people don’t date on TV.
This was such a fun book. With echoes of The Bachelorette (come on, even the title echoes that common drama-inciting line from the show–“so-and-so isn’t here for the right reasons!”) and Gilmore Girls, coupled with a lot of highly relatable content for me (the pain of divorced parents, the craziness of having a mom who runs marathons for fun–yes, my mom runs marathons, including doing Boston twice–and specific disability rep), I enjoyed it a lot!
I really appreciated how this book managed to balance some of the very real struggles of living with a single parent, and the general skepticism about love that it generates, with a lot of fun and humor. Cara is sarcastic beyond belief, and her mother is as well–for the Gilmore Girls fans, it truly is like the Rory/Lorelai dynamic. And that brings me to something else I liked a lot: even though the book is pitched as a romance of sorts, the real focus of the book isn’t on the dating; it’s on the mother-daughter relationship at the heart of it all. A lot of YA books feature absent or difficult mothers, and it was nice seeing one where the main character and her mother are actually friends with each other. Sure, they fight, but it’s very standard and not a toxic thing.
I’m not saying this book was perfect. It had some flaws, including some antagonists that felt very two-dimensional to me, and the occasional line that just didn’t make any sense–you know, characters saying things that are probably supposed to be witty but come out as awkward? The romance was also too insta-love-y for my taste, but that’s more of an “it’s not you, it’s me” problem. Especially since the whole thing takes place on a show where producers were constantly trying to stir up drama and really push all possible romances, I guess I could understand where it’s coming from.
Finally, speaking of the love interest, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome representation. I have EDS, a connective tissue disorder which basically means that the stuff holding my body (especially joints) together…doesn’t really work. It leads to joint dislocations, pain, super fragile skin, and a lot of physical therapy. It’s why I had to get major shoulder surgery last summer. It’s a rare condition, but not that rare–roughly 1 in 5,000 people have it, according to some estimates. It is way more common than, for example, ALS, which 1 in 50,000 people have. And yet, while ALS is well-known and gets its own “Ice Bucket Challenge,” EDS is still largely unrecognized. This is only the second time I have ever seen EDS mentioned in a book–and the first time I’ve seen it from an author who has the condition, and the first time it has appeared in a lighter, happier read (the other book, Creature by Hunter Shea, had great rep, but it was a horror novel and was pretty bleak). I really appreciated the rep in this book, and while my EDS isn’t exactly the same as that of the character who has it in this book, seeing our commonalities–that awkward conversation of having to explain that your joints don’t stay in place, talking about constant physical therapy sessions, having your arm in weird slings or tape–was so validating.
All in all, this is a great book for disability rep, and an enjoyable read for anyone who wants a little more focus on the mother-daughter love, rather than just their dating lives.
The other hosts on this tour have also been hard at work, writing reviews and taking pretty photos for this book! You can find the full schedule, for both blogs and Instagram, HERE.
About the Author
Bethany Mangle writes young adult contemporary fiction, but her tastes as a reader are extremely varied. She has a particular love of fantasy and science fiction. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys baking questionable cakes and spoiling her dog.
Her debut novel, PREPPED, was published in 2021. Her second, ALL THE RIGHT REASONS, releases Spring 2022. Bethany is represented by Jennifer Wills and Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency.
Thank you to Margaret K. McElderry Books and Turn the Page Tours for providing me with an eARC of this book as part of my participation in this tour! All opinions are my own.