A highly entertaining Rom-Com that’s inadvertently set in a 2020 where GCSE exams, school proms and A level inductions all go ahead.
For both Jack and Nate, the school prom is supposed to be the start of a summer of love with their respective boyfriends, Dylan and Tariq. There is just one problem – at Prom they very publicly discover that Dylan and Tariq have started a new relationship with each other and have their own plans for a summer of love. To add insult to injury, they’re posting every fabulous event on Instagram for everyone to see. Jack and Nate have two choices – they can give in to their heartbreak or they can fight back and use Nate’s family road trip to create their own Instagram account showing the highlights of their own amazing summer. But is it really possible to dress up dismal campsites, motorway service station motels, and a clapped-out camper van as the perfect summer? Unless, is it possible this is going to turn out to be their summer of love after all?
This is highly entertaining book that I devoured within twenty-four hours. The two voices in the dual first-person narrative – Jack and Nate – are impressively distinctive and both equally easy to read. If I’m honest, I never really warmed to Jack and, without the direct insights into his thoughts and feelings, would probably have actively disliked him. In contrast, I simply loved both Nate and Jack’s cousin, Elliot, and found Nate’s younger sister hilarious.
Adopting the structure of a classic Rom-Com, the plot is not particularly original (discounting, of course, the fact that this is a love story between two teen boys) but we all know that’s not the point of this genre. The plot contains all the expected misunderstandings, many of which we’ve all seen or read before but this does not make it any less enjoyable to read: for example, they end up confronted by gun-wielding soldiers when trudging across open countryside, and discover the festival they talk Nate’s parents into attending isn’t exactly what they expected. The ending was also easy to guess but that doesn’t take anything away from the book. Indeed, the reader would probably feel short-changed with any other ending.
Having said this, the book isn’t shallow. There are some strong underlying themes about identity and social media as well as some truly inspiring moments. For example, in exchange for agreeing to attend the “V Machine” festival, Nate’s mum insists our three boys spend a day on an outward-bound course. Predictably the group leader is homophobic but when everything goes wrong the other participants stand up for our boys in a heart-warming show of unity.
I can’t finish this review without mentioning one unanticipated anomaly. While many books of this type don’t specify the year, this book repeatedly mentions the year – 2020. Under normal circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have noticed. But these aren’t normal times. The finished copies must’ve already gone to the printers before the Covid-19 outbreak, making it slightly disconcerting to read about a parallel 2020 universe where GCSE exams, school proms and A level inductions all go ahead! It will be interesting to see whether this is changed when the book goes into its first reprint.
If you enjoyed this, you might want to try one of Simon James Green’s other books such as his highly acclaimed debut, Noah Can’t Even. Alternatively, I thoroughly enjoyed Yes, No, Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed. If you’re looking for something similar with a female lead and a few more female characters (all the main characters, and all but three of the supporting characters, in Heartbreak Boys are male), I’d recommend you try You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson.
Publication Date: August 2020
Author’s website: Simon James Green