Thursday, September 22, 2022

Annabeth Albert - Out of Character

Jasper Quigley is tired of being everyone's favorite sidekick. He wants to become the hero of his own life, but that's not going to happen if he agrees to help out his former best friend turned king of the jocks, Milo Lionetti. High school was miserable enough, thanks, and Jasper has no interest in dredging up painful memories of his old secret crush.
But Milo's got nowhere else to go. His life is spiraling out of control and he's looking to turn things back around. Step one? Replace the rare Odyssey cards he lost in an idiotic bet. Step two? Tell his ex-best-friend exactly how he feels—how he's always felt.
Jasper may be reluctant to reopen old wounds, but he never could resist Milo. There's a catch, though: if Milo wants his help, he's going to have to pitch in to make the upcoming children's hospital charity ball the best ever. But as the two don cosplay for the kids and hunt for rare cards, nostalgia for their lost friendship may turn into something even more lasting...

Comment: At the beginning of the year, I've read the first book in this duology? and was happy enough with it. Now I've finally had the chance to start the sequel, featuring another friend of the small group we've met in the first book.

Jasper Quigley is a young man with a good head on his shoulders and with a loving family, a small but good group of friends, he is almost done with college and hopes to work in something related to his gaming passion. He feels like things are going on at a good pace but when the story begins, his ex best friend from high school shows up at the gaming store he works at, hoping Jasper can help him with a problem: he lost a set of rare cards which belonged to his brother at a game. He now needs Jasper, obviously more knowledgeable about gaming, to help him find new ones before his brother discovers what he did. 
Milo knows he did bad when he and Jasper stopped hanging out because he felt his new soccer friends wouldn't respect him if he kept being friends with a nerd. But life teaches you many lessons and Milo now knows he did make plenty of mistakes...he wishes Jasper can help him but will he be ready to face the fact they might have been much more than friends if he had been braver?

This story read to me as the majority of the author's book have been so far, meaning a slightly above average rating but more on the upside than the downside. I have liked them all more or less the same, for the vibe, the writing style is pretty consistent and the characters are, usually, likable and easy to sympathize with, as well as having enough balance in their lives that we could think of them as friends in real life.

Jasper and Milo work out well as a couple, in my opinion, because they do talk, they take time to process their feelings and some of their behavior when facing a sudden situation feels believable. Ok, perhaps not always, some things are a bit too pragmatic and thoughtful when in real life people make way more assumptions, but considering their story here is to rekindle their past friendship and going a step further, I feel the author dealt with this in a very adult and dependable manner.

The whole gaming content is something I don't find much interest in but I appreciate how the author uses this as an integral part of the reason these characters bond and spend time together. At the same time, this isn't a subject discussed to perdition so I don't feel it was boring, and it did help us to see another side of characters who, for all purposes, have complicated situations in their lives, especially Milo.

Milo is a complex character, he has lived through bad experiences, his love for soccer is intrinsically linked to the memory of his father, whom he loved and admired but that he knows had flaws, namely the fact he was a drunk and he would not accept Milo is gay. This colors a lot of Milo's decisions and when he made a serious mistake which cost him his soccer and his scholarship, Milo feels no is to blame but himself and his overall attitude is one of lack of self esteem. I could very easily commiserate with him and understand some of his thoughts, like his reluctance of appearing in public in costume in one or two scenes, fearing attention would be on him...

Jasper seems to be a bit more confident on who he is on what he wants and his past helps explain it. He was sort of bullied and he lost his best friend, but his family is supportive, they are all close because of his sister's illness and we get to see the kind of negative experiences he lived through helped him feeling stronger in facing adversity, unlike Milo. I liked both of them, even though I could more easily want to see Milo's evolution in the story.

As for the romance, it was cute. Sweet moments, a slow paced going from being close again to wanting to act on the attraction.. this was cute yes, but it did make me think of them as young adults and not as much young men really confident on each other's feelings. I don't mean to say they should have been ore aggressive or determined in ow they approached a sentimental or sexual relationship but there were moments where it felt this was too cutesy-like and not as if it was a need for them to be together.

I liked the amount of secondary characters' presences and how they helped or added the plot moving forward, even though the most antagonist character felt like a caricature at times. Some scenes with him weren't as thrilling and other situations where the protagonists discussed certain gaming issues also felt a little too much for me, but overall, my enjoyment of this book follows the same trend I had felt from other books. I liked most of the story but it wasn't quite the best it could be for my taste.
Grade: 8/10

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