Review: One True Loves

Lenore Bennett has always been a force. A star artist and style icon at her high school, she’s a master in the subtle art of not giving a . . . well, you know what. But now that graduation is here, she’s a little less sure.

She’s heading to NYU in the fall with a scarlet U (for “undeclared”) written across her chest. Her parents always remind her that Black kids don’t have the luxury of figuring it out as they go–they have to be 110 percent prepared. But it’s a lot of pressure to be her ancestors’ wildest dreams when Lenore’s not even sure what her dreams are yet.

When her family embarks on a post-graduation Mediterranean cruise, her friend Tessa is sure Lenore’s in for a whirlwind romance. But Lenore knows that doesn’t happen to girls like her.

Then she meets Alex Lee. After their parents bond over the Cupid Shuffle, she ends up stuck with him for the remainder of the cruise. He’s a hopeless romantic and a golden boy with a ten-year plan. In short, he’s irritating as hell.

But as they get to know each other during the picturesque stops across Europe, Alex may be able to help Lenore find something else she’s been looking for, even if she doesn’t want to admit it to herself: love.

I was wary going into this book because I had read Bryant’s first book, Happily Ever Afters, last year and didn’t completely love it. I enjoyed it more for the side characters, I believe, and Lenore was one of them… so that’s why I ultimately decided to pick this one up. Also, a book set on a cruise sounded like a lot of fun!

Let me just say, Lenore is a riot! I love her bluntness with her friends and family, and Alex when she meets him. She doesn’t hold her thoughts back and I appreciate that in a character (I’ve probably said this exact sentence before). She does keep some things to herself, like her real thoughts about going to NYU and how she felt when she was screwed over by former love interests because she feels like she’s supposed to be the “fun, carefree one” in her friend group, but that just makes her human. 

“I spend so much of my life trying to be the Lenore people expect. Letting things rolls off me, too confident and self-assured to care. But that’s not all of me. That’s just the side of me that’s easy to be around. What would happen if I showed the other side, the side that’s pissed off and sad and hurt and not so easy sometimes?”

Her family annoyed me at times with her parents being on her case about picking a major and pressuring Lenore to feel like she needed her entire life plan figured out by the end of the cruise. That was honestly real crappy of them and the opposite of what supportive parents are supposed to be like. I do get their reasoning for wanting her to have a life plan, but I just feel like they put the pressure on a little too much with all their kids without realizing it was stressing them (at least it was for Wally and Lenore, Etta is just a damn genius).

Alex was a perfect interest for Lenore as he was the opposite of her in that he had a life plan, yet didn’t feel pressured by it. He was what she needed to stop and think for herself what she wanted just by listening to her and being a voice of reason. We all need someone like that in our lives, romantically or not. However, I’ve said this before, I’m not a fan of insta-love, but I did love seeing Alex and Lenore connect despite a rocky beginning. 

If anything, I really enjoyed the other issues that this book tackled, including anxiety in teens/young adults of color, expectations of Black excellence, sibling rivalry and supposed favoritism, and expectations of high school graduates knowing what they want to do for the rest of their lives. All of that trumps the love story, which is what makes this book better than Bryant’s debut and worth reading.

I’m glad I gave this book a shot, and I highly recommend it. It’s great as a companion novel or as a standalone.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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