In YA rom-coms, there’s one trope I’m partial to above all others — fake dating. Maybe it’s the fact that I love a great heist novel so much, and something about fake dating feels very heist-like to me. After all, you’ve got the main character and their witting ally going up against the unsuspecting mark. It’s high stakes all the way — the potential for failure more likely than the prospect of success. Again, very heist-like. But, oh, how I love to root for the underdog as they battle obstacle after obstacle on their way to true love.
Love & Other Natural Disasters is a pretty much textbook-perfect fake dating rom-com – ideal amount of fluff, with just enough real stuff. Bonus — and love! — all the f/f-romance.
Seventeen-year-old main girl Nozomi (Zozo) Nagai is a head-in-the-clouds romantic but absolutely unlucky in love. So, it’s a good thing she’s getting a clean slate and a fresh start in a new city; she and brother Max are spending the summer with their uncle and his husband in San Francisco. Their stay, however, is not without its tensions. Zozo’s grandmother is battling dementia and irreformable homophobia. And Zozo’s mom recently left the family for Zozo’s tenth-grade teacher and just won’t stop sliding in her daughter’s DMs with all kinds of unsolicited questions and advice.
Despite the turmoil (or maybe because of it), Zozo doesn’t waste time casting her one true summer love — Willow Hsu. However, Willow’s a recent dumpee and still totally hung up on her ex-girlfriend (Arden). Ever the romantic schemer, Zozo proposes a fake romance to get Willow her ex (Arden) back in a twist on the fake-dating trope. Meanwhile, die-hard romantic Zozo is convinced she can spin the narrative in her favor. After all, all her favorite fake-dating movies end with the fake-daters falling madly, truly, and deeply in love. It’s (basically) scientific.
Love & Other Natural Disasters is all about that tightrope we’re willing to walk when we want someone who’s maybe not quite right for us. It’s very relatable stuff. And it’s so much more than just fluffy fake dating. Although there’s that too, of course. And the fluff is lovely. The novel deals with themes of homophobia, dementia, and racism. As well as a strong theme of family, including family dysfunction. Nozomi acutely experiences the fallout of her parent’s divorce (and her dad’s pain) and grapples with whether or not to tell her homophobic grandmother that she’s gay. The ending may be predictable, but in this genre, that doesn’t make it any less satisfying.
The perfect queer YA summer rom-com.
Book: Love & Other Natural Disasters
Published: Harper Teen
Publication Date: June 8th, 2021
Age Range: 13 – 18
Harper Teen kindly sent me a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion, rating, or the content of my review.