Review: Highly Suspicious & Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert (Spoiler-Free)
4.5 stars! ~ Thank you to Joy Revolution Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. RELEASE DATE: January 3 ~
I wonder if Brad tells his perfect, plastic friends about the way we used to be. I wonder if he tells his only likable mate Jordan Cooper about me, and whether they talk about it seriously, the way they sit under the weeping willow on the field and talk about books.
This dynamic is everything I ever needed. It was literally the amalgamation of all my favorite tropes (with one tiny caveat). Childhood best friends/family friends and grumpy/sunshine with the girl being the grump. This book twisted the childhood best friends trope to also include some enemies to lovers as Celine and Brad had a falling out in early high school. This was the aspect I didn't care for as much, but it did make me realize I only like enemies to lovers if they don't know each other yet. For example, if two people are forced to kill each other but then they can't because they fall in love once they actually meet. In the case of this book however, Celine and Brad are "enemies" because of their fight, but they don't actually hate the personality of the other person (obviously lol, although Celine has her warranted observations about the type of people Brad hangs out with).
I found that resentment to be pretty realistic and relatable and it reminded me a lot of a similar dynamic in Normal People, as both feature a "weird" girl and soccer (sorry Brits) player who's popular and is slightly embarrassed to be seen around her. I like that both Celine and Brad have faults in this regard as Celine is sometimes too quick to judge his friends just for being popular and what he enjoys doing, like going to parties. But on the flipside, Brad is also too caught up in making friends just for appearances, even when those friends are assholes while he isn't.
Anyway. The point is: he was Bradley Fucking Graeme and he was too special to play a crudely drawn role in some tacky 2000s high school movie. But he didn't even know it.
Speaking of Bradley Graeme. I can't tell if I'm in love with him or if I am him. Maybe both. He has OCD, goes to therapy, constantly makes Dune references to combat his intrusive thoughts, reads modern sci-fi and fantasy, and is going through a crisis about being a writer. I mean. Hello?. Oh, also he's on the varsity soccer team. Like can we drop this man into my life stat. (I also loved the casual bi rep!! Brad is bi, but it's not a big part of the story at all).
Celine was also iconic. She doesn't care what a single person thinks about her (cough cough, except maybe, just a teeny bit, Brad) and is super driven when it comes to academics. She is dealing with the emotional turmoil of a father who left her, and I found that aspect very interesting and handled really well. I also lovedddd her mom. Of course, Celine is also a grump and severely emotionally repressed. BUT, when I say that I mean outwardly. It's frustrating when characters are emotionally constipated when it comes to internal reflection (like, grow up), but Celine is not like that at all. She's very self-aware of her emotions, she just can't say them out loud (because, ew). I loved seeing Brad rope that out of her, it was necessary but also so funny. Also the way she handled Brad's OCD 😭😭 literally perfect. Like she didn't belittle him or make him seem crazy, she just remembered little details of things to do or avoid.
This is a fabulous YA debut from Talia Hibbert and I hope she writes more!
No arguments in Philosophy, no bitchy comments in the halls. You'd think we were ignoring each other, but whenever our eyes meet, he gives me this tiny, tentative smile and says: "Hey." And I reply, helplessly, "Hey." And then we lapse into a silence I don't know what to do with.