Book Review

Highly Suspicious And Unfairly Cute

Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute

  • Author: Talia Hibbert
  • Genre: YA Romance
  • Publication Date: January 3, 2023
  • Publisher: Joy Revolution

Thank you to NetGalley and Joy Revolution for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: mention of lesbophobia, mention of parental abandonment, mention of racism

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Brown Sisters trilogy, comes a laugh-out-loud story about a quirky content creator and a clean-cut athlete testing their abilities to survive the great outdoors–and each other.

Bradley Graeme is pretty much perfect. He’s a star football player, manages his OCD well (enough), and comes out on top in all his classes . . . except the ones he shares with his ex-best friend, Celine.

Celine Bangura is conspiracy-theory-obsessed. Social media followers eat up her takes on everything from UFOs to holiday overconsumption–yet, she’s still not cool enough for the popular kids’ table. Which is why Brad abandoned her for the in-crowd years ago. (At least, that’s how Celine sees it.)

These days, there’s nothing between them other than petty insults and academic rivalry. So when Celine signs up for a survival course in the woods, she’s surprised to find Brad right beside her.

Forced to work as a team for the chance to win a grand prize, these two teens must trudge through not just mud and dirt but their messy past. And as this adventure brings them closer together, they begin to remember the good bits of their history. But has too much time passed . . . or just enough to spark a whole new kind of relationship?

I was so excited to see that Talia Hibbert was branching out into YA romance, and when I got approved for this, I may or may not have yelped out loud. I love her particular brand of writing, and I was thrilled to see that her quirky humor was present right from the start with a glossary of British terms that are used in the book.

In this book, she’s created two amazing characters that I had no problem bonding with immediately. They’re both so complex and unique, yet I felt like I knew them so well, even if I wanted to reach into my kindle and shake them sometimes.

Bradley is a golden boy—he plays soccer, is a star student, gets along well with his parents, and does relatively well with practicing coping skills for his OCD for the most part. However, whenever he crosses paths with his former best friend Celine, everything seems to go off the rails. Celine is a unique and strong personality who walks to the beat of her own drum, she’s a confident plus-sized girl, and she is a dedicated striver who is focused on her plan for success that seems to be going well thus far. But she hasn’t been able to let go of her hurt about the best friend who abandoned her years ago.

So when they both find themselves signed up for a survival course in the woods that offers a tantalizing prize, they’re forced to work together and set their differences aside. However, teaming up makes them work through some of the issues of the past, and realize that maybe something new can be built. It was readily apparent that they both had feelings for each other, but they were both letting their fears hold them back. Brad was scared that Celine wasn’t going to return his feelings and it would get in the way of their budding friendship, while Celine was more afraid of abandonment, which she had internalized after her father left their family. 

I loved watching them both work through their own internal issues during this book, as well as trying to solve the problems that they have together. In addition, they are forced to work as part of a group during the survival course, and it forces both of them to get outside of their comfort zones and learn new things about themselves—for Celine, it’s to open up to others, and for Brad, it’s to work on a new aspect of his OCD. In addition, it was fascinating to get to learn more about what goes on inside the head of someone who has OCD, as written firsthand by someone who struggles with OCD.

As always, I have nothing but glowing praise for Hibbert. She writes incredible dialogue with humor that feels realistic, and I loved all of the interactions, not just between Celine and Brad, but also between the families and the friends. It’s always nice to see yourself reflected in characters on the page, and I have always felt that we need more sexy, plus-size characters in romance, and Hibbert does that especially well. This is one not to miss!

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