Book Review: When You Get the Chance ~ Tom Ryan & Robin Stevenson | ★★★✰✰

Thanks to NetGalley and for providing this e-ARCs in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this post are my own.

Reading When You Get the Chance was like holding a ball of wholesomeness radiating with LGBTQIA+ positivity.

Expected rating: ★★★★✰

Actual rating: ★★★✰✰

Publication date: May 4, 2021

Read if you… are looking for a light, easy, read that is basically a sensible LGBTQIA+ lesson. Also if you are looking more for a representation read rather than an intriguing story.

Why I read it: Let’s be honest, I am not much of a contemporary reader, BUT some books just have to be picked up. The cover is super catchy (!!!), and when I read the synopsis I knew I would hate myself my entire life if I didn’t request the book.

Read it in: 3 days (272 pages)

Follow cousins on a road trip to Pride as they dive into family secrets and friendships in this contemporary YA novel — perfect for fans of David Levithan and Becky Albertalli.

As kids, Mark and his cousin Talia spent many happy summers together at the family cottage in Ontario, but a fight between their parents put an end to the annual event. Living on opposite coasts — Mark in Halifax and Talia in Victoria — they haven’t seen each other in years. When their grandfather dies unexpectedly, Mark and Talia find themselves reunited at the cottage once again, cleaning it out while the family decides what to do with it.

Mark and Talia are both queer, but they soon realize that’s about all they have in common, other than the fact that they’d both prefer to be in Toronto. Talia is desperate to see her high school sweetheart Erin, who’s barely been in touch since leaving to spend the summer working at a coffee shop in the Gay Village. Mark, on the other hand, is just looking for some fun, and Toronto Pride seems like the perfect place to find it.

When a series of complications throws everything up in the air, Mark and Talia — with Mark’s little sister Paige in tow — decide to hit the road for Toronto. With a bit of luck, and some help from a series of unexpected new friends, they might just make it to the big city and find what they’re looking for. That is, if they can figure out how to start seeing things through each other’s eyes.

There is SO much to say about this book

The queerness of it all!! My heart!! Rainbows and (metaphoric) sparkles and smiles and love. It really, really is a book dedicated to and centered on LGBTQIA+ people. The awesome vibe of the Pride March made me cry several times because we don’t have these where I live and I can’t wait to go to one.

Get fit or go home!

When You Get the Chance reads more Middle Grade than YA, with almost no negativity. Beside a heartbreak and family estrangement, the only trigger is the mention of a death at the beginning of the story and some allusions to LGBTQIA+ history bad moments. Homophobia is also present, but mostly diluted.

I will definitely make my little sister (who’s 12 years old) read it, because it’s a very sensible, healthy, and enlightening introduction to the LGBTQIA+ community and a broad range of topics (nonbinary, polyamory, pansexuality, etc.).

gif gifs disney winnie the pooh christopher robin hug ...

My three-stars rating is mostly due to the fact that I don’t usually go for contemporary as much as fantasy or dystopia, and to the somewhat inorganic dynamic of situations, relationships, and dialogues. Some actions were too rushed, some dialogues felt a little artificial and cliche, and some details were overly dramatized.

To be honest, if the cast hadn’t been as varied and sensible topics hadn’t been introduced all along, I don’t think I would have liked this book.

I have conflicted feelings regarding the writing style. Kudos because it most certainly is not purple prose, but there were times when a little extra abstract image would have helped give it a more poetic twist. Still, that’s just subjective.

TL;DR: My rainbow heart really liked a fair chunk of it.

  • Clear POVs. I read When You Get the Chance right after reading Bright Young Things, and finally getting two clearly separate POVs was a relief. In WYGTC, each voice was easily recognizeable.
  • I find Talia and her identity questions so relatable! I have so many myself, and it felt so good to see them in a book.
  • Talia and Paige’s relationship, and Talia and Mark’s relationship subsequently, made my heart go all gooey. What was that Liv and Maddie quote again? Family by birth, friends by choice. Something like that anyway, I was 12 when I watched it.
  • Most of the discussed topics come with several answers from different point of views. Feel like people shouldn’t be outed? That’s fine. Think that hiding a person’s LGBTQIA+ affiliation is a form of suppression? That’s fine as well. Just make sure you don’t talk about someone else’s sensible information if they are not comfortable with it.
  • The peace and freedom of the story gives it somewhat of a utopic vibe when it comes to non-queer people (minor spoiler: not that there are many in the story, lol) interacting with queer people. I was impressed by the freedom with which everyone could discuss their sexual orientation/gender identification.
  • Anyone without a little sister will love Paige. I, who have a little sister, find Paige incredibly irritating. And that’s when you know that she’s the most realistic character in the whole book.
  • Slow beginning with most of the background information exposed in the first few chapters through the characters’ inner monologues (which is not my cup of tea, y’all know it).
  • Mark (MC) is very irresponsible and self-centered, too heavily focused on boys and partying and flirting. I really couldn’t bring myself to sympathize with him through most of the book. He shows no regard for his mother and little for his sister, without talking about that for his grandmother. He changes but… Um.
  • Talia (MC) reminds me of the people who always want to be politically correct about everything and thus become annoying.
  • There were irrelevant moments that gave the story a little Wattpad-ish vibe.
  • Ah, gosh, I was hoping for a little more road trip since the synopsis made it seem like it was going to be a core topic.
  • I couldn’t really put my finger on what it is that makes some relationships and feelings seem a tad shallow and too instant, but I think it’s due to a little too much telling rather than showing.

I didn’t find the story itself compelling, but I think that the main point was not to make the plot brilliant, it was to give off a strong queer vibe and create some solid representation. In this case, When You Get the Chance is a pretty good, fluffy read.

So this could be in my rec pile for those who want to learn/read about LGBTQIA+ topics.

What do you think of When You Get the Chance‘s cover? What great books would you recommend to learn/read more about the LGBTQIA+ community? What’s your favorite Canada-based story?

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