In LOVING, book blogger Ella has to do a school project with the hottest boy in her year. It doesn't really help that her best friend Zoe is in love with the school womanizer Luca as well.
A Book Blogger Portrayed Accurately, Hallelujah!
I love how smoothly and fittingly Bongard incorporates Ella's pastime blogging hobby. I've only ever read one novel starring a book blogger before and in that one, it didn't even play a role for the plot. It absolutely makes sense for Ella, the introverted book nerd, to do this and to prefer it to going to parties and going out in general.
It's so fun to find all the things that we are concerned with in the novel, even accompany her to a major book expo! She's a thoroughly well-developed and absolutely believable character and her being "one of us" makes it even twice as remarkable that Bongard pulled it off realistically. In general her characters don't really seem to act their age.
Especially Ella is very mature and down-to-earth and even the so-called teenage meltdowns she has regarding Luca don't even seem dramatic enough. High schoolers don't keep it together and are always quiet and collected like her. I would have loved more major drama that really gets ugly, because that's what high school is like. Luca and Ella seem like new adult characters in college to me. I recall that some people have even labelled this a New Adult novel. I don't really agree, it's set in high school and the language is comparable to Middle Grade, so it's somewhere inbetween and a mash-up of all three genres.
Problematic Character Development
During the course of the novel protagonist Ella goes through the typical ugly duckling transformation which ends in her being the object of desire for a lot guys. I'm not a fan of that. I know that in reality high school boys are that superficial and will start to notice girls the second they take off their glasses and dress a little more extravagant - however, does this really have to be the topic of a novel for teenagers? I would have loved this way more if Bongard left out the whole lasik surgery thing and the makeover and just made Luca fall in love with Ella for her personality. Maybe he does fall in love with her because of who she is, but he would have never been interested in her in the first place, had she not become a swan.
The way that Ella develops in the novel and completely turns her habits inside out (starting to do sports, makeover, extroversion) doesn't make her sympathetic and frankly, it doesn't give off a positive vibe for teenage readers her age. You don't have to live up to society's expectations to be happy and fall in love. That's exactly what the novel advertises for - change everything about you and the hottest boy in school will like you - yay.
To me, that's a very problematic view point. However, if we're not talking about deep matters and all, I can fairly say that I enjoyed this novel a lot. I read it really quickly because of the easy writing style and because I loved that Ella is a book blogger and talks about the little things we bloggers worry about a lot.
Overall: Do I Recommend?
LOVING is absolutely not what I expected and that's a good thing. It's a cute, quick, but probably easily forgettable read. It's nice if you're a blogger yourself and one of those books you can read over and over again when you're on a vacation. It's beachy somehow, it's light and it's entertaining. Well-deserved four stars and a recommendation to all you book bloggers out there.
"Ella's not really into the party scene at her school; she'd rather read or blog about books. When her best friend Zoe starts crushing on Luca, the school Casanova, she can't understand it... until she gets to know him better and discovers that he's not just hot, he's also intelligent and sensitive. How could a person not fall for him?"