That Deadly Performance Called Love

The Love InterestThe Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thank you, Feiwel & Friends, for sending me an ARC of this book (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

A Love Interest is who I am, and it’s all I’ll ever be. Questioning that, or letting other people know that I’m questioning it, will result in my death. —Caden

The Love Interest is one of the most engaging books I’ve ever read. I’m really impressed that this is Cale Dietrich’s debut novel. Although it does have a minor flaw or two, I am more than willing to give it five stars because it made me have countless moments of nerdy introspection, uncontrollable laughter, and even happy sighs.

Essentially, The Love Interest is a mixture of YA contemporary and sci-fi. Yes, I this book does have scientific elements; the technology featured in the story is very advanced compared to what we have nowadays. The Love Interest Compound, a secret organization, finds (if not kidnaps) abandoned or unwanted kids, and then educates them in the “arts” of seduction and deception. When the right time comes, these foundlings become spies whose main purpose is to acquire information from particularly special people (e.g. celebrities, politicians, and more). Caden and Dylan, the main protagonists, are assigned to “court”Juliet, a science prodigy. This is not your typical love story, because Juliet can only pick one boy (Tessa Gray of The Infernal Devices might object to this :p), and whoever loses is obliged to prepare himself for the afterlife.

If it still isn’t obvious, I am an avid fan of The Love Interest. Hopefully, this review will still be objective. Hahaha. The reasons why I loved this book are quite nerdy, so I encourage you to brace yourself and put on your thinking cap. I just really want to prove how substantial this book is.

I significantly adore this book’s delineation of two Feminist literary theories: Hegemonic Masculinity and Gender Performativity. The former argues that there are many kinds of masculinity and that society prefers some over others; The latter asserts that gender is literally a rehearsed act or performance. If you don’t have a nosebleed yet, then please read on. xD

The Love Interest affirms Hegemonic Masculinity in that the Love Interest Compound trains its male foundlings to exhibit two kinds of masculinity: Nice and Bad. This is done in accordance to the belief that girls in society (or at least in YA literature) predictably prefer or fall in love with two kinds of boys: the charming “Boy Next Door” (i.e. Simon Lewis) and the aggressive “Tortured Soul” (i.e. Christian Grey). With that in mind, it is possible to see this book as a satirical commentary on our modern gender stereotypes.

In regards to Gender Performativity, this book affirms it by featuring characters who can change their gender roles when it’s convenient or necessary. As Love Interests, Caden and Dylan are trained to perform their masculinity (Nice or Bad) with the primary intention of enticing their Chosen. Consequently, they become skilled at suppressing their real identity/masculinity. They are depicted be themselves when they’re alone, but their gender roles change in the presence of Juliet. In other words, Caden and Dylan are excellent actors. In fact, they even have their own directors and scripts to follow!

Focusing the limelight on Juliet, I must say that The Love Interest is also a positive commentary on femininity. Looking back, I was actually mildly surprised by Juliet’s detachment from powerful, negative emotions, such as anger, bitterness, and resentment. It is a common belief or argument that females are generally emotional, but Juliet’s personality proves otherwise. Her outstanding intellect is also something to be praised.

The only negative thing I have to say about The Love Interest is that its climax seems rushed and disjointed. The first and second parts of the book emanate a YA Contemporary vibe, but the third part suddenly feels like a sci-fi thriller reminiscent of The Terminator. #Incongruous

In its totality, this book is a delightful, powerful and evocative commentary on gender and its accompaniment of stereotypes. I ardently wish for a sequel, though that ending already gave me a sense of closure. Get ready, booknerds. I wouldn’t be surprised if The Love Interest would be a new addition to your shelf of favorite books.