I’m admittedly not ususally a fan of road trip plots. I don’t hate them, but they are closer to the “leave it” side of “take it or leave it” for me. What drew me to this book were the gaming convention and rivals-to-lovers parts, and I loved both of those, and even began to appreciate the roat-trip parts.
When two “big name fans” go head-to-head at a convention, love isn’t the only thing at stake.
Charming, charismatic, and effortlessly popular, Conrad Stewart seems to have it all…but in reality, he’s scrambling to keep his life from tumbling out of control.
Brilliant, guarded, and endlessly driven, Alden Roth may as well be the poster boy for perfection…but even he can’t help but feel a little broken inside.
When these mortal enemies are stuck together on a cross-country road trip to the biggest fan convention of their lives, their infamous rivalry takes a backseat as an unexpected connection is forged. Yet each has a reason why they have to win the upcoming Odyssey gaming tournament and neither is willing to let emotion get in the way―even if it means giving up their one chance at something truly magical.
I received an ARC and reviewed honestly and voluntarily.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Content warnings include: character faces homelessness, anxiety, asthma attack, sex on-page, instances of aphobic language.
Mentions of: parents kicked out child for being gay, unconsensual sharing of nudes that outs gay person to homophobic parents.
First of, I liked the different kinds of representations in the book. Both Alden and Conrad are white and gay, Alden is also jewish, has two moms and anxiety, and he’s neurodiverse, while Conrad has asthma. It was Alden’s anxiety and particularly his neurodiversity representation that I adored. He has no clear diagnosis, but is constantly made to feel like something is wrong with him because his brain doesn’t work like what is considered “normal”. He’s awkward and feels uncomfortable in most social situations, and he has anxiety. All of this is made worse by his overachieving neurosurgeon and science professor moms who want him to have a clear plan in life, but Alden doesn’t quite know where he is headed yet. I related to him A LOT.
Conrad’s personal arc is more centered around his past with his homophobic family and how getting outed against his will has destroyed all structure and security he has in his life, but it is not a story of queer suffering!
Playing the strategy card trading game Odyssey is an escape and dream to both of them, and that, together with the rivalry between them, is what drives the plot forward as Conrad and Alden make a roadtrip to the gaming convention they are sure will change their lifes.
There’s a German proverb that, roughly translated, says “The way is the goal” and that very much applies to this story.
I loved reading about Alden and Conrad being stuck together and slowly realizing that the other isn’t as they thought, and that they have more in common than they realized, despite having known each other for years.
I totally adored the romance part. It wasn’t totally slow burn but close. The kissing scenes were a total highlight for me, surprisingly.
It was definitely a New Adult book. Aldren is 23 and Conrad is 21. There’s a lot of introspection, pondering and anxiety about the future, and learning how to be independent, in a way.
Ultimately I had a wonderful time reading this book, and I highly recommend it.