My books (and I) have returned to my hometown, and are all nestled in the corner of my bedroom. As I combed through, I discovered two stacks (of at least 15 books) that I have yet to read (TWO), and I refuse to buy more until a dent has been made. I am allowing myself pre-ordered releases and course texts, but that’s all. I may stick to this; I may likely not. But I’ll try.
I started with Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt, and I may be leading with a favourite. Unconventional is, perhaps, the most heartwarming novel I have ever had the pleasure to read. It sat on my shelf for far too long.
I opened Unconventional early afternoon, and finished early evening – it has an effortless flow. Halfway through, I considered the possibility that Maggie Harcourt is telepathic, because Unconventional contains all that I need in a YA novel.
Lexi Angelo has grown up helping her dad with his events business. She likes to stay behind the scenes, planning and organizing… until author Aidan Green – messy haired and annoyingly arrogant – arrives unannounced at the first event of the year.
Then Lexi’s life is thrown into disarray. In a flurry of late-night conversations, mixed messages and butterflies, Lexi discovers that some things can’t be planned. Things like falling in love…
I adore Lexi Angelo. I often obsessively read myself into female protagonists, and often find a fit. But, though Lexi and I share passion, we have little in common, and there is something refreshing about that. I find there is more for me to love, beyond familiar passion and anxieties. Her strength, wit, talent, and ability to juggle a hectic lifestyle, all make her an incredible character; put simply, Lexi is a boss. Though losing her way, absorbed in a life that is too familiar, Lexi is aware of her talents and works tirelessly to give the best version of herself to her father, and those that surround her. I know few young women willing to comb an entire hotel (when there are 212398912 more important tasks to complete) for a very small dog.
And, alongside Lexi, is AIDAN GREEN, and I LOVE HIM. Write a curly mopped, sea-eyed, fantasy author and I will ALWAYS be here for that. His charm and sarcasm KILL ME DEAD (caps are necessary, believe me) and when he is nervous, my heart is at risk of bursting. There is a moment involving a dedication that I’m not quite sure I have recovered from. I’m desperate to quote it, but I wouldn’t want to spoil the moment for you. God, I adore Aidan Green.
And shoutout to Samira for being unapologetically herself, and being a wonderful best friend to Lexi – in the supportive way that a friend should (with empathy), she calls Lexi out on her shit, and is always on hand to help her through. Also, I feel she does not get enough appreciation for the effort put it into every costume.
Maggie Harcourt can write epically good characters.
An odd compliment, but Unconventional is also structurally wonderful. It transitions seamlessly from conventions to the Angelo household, and is full of memorable chapter titles, like ‘The High Priestess of the Order of the Clipboard’.
Harcourt can write damn good parents. I find YA parents often tend to be two dimensional for ease of plot (strict, nonchalant, absent, volatile), but Lexi’s father is strikingly human. He is a workaholic, that navigates fatherhood, a thriving business, and love, and veers between productivity and destruction. He often fails (as parents do) but is always surrounded by love (Bea is 10/10). Similarly, Lexi’s mother is a reminder that parents are more than their children, and deserve to be unapologetically happy.
Unconventional is also a really beautiful ode to friendship: a reminder that passion can extend not solely to what you do, but to who you do it with.
This book is SO nerdy, and, for that reason alone, I don’t think I could possibly love it more. It swells with a passion for books, comics, films and conventions, and people that love books, comics, films and conventions, and every page creates a little bit more magic.
Reading Piecekeepers felt like that. It felt like coming home, like hearing someone telling me a story they had made up just for me. It felt like meeting a friend I’d never realized I had.
Reading Unconventional, I understand Lexi’s appreciation of Piecekeepers; this book is a friend, a confidant, and reading it is like listening to your favourite song, or feeling the weight of your heart after watching a beautiful film. It is full of passion, and heart, and I cannot recommend it enough. Maggie, I am breaking my no-book-buying rule for Theatrical because you are a GENIUS – I could not be more excited.
Thank you for reading!