How to Win a Breakup by Farah Heron
Expected Release Date: March 21, 2023
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For a sweet story with some actual mystery to it, for a fun integration of nerdy gamer things that you’ll be in on the joke for if you’re a gamer, for characters who support being their true authentic selves
First, math genius and gamer-nerd Samaya gets dumped by her boyfriend. Then he sabotages her job and hooks up with her frenemy. What could be worse? Clearly, her golden-boy ex is winning the breakup. The only way Samaya can get some rebound cred is to find someone new. Even if she has to fake it.
At a volunteer bake sale, Samaya meets a sweet opportunity. Daniel is a handsome hockey jock and a whiz when it comes to lemon squares and brownies. And he agrees to play along. Quid pro quo. He’ll pretend to be the boyfriend of her dreams if Samaya helps him pass calculus.
This may well be the recipe for the best revenge, but Samaya has no idea how complicated it will get. As they whip up an imitation romance, and a bumbleberry pie, resisting each other’s very real charms proves impossible. Samaya finds herself on an unexpected journey of secrets, self-discovery, and the true meaning of moving on.
This starts off with a premise that could easily fall to the lazy, boring trope where the conflict is driven by people simply not talking to each other. Happily, that lazy boring trope is not where this book draws from. Instead, there’s a well-developed sense of identity and authenticity, as well as mutual support. Considering this is a fake-dating trope, it’s really impressive that it still felt very genuine for the characters!
I loved that they were pretty honest with each other from the start. Even though there’s the one obvious lie of pretending this guy is an excellent gamer, they both focus on staying true to themselves and encouraging each other to do the same. Daniel’s interactions with Samaya’s friends was focused a lot on who he genuinely is, rather than solely on his assumed persona. They even call that out to each other after, which was a heartwarming moment of clarity. This is a critical basis of any relationship, so I was quickly invested in them, regardless of if romance came or it stayed as a strong friendship.
As a sense of identity is a core of this story for both main characters, there’s also a side dish of racial commentary. Devin’s parents look down on Samaya’s family for not being Indian-Indian; Daniel gets all kinds of micro-aggressions about being a great player for a Filipino — and even that feels like an improvement over the outright racism and violence he’d dealt with previously. It’s not the full core of the story, but they each find ways to deal with it and commiserate together to find community and support.
One little aspect of this that niggled at me as a gamer was how some of the gaming things just seemed incorrect. Now, note: this only annoyed me because I have done these things and could see the logic holes, but realistically, they didn’t affect the story of the novel (and were usually being used to propel it, in fact). One weird idiosyncrasy was that Discord, an online platform for voice chatting, was acknowledged to exist. Yet somehow their gaming guild was only able to play and talk by being in a room together, instead of using Discord to connect like just about every other gaming guild around???
But to be fair LAN parties can be hella fun so no shade at the end result, the excuse for it just didn’t make sense. xD
Anyway, I definitely enjoyed this one and was pleasantly surprised at the depth brought to what’s usually a bit of a fluffy trope for me.
Thanks to NetGalley and Skyscape for a free advanced copy. This is my honest review.
One thought on “ARC Review: How to Win a Breakup by Farah Heron (3/21/23)”
Nice review, Jennifer. Not for me, I am not a gamer at all.