Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.
On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?
I’m not revisiting my love of boybands with this book – I was never a fan. But after reading a string of heavy fantasy books, this contemporary story was exactly what I needed. I’ve read the fabulous Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzalez, but wasn’t familiar with Cale Dietrich. Don’t go into this expecting a sugar-coated love story – it deals with some substantial topics.
Fans screaming your name everywhere you go, crying hysterically as they try to get to you, bodyguards surrounding you to prevent you from being trampled, the glamour, fame, and spotlight. Fans see artists on stage, follow them on social media, and read everything about them they can get their hands on. Some of the more obsessive fans think they know the real person behind the public persona. This story shows how little of the boys’ true selves are ever revealed. They’re assigned a character type to portray, dressed for every public occasion, instructed how to wear their hair, and told what to say in interviews. They’re branded and owned by the record company they make money for. It’s not the dream they’d imagined when signing their contracts at such a young age.
Although the record company and management team know Ruben is gay, he’s not permitted to make that public knowledge. He’s had a crush on best friend and band member Zach for a while, but knows nothing will come of it since Zach is straight. Or so he thought. When Zach begins to have confusing feelings about Ruben and memories about other boys resurface, he realizes he’s bisexual. After they begin a romantic relationship, Zach and Ruben want to be honest with everyone in their lives about who they are, including their fans. For their management team, it’s not an ideal situation, and the boys are given one excuse after another about why they should wait before coming out. Disagreements with their manager are made even more tense and awkward since he’s the father of Jon, one of the band members.
One of my favorite aspects of this novel is the unconditional support all four boys give each other. Sure, they have their squabbles and differences, but when the chips are down, they have each other’s backs no matter what. Their personalities are very distinct, and chapters are told in the alternating POVs of Ruben and Zach. Angel injects humor and snark into several scenes and had me laughing out loud. Drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, exhaustion, and the constant pressure of being monitored almost 24/7 are also dealt with. The authors did their research on the exploitation of artists in the entertainment industry.
This novel deals with some important and incredibly personal topics and handles them well. I enjoyed it from beginning to end, and it’s one I’d recommend.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.