Always the Almost by Edward Underhill #bookreview #YA #LGBTQ #contemporary #TuesdayBookBlog

A trans pianist makes a New Year’s resolution on a frozen Wisconsin night to win regionals and win back his ex, but a new boy complicates things in Edward Underhill’s heartfelt debut YA rom-dram, Always the Almost.

Sixteen-year-old trans boy Miles Jacobson has two New Year’s resolutions: 1) win back his ex-boyfriend (and star of the football team) Shane McIntyre, and 2) finally beat his slimy arch-nemesis at the Midwest’s biggest classical piano competition. But that’s not going to be so easy. For one thing, Shane broke up with Miles two weeks after Miles came out as trans, and now Shane’s stubbornly ignoring him, even when they literally bump into each other. Plus, Miles’ new, slightly terrifying piano teacher keeps telling him that he’s playing like he “doesn’t know who he is”—whatever that means.

Then Miles meets the new boy in town, Eric Mendez, a proudly queer cartoonist from Seattle who asks his pronouns, cares about art as much as he does—and makes his stomach flutter. Not what he needs to be focusing on right now. But after Eric and Miles pretend to date so they can score an invite to a couples-only Valentine’s party, the ruse turns real with a kiss, which is also definitely not in the plan. If only Miles could figure out why Eric likes him so much. After all, it’s not like he’s cool or confident or comfortable in his own skin. He’s not even good enough at piano to get his fellow competitors to respect him, especially now, as Miles. Nothing’s ever been as easy for him as for other people—other boys. He’s only ever been almost enough.

So why, when he’s with Eric, does it feel like the only person he’s ever really not been enough for…is himself? 

This vibrant cover first caught my attention. Then I discovered the MC plays piano (I played years ago), and when I read it was blurbed by Phil Stamper (just finished his Golden Boys duology), I knew I needed to read this novel.

Miles is a trans-boy who’s recently come out, and he has two goals – win back his ex-boyfriend (a school jock who dumped him) and beat his arch nemesis (Miles has lost to him every year) at a classical piano competition. Miles is also experiencing struggles at school – teachers referring to him with the wrong pronouns/name, bathroom dilemmas, and piano competitions – trolls making horrible comments on message boards. Luckily he has some very protective friends to help him out. Every spare moment he has is spent practicing piano, usually in the school auditorium. And that’s where he meets new student Eric who’s working on his comic series.

Eric is laid-back, adorable, and he sees Miles – it’s easy to understand why Miles is attracted to him. I enjoyed seeing their friendship develop and turn into something more. Eric’s scenes with his younger sister are heartwarming and funny and allow the reader to see another side of him.

As for Miles – I wanted to wring his neck at certain points. Initially he’s pretty selfish and ignores what’s happening with his friends. Because of some of his actions, he’s forced to take a closer look at himself and how he’s treated others. It’s a wonderful character arc. I loved Miles’s piano teacher. She’s tough, talented, and nudges him (not gently) into thinking about who he is and why he plays.

This is a heart-warming, joyful novel with messy, flawed characters and an incredible debut. This author is definitely on my watchlist, and I’m anxious to see what he does next.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

19 thoughts on “Always the Almost by Edward Underhill #bookreview #YA #LGBTQ #contemporary #TuesdayBookBlog

  1. Pingback: Books I Want to Read But Don’t Want to Read Tag! – The Sassy Library Fox

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