My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really like this sweet and tender, slow burn new adult contemporary. In Conventionally Yours, Annabeth Albert breathes new life into the opposites attract and forced proximity tropes by placing them within the very fun and deeply weird gamer culture.
When their teammates drop out due to emergencies, a geeky, never been kissed virgin gamer ends up on a cross-country road trip with a sweet, popular competitor. Alden is neurodivergent, anxious and sheltered. Conrad is big and handsome like a Disney prince, but his shiny exterior masks a very tender and vulnerable side and troubled family history. They start as intense rivals, near enemies in fact, and to the author’s credit, their awkwardness together lasts a realistically long time. Intimacy develops slowly and naturally so that when Alden and Conrad do finally get together, it's deeply satisfying and well earned.
One thing to note: this is more of a dramedy than a romcom. The humor is gentle rather than laugh out loud, and the emotions run deep. These are sweet, soft boys falling in love for the first time, and it's lovely. That said, one of this book's greatest strengths is that it is so deeply dorky. We get an insiders view of competitive table top gaming, and it's a completely convincing, adorkable world. There are dragons and mage frogs and scrolls and cosplay-- the gamer geek speak runs thick.
One of my favorite examples:
His gif was one of a big dinosaur eating leaves. Herbivore food? Too healthy for me ;) See you then, I replied, my soul lighter than I would have thought possible. Just having him to share this with made a huge difference, his little tips and texts powering me through two more games. I warned him about saving scrolls versus fire demons, and he reminded me to be patient with ogres.
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