The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson
published by St. Martin's Griffin in May 2016
Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West--and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing—down to number four.Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben's, including give up sleep and comic books—well, maybe not comic books—but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it's time to declare a champion once and for all.
The war is Trixie's for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben's best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben's cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie's best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they're on—and they might not pick the same side.
The Story: Trixie Watson and her two best friends, Harper and Meg, are seniors at Messina Academy for the Gifted - Mess for short - basically a high school for genius. The entrance exam is 3 hours long, there is a gag rule about disclosing their IQ numbers, they take courses such as "History of the American Immigrant" and "Economics of the Third World," they all willingly take on assignments for extra credits... and on the first day of each month, an updated ranking list is posted. Trixie's goal this year is to graduate third, thereby putting an end to her Rank Tango with her arch nemesis Ben West and beating him once for all. That means, between school work, comic books and sleep, Trixie will have time for little else... and she's dumbfound to find out her best friends have a different plan for their senior year - they want some interaction with the opposite sex! When Harper starts dating Cornell, the two groups of friends become one, bringing Trixie and Ben together without them having a say. The more they spend time together, the more Trixie and Ben realize that perhaps there is more to their bickering than the monkey bars episode when they were 8 years old... While they figure out their relationship, they also need to find out what's happening with the rank list.
My Opinion: I've been in a contemporary YA kick lately and picked up The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You on a whim after the cover caught my eye (I was wondering if this book was from a traditional publisher or self-published ^_^;)... and I am sooo glad I did because it was such a great, fun read!! You know when you go into a book without any expectations at all and it turns out to be a gem? Well, that was The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You :)
One of the reasons why I enjoyed The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You is because the Mess wasn't a regular high school. Every student was a genius and so, as Harper pointed out, they were all nerds. It effectively took out the usual cool vs. geek conflict and just like that, The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You wasn't your usual contemporary YA. Obviously, they were not all friends, but it did feel like the characters were all on equal footing. Also, it was refreshing to actually see all the students care about their studies and their grades. The atmosphere was also different because of the pressure these kids were under, their motivation and ambition... and I enjoyed the camaraderie that resulted from it. To some extent, the setting reminded me a lot of the one in Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg - another book which I loved - where the characters were attending a performing arts high school.
I also really liked all the characters. While they were nerds, they were not one-dimensional. They had hobbies, they had likes and dislikes beyond studying. Obviously, it goes without saying that they were very smart and more mature than most teens... but at the end of the day, they were still young adults and act so at certain times. Ms Anderson did a great job balancing everything :) I have to say, I very much enjoyed Trixie and Ben and their chemistry. I loved their verbal duels... both of them were witty and quick-minded and it gave rise to some interesting conversations. I thought their romance was believable as well... because for two persons to snipe at each other the way Trixie and Ben did, there must be some attraction somewhere. Yes, it was really hidden deep, but it had to be there :) I thought the romance was sweet and the reveal at the end, so funny LOL. I loved their circle of friends. I enjoyed their dynamics and it was a lot of fun seeing the guys and girls interact and integrate the bigger group. Their loyalty to one another was admirable... particularly between Trixie, Meg and Harper. It's always nice to have someone at your back who believes in you. I also appreciate that there was no purposely unpleasant character.
There was no emotional conflict in this book. Instead, there was a mystery and I have to say, it was quite unusual! It was very well-done, interesting and definitively pulled me in. My only complaint would be the resolution of it was a bit rushed and hard to follow at times. Still, very refreshing.
Finally, I have to commend Ms Anderson's writing. This was her debut novel and it was very well executed. I really enjoyed Ms Anderson's voice. There was a snappy rhythm to it and Ms Anderson has great timing and is quick-witted. Personally, I never thought that discussions on a club's quorum would make me laugh... but it did in The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You :)
As much as I loved The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You, I don't think it'll reach everyone unfortunately. I feel that for maximal enjoyment of this book, the readers have to have an inner geek. There is a lot of references to "geeky" pop culture such as Doctor Who, Marvel comics, Joss Whedon, etc. If you don't have some background info on these topics, you'll miss some jokes and references and that could lessen your enjoyment. The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You has a definite Big Bang Theory vibe to it. If you enjoy that show, then you should be fine! :) I'd still give it a chance regardless, but like I said, it'll be a lot more fun and enjoyable if you catch everything :)
My Grade: A-. I smiled and laughed throughout The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You. It truly was a fun read for me and I'll definitively be checking out Ms Anderson's next book :)