The Love Interest has in the spotlight a teen named Caden, a guy who was fitted into the "Nice" assembly of boys. The other side is the "Bad"s. He's for his entire life been living at LIC, Love Interest Corp. as a, well, Love Interest. The boss, Craike, and his guards and scientists get fat fees for doing what exactly with these boys? And, admittedly, girls as well, just separately? Well, the big bosses learned that people will trade a fortune to keep secrets in check, and throughout history, many important people have secrets that if exposed to the world could bring opportunities of millions, billions, trillions, quadrillions of dollars. So who's the most likely to have those secrets shared with? Those people's husbands and wives, so this corp trains boys and girls as love interests to fall in love with important people and report back their findings. Apparently there have been love interests for decades and world wars. Caden ends up competing against a Bad named Dylan, or Dyl, both boys being given those names to them by the company. There was a contest for which boy would be the Caden to go after an inventor named Juliet, and our narrator got the job, and name. The Nice and the Bad must compete, and whoever doesn't get the love has to die. So why the competition? The corp figured that having two competitors with different personalities brought a bigger chance of falling in love than just one. So, it's a fight over a girl and that's that, right? Not in this case. Wink wink.
You want to know a book series this idea reminded me of? The Cherub series by Robert Muchamore. Ooh, how I hate that series. Those were about child and teenage spies going undercover because they were less likely to be called on rather than an adult. The problem with that series was the bad within the good and good within the bad couldn't have been more front and centre, the main character James being abused, humiliated and rained on at the academy but given vacations, love and proudness from drug dealers, fugitives and underground communities, and yet James always goes the legal way. Since this book was a standalone I didn't see that sort of thing happening, but I was also worried the book would just be a gooey romance, something I wanted nothing more of after recently somehow finishing Lauren Kate's Fallen. I also generally don't like standalones, because I usually like to be with characters for more than one book. And I was in a reading slump. Basically, I was truly making a gamble getting this book in hardcover. And The Love Interest erased everything I was worried I would have a problem with. Every single thing!
My reading slump went down the chute after I started the book. It's kind of hard to explain why. Maybe it's because when "Caden" meets Juliet and has to lie about himself, he has to watch his back for what Dyl's going to pull, and he has to combat about his conscience. And Cale Dietrich as a debut author never slows the momentum as things progress, even when Caden is meeting his temporary home with some slobs who probably don't know what anti-perspirant means. And it's the thing everyone raves about in this book - the fact Caden and Dyl are somehow more than just competitors, but the only person they can tell the truth to - is where it excels like a bird in a field of penguins. Some people have argued that the friendship between the competitors, almost like Peeta and Cato becoming BFFs, is unrealistic, but I found its originality to outweigh that thought.
I'll stop holding it off. This is spoilers for the rest of this paragraph, but Caden discovers he just might actually be gay, and that he's falling in love with the boy who will die if he wins and will be the cause of his death if he loses. These relationships, with the fact there are associates of LIC breathing down both boys' backs, are handled in a way that lets us feel the countdown of this bromance, and that it will have to come to an end, almost like watching a Shakespeare tragedy you already knew about only better. And not all LGBT romance books are default wins for me. This one was. There are even moments where I blushed harder than I have in reading a book in a very long time.
I also like how widespread the love interest business actually shows itself off to be throughout Caden's competition. There's a surprise character who's affected by this more than Juliet. I will say that in the final act, a lot happens. And I mean tons, so that if a sequel was ever planned to this book, you'd have to come up with a clever and bloated idea for it. It's almost like if the Shatter Me series was a standalone with the first book's first 250 pages plus the last few pages of Ignite Me, and I criticized Ignite Me for leaving too much to the very last minute. And from what Caden and his friends were doing, it felt like anything could happen. Considering there wasn't going to be more, Caden was going to die for all I knew.
The Love Interest is an exciting book slump murderer, an adorable hugger-bugger, and like a piece of rainbow bread (they began serving those at a cafe I love when I was a toddler for a little while instead of French Toast) on a plate full of, well, you get the point.