I was honestly hoping to absolutely adore this book as it had everything that I typically love in a YA contemporary romance: friends-to-lovers, high-school setting, coming-of-age, supportive family and awesome friends. However, for me, 'Lab Partners' lacked character depth, narrative clarity and just overall reader engagement in the story.
The first major critique I have for this book is that I felt that the writing itself was incredibly juvenile with a very expository-type of constant description. It was very disjointed in terms of the way the narrative was written and mostly focused on the every-day actions of the main character, Elliot. Elliot had the potential to be a great character, one that would relate to and connect to readers. But he was incredibly bland. He did not have a personality, I found, he just absolutely loved going on random monologues about how 'different' he was becuase he 'didn't belong' in both his family and at school, how he had 'no friends' and didn't want any because it would be 'social suicide' for those people. Completely ignoring the fact that he had Holly who out=right said she considered Elliot as her family. I also wish that there was more time spend on delving deeper into Elliot's family life, especially his relationship with his twin sister Eleanor and his parents. It would have added not only more to the story, but it would have helped in helping form Elliot's personality. Because all I really got from the book was that Elliot loved to cook and he was being constantly and terribly bullied.
The 'bullying' aspect of the novel was also slightly problematic. Not the actual portrayal of bullying - that honestly hit hard and true - but it was the reasons as to why Elliot was bullied. It just didn't feel authentic and at the end, it was just like, 'oh they've been expelled now, bullying is over'. Not at all considering the trauma and impact it would have on Elliot. Elliot's mental health, and the fact that he 'had deppression' was glossed over in a few sentences. It just did not feel authentic and realistic to the experiences of many who are and/or have been bullied. Especially to the extent that this book protrayed.
The romance and relationship between Elliot and Jordan was cute, I guess. But again, it's not really given enough 'on-screen' time. We, as the readers, don't really see them grow closer we just are told that it has happened off screen (or off page, in this case). The entire 'getting together' and Elliot's realisation of his own identity could have been done slightly more respectively. What I mean by this is mostly pertaining to the whole concept of Elliot telling Jordan to 'convince him' that he is gay. Sexuality is fluid and it takes time for most people, to get to that point in which they are able to fully and wholeheartedly, acknowledge or recognise their own feelings/desires. But I felt that was glossed over. Jordan kissed Elliot - Elliot was confused as he always assumed his heterosexuality. Jordan told Elliot that he was gay (which nope) and then Elliot tells Jordan to 'convince him that he is gay' and viola, they're boyfriends. I'm not invalidating people's experiences but I am just saying that, in terms of this book, it could have been explored a bit more and more deeply so that we could actually believe in their relationship.
Overall, I just felt disappointed in the plot, the writing and the characters. However, I would recommend this to readers who enjoyed Simon vs. the HomoSapiens Agenda as the writing is quite similar. If you do want a quick and easy read then do pick this up for a cute YA romance.
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