Cover Image: The Friend Scheme

The Friend Scheme

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Member Reviews

I'm a bit disappointed; and no, it's not just because NetGalley's summary spilled the beans on the whole plot twist at the end.

The plot was superb in theory: two boys from opposing familial gangs sneaking around to have a Romeo-&-Juliet-esque love affair? Sign me up!

But sadly, this story didn't live up to my angsty and action-packed fantasies. Matt and Jason's relationship definitely takes the forefront of the novel, while the escalating tension between their families takes a back seat. Even when the gang drama is the focus, the writing is very surface level and doesn't really convey the severity of what it means to *literally be in a gang in which your family tortures and kills people in between lunch and dinner*. Although our MC wants nothing to do with this life, by the end of the book it is literally treated like a differing of opinions on career paths. 

--

"Actually dad, I don't *want* to gruesomely murder people, smuggle narcotics and weapons into the country, and risk being sent to jail for life anymore..." 

"What? How could you say that? I thought this was your dream!" 

"No, dad...it's *your* dream." 

*tears up* "You're right. I love you, son." 

"I love you too, dad." 

"Alright well I've got to go individually extract the toenails off the prisoner I have in our basement. You go out and have fun!" 

"Haha lol kk"
--

Beyond that, we spend most of the book developing Matt and Jason's relationship, which admittedly, was pretty cute. If this was a romcom contemporary it would all be very fitting. 

But, the last maybe 30 pages are incredibly rushed. The overarching issue of the book is promptly wrapped up easily and neatly with one conversation, and suddenly draw the curtains, fade to black, the story is over. Oh, but not before we get our predictable and eye-roll-worthy ending, of course.

I just don't think the author should have chosen this plot if they weren't going to do anything with it. I was entertained, sure, but it could have been so much better. 

If you're just interested in a cute LGBTQAI+ romance, then totally read this book. But if you were excited about the intense plot of being in a gang and surrounded by violence, maybe look elsewhere. There ain't a whole lot of that here.

Thank you Netgalley for providing me with this ARC (*cough* many many months ago) for review!
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I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed are my own. 

I held onto this book for a good while--way too long, honestly. The description immediately reminded me of Nora Sakavic's The Foxhole Court/All for the Game series. (I ADORE that series, but it checks off every single trigger warning imaginable like it's a competition.) I thought this might be a lighter version of that that I could actually recommend, since the characters were in high school instead of troubled college students. And that cover!!

So, as you can imagine, going up against one of my two favorite series didn't go too well. It definitely wasn't terrible and I would maybe read it again and probably even recommend it. 

I personally detest first-person point of view. Especially when they're written from the point of view of younger people. That usually leads to either very "high school" writing, or mini-adults tossed into a world of kids. 

I'll wrap up before this turns into a review of The Foxhole Court: This book is like This Savage Song and The Foxhole Court had a baby. If it'd been written in third-person, it would have been practically perfect. The characters are ones you love to follow and the story is definitely good. It just needs a *bit* more development of plot/relationships...and to be written in third person.
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*I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

Okay, a shorter review because it has been so long since I read this one (whoops!). 
There were funny moments starting right from the beginning. It was easy for me to feel for Matt and want to cheer for him. The relationship seemed a bit quick and easy too me, especially since Matt should know to be more cautious and suspicious. The characters are great though! I did find some of the writing to be awkward and the conclusion felt, again, easy and quick. 
I expected drama, action, and intrigue, but this is more slice-of-life of a mobster's son who doesn't want to follow the family's business. 

It isn't a bad book, it just isn't what I hyped myself to hope for. 
Will I recommend this? Yes, and I have, but more for someone wants a sweet romance, with secrets and angst.
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It starts off slow and kind of dense, but once the action begins, it's hard to resist the story as it drives forward. It reads as a true epic, one that makes you feel the world really has been reshaped as you read it. Would recommend.
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This is a Romeo and Juliet inspired story/retelling. That right there should have told me I would end up hating this...but alas do I listen to? No. I kept waiting for it to be better but honestly I liked nothing about this. The characters were flat and one-dimensional and the writing was so stilted and mediocre. The plot was ridiculous and predictable. Pass. 
I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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The best I can say about this is that it was a really quick read. And it had its cute moments too, but overall it was just a waste of potential. The whole Romeo and Juliet, falling in love with your mob family's enemy kind of thing could have been SO good, yet this book was completely and utterly... bland. There could have been DRAMA. There could have been YEARNING. Yet we got the most wooden dialogues, the most choppy writing, these kids calling each other "dude" and "man" so often I wanted to slam my head into a wall. Yeah, I'm disappointed.
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Dietrich did well to show us the struggles of Matt, who doesn't enjoy committing crimes like his family and feels alienated from his relatives because of that, but also from being a closeted gay kid. His relationship with his love interest was interesting to read and it was nice that he did kind of grow and stand up for himself to his family.

This definitely didn't make it to my favorites because I felt that the characters could have been developed and fleshed out more. They felt one dimensional which led to the dialogue feeling stunted as well. Some parts felt kind of immature and just like they didn't fit with the tone of the story.

Despite that, I didn't read the final finished work, so I might one day pick up the final version from my library and see if the things I didn't care for were done differently. I definitely encourage readers curious about this title to try it for themselves if they feel called to do so.
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DNF @ 40%

I am not one to not finish books, but I just couldn’t force myself to get through The Friend Scheme. 

The Friend Scheme by Cale Dietrich follows our two main characters, Matt and Jason. Matt’s father is a mob-boss with high hopes that his son will follow in his footsteps. But, Matt has a different vision for his life. Jason is the son of the town sheriff, who befriends Matt. Matt doesn’t know exactly who Jason is - or more importantly, who his father is - but, Matt does know that he’s quickly forming an all-consuming crush on Jason. The two boys must unravel their feelings for each other from the expectations of their families - and figure out how to come clean. 

So, my major problem with this book is that I felt like I was reading someone’s first draft. The writing felt clunky and unedited, there was a glaring lack of world-building and setting-descriptions, and the dialogue was very unnatural - things no one would actually say aloud. I’m not sure if the final copy will have more edits, but the e-arc received from netgalley was highly unpolished. 

Then, because of the poor writing, I found it difficult to care about the characters. They didn’t become more than words on a page for me. The plot was also confusing and unrealistic - we were just missing a lot of description and plot construction to make the story believable. And, while I was being told that a romance was unfolding between the two boys, I didn’t feel it or, frankly, care. 

I am very sad because I really wanted to like this one. The cover and concept are both beautiful and amazing. And, of course, I appreciate the queer representation. But, the book was really lacking in execution. So much so that I ended up not being able to push through to the end.
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The cover for The Friend Scheme has to be one of my favourites of the year! It gives off this film noir, LGBTQ+, forbidden love vibe. I pictured gang meetings in smoky bars, secret meetings between the lovers, maybe even a bit of the injured trope. I absolutely had to get my hands on it! While reading The Friend Scheme, I did get the LGBTQ+, forbidden love, and meetings in smoky bars vibes. There were also meetings between the lovers...but all of this was not delivered to me the way I expected—and hoped—that it would.

There was a lot of dialogue in this book, and I found that, as well as the characters, to be less mature than what I'd expected. There were also definitely some gang stuff in The Friend Scheme since the MC's dad is a mobster, but not as I'd hoped there would be.

I'm glad that I forgot about the synopsis by the time I read this book, because one of the things revealed in there was a secret to me, and that's the only part of the plot that I saw to be an interesting twist. There also wasn't much depth to the plot or the characters (they felt flat to me and I didn't feel myself caring for any of them), and in order to avoid spoiling anything,  I'll try to be vague and just sat that the ending felt forced to me.

All that aside, after writing this review, I persued Goodreads and found that some readers really enjoyed this one! So please don't let my review discourage you if you're intrigued by this title!
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In The Friend Scheme by Cale Dietrich, Matt is just a regular High School kid who wants to survive. Except his version of surviving is a little different than everyone else’s. As the son of a mobster, Matt can’t come out to his father and family, and is expected to help take over the family business of being a mobster once his time comes. But Matt wants none of that, especially the whole killing people to make sure his family stays in control of the city. 

I got some pretty strong Romeo and Juliet vibes from the beginning of the book, with a gay twist. There’s two families that are at war over control of the city. There’s the whole, don’t trust anyone you meet because they could be the enemy, ordeal going on. But Matt ends up meeting Jason at a family bar and Jason seems a bit of a mystery and doesn’t want to talk about any of the family matters with Matt. I found myself curious as to who Jason was but also a bit wary that I had the secret discovered so soon. I was wrong. The book delivers some pretty strong twists that made me close the book and have to take a breather. I honestly did not see them coming and was ecstatic that I was caught off guard.

The writing flowed pretty well which helped it becoming a page turner with a pretty fast pace. And the story itself was interesting enough to keep me engaged. I enjoyed the romance aspect of it and the mob storyline especially. I did feel like it could’ve been a bit darker with the mob scenes, but they were pretty great. I liked seeing the family aspect behind the mob scene, especially with the father. I did have a slight problem with a few things though. 

The language of some of the characters threw me off, perhaps because I live in an urban environment. I’m not used to people saying “golly” in real life and it made me disconnect a bit at times. There was also a time towards the end of the book when the MC, Matt, seemed to act out of character. I understood the effect it tried to had but I felt like it would’ve been better had it been a slower build to it, instead of his multiple character changes that took me away from the story. 

And like the first book the author wrote, The Love Interest, I felt like the beginning and middle of the story were super fleshed out and then the ending was a bit rushed. I would’ve loved to read a bit more about the journey to that point instead of it happening all at once. But most of the problems were pretty minor and didn’t really take away from my enjoyment of the story.

Aside from the romance aspect, I really enjoyed Matt’s connections with everyone else. Especially with him not being out, his interactions with his family is pretty nerve-wrecking that a lot of us have gone through and still do. Scenes with him and his father, especially towards the end were really good and added depth to the entire book. I also really loved the ending and wouldn’t mind reading a sequel about it all. I am also excited to see what else Cale Dietrich has to offer us in the future and how he evolves as an author.
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This book really just was not my cup of tea. I really felt like the writing was very choppy and the main character, Matt and the love interest, Jason were just so bland to me. I didn't enjoy being in Matt's head at all, I didn't care about his life or really anything about him. And Jason is really there to just be a nice hunk of meat and like ... I just didn't like this at all.

Thanks for the ARC!
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i totally picked the friend scheme up (or rather requested the book) based on the cover. something about it appealed to me. if i had known that it was a retelling of one of my least favorite shakespearan plays, maybe i'd have reconsidered. 

i'm just not a huge romeo & juliet fan, and i think because this is a retelling of a play, one of the literary conceits the author uses is a lot of dialogue. like a lot of dialogue. and it's fine, i guess, but i also find that this keeps the reader at some distance, and i generally prefer a mix of dialogue and inner thoughts and physical details to ground the story. and it's not that they were missing exactly, but...i don't know. 

this might also be a retelling but let's just say that it doesn't end the way the original does. this isn't a tragedy. it's just surprisingly insubstantial at the end, 

**the friend scheme will publish on july 28, 2020. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/macmillan (feiwel & friends) in exchange fore my honest review.
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This was such a fun read. I love how it had all of my favorite romance thriller tropes, but with 2 male characters falling for each other. This was the first book I've read written by Cale Dietrich and I raly enjoyed the writing style. It was cute, fun, and still suspenseful. I will definitely be reading more from this author.
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Unfortunately, this book was not for me. Although it has an intriguing premise it failed to reach the mark. 

Matt Miller is the son of a leading crime family and it's expected that he will grow up to have a major role in the criminal organization. But Matt is miserable, hating the violence perpetrated by his family and fearing the harm that may befall his loved ones. When he meets Luke at his family's bar and meeting place, Michael is instantly attracted and engaged by Luke's warm and friendly manner. Before long the two boys are spending more time together, their friendship based on the mutual agreement that they won't share last names or talk about their families. However, this agreement causes strain on their relationship, especially as they grow closer together and feelings become more romantic than platonic.

Personally I did not enjoy the writing style of this book; it felt choppy and superficial and the constant use of "hot" and "cute" to describe the characters had me wondering if Matt (the first person narrator) knew any other adjectives. Despite this being a character driven novel I never connected with any of the characters. I wanted to like Matt but found him to be unrealistically naive and far too trusting. It also seemed that the violence - both caused by him and others - never truly affected him. It felt as if Matt moved from event to event without dealing with what was occurring. Matt and Luke, despite being the main characters, felt undeveloped and the side characters were even more lacking. The criminal world was vague and surprisingly boring. The plot also was not engaging and full of holes with an ending that felt overly simplistic and rushed.

Overall this is a book I would recommend skipping.
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Two people from warring families falling in love is a premise older than Romeo and Juliet, and in truth, Cale Dietrich’s The Friend Scheme more resembles Westside Story, but without the benefit of jazzy choreography and catchy showtunes. While there were some sweet and hopeful moments among the drama in this book, I also wish I could say I liked it more.

I struggled to finish this book, some of that due to the dialogue, which didn’t advance the story or reveal much about the MCs. In general the storytelling wasn’t particularly well executed, the writing was surprisingly simplistic, and what might have been a plot steeped in suspense and shocking revelations was instead predictable, and in fact, the blurb gives away the one good plot twist. Matt and Jason do live in the end, though, so at least there’s that.

I’m not going to beat this book to death, and I don’t want to end things on an entirely negative note. Matt shone on a few occasions, particularly when it’s made clear that he’s not cut from the same cloth as his father and brother; the mafia life is not one he will ever assimilate to. Matt’s brother, Lukas, had his moments to be the good guy as well, and I liked him more than I thought I would. And let’s give some kudos to the cover artist too.

While I can’t say The Friend Scheme worked for me, I’m glad it exists for other readers who have a new book to choose, read, and potentially like.
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I loved the Romeo and Juliet retelling with two boys from rival mob gangs. I think the writing could be a little better. There were parts that read like a child was writing and I felt like some of the interactions between the boys were a little weird. Is it normal for boys to wrestle like that when they’re in pools? I really don’t know. I’ve never been a boy so maybe that’s the disconnect. I did like seeing a male character with some body image issues. I’m so used to that being a female character trait and honestly males are just as prone to body dysmorphia. It was an entertaining read.
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So this is like a mobster version of Romeo and Juliet with a sweet twist of cinnamon roll goodness. The story line, while somewhat predictable, had some interesting twists. It was a fun read and once I reached that third act, I didn't want to set it down.
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I really enjoyed this. I suspected I would, because I really liked Cale Dietrich's previous book, The Love Interest. This one had a similar feel that was a lot of fun -- fast-paced, and immediate. The writing is deceptively simple and just draws you into the story. It also makes you really get inside Matt's head and sympathize with him and how out of place he feels in his family.

I loved that this was a Romeo and Juliet story, with children of rival Mobster families. The twists were paced just right and made it even better.

I did feel that it was a little lacking in substance at times, or maybe just a little too drawn out, which is why I'm giving it four stars instead of five. Also all the high-stakes tension that is sustained throughout the book fizzles at the end making the abrupt happy ending feel very anticlimactic. Still highly enjoyable though, and worth the read.
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I loved this book! Cale Dietrich has written a sweet romance with all the tensions and pressures that come from ridiculous societal norms. I found this book hilarious and frustrating all the same time! I rooted for Matt and Jason from the beginning, even during the times I didn't think they'd make it!. I especially love the narrative that this book takes with gender roles and masculinity. Highly recommend!
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Thank you netgalley for giving me an arc in exchange for a review.

I was very eager to read this story as it was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, but unfortunately it fell a little flat for me. I struggled with the writing style and connecting to the characters because of it. There were pages of dialogue that (although sweet) did nothing to drive the plot forward or do anything to help the reader really get to know the main characters any better. It was very choppy and read for a younger audience.

Overall I loved the premise of this story and it had a lot of potential, but in execution it fell somewhat flat.
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