Riley is a theater-kid who has dreams of being a musical director on Broadway, and Nathan is a gamer who plays Dungeons and Dragons with his friends. After Riley is punished by her parents to work in her dad’s game store, she meets her new co-worker Nathan. Their personal interests couldn’t be any more different. Circumstances arise where Riley and Nathan agree to fake-date each other to help make their crushes jealous. Will it end up morphing into something more?
This book somehow overlaps two vastly different areas of fandom that I personally have. I am a huge gamer of all kinds: I play Dungeons and Dragons on a weekly basis and I also play a variety of video and board games. On the other hand, I currently have season tickets to touring Broadway musicals at a nearby theater and a Playbill binder to collect all of the shows that I have seen. I really enjoyed the geeking out references that were included in this book: both gaming and musical theater. Should I be ashamed that I somehow knew all of the musical numbers that Riley sang in the book? (Though they aren’t all shows that I’ve seen– I have looked up soundtracks). This book also brought to my attention my true need to go see Spamalot. It’s a very cute high school romance story and the characters felt like their age. I listened to this on audiobook and it was a very easy listen for me. It’s not an overly complex plot, and the characters and their romance was cute. I really enjoyed the references, even if I was able to point out some flaws in them. I don’t fault the book too much; it was only a handful, and what kind of nerd would I be if I didn’t have a few… “But actually” moments?
I certainly recommend this to the teenage audience that it’s written for, especially if you are part of the fandom of at least one of the bases represented. For adults, I’d say if you still enjoy cutesy high school romance stories, and especially if you are like me and enjoy both gaming and musical theater.
Thank you to the publisher for providing a free eARC via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Looking for quick read full of high school antics of theatre and dungeons and dragons? This is the perfect book. I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did, I absolutely loved the story and how cute it was.
If you are looking for a fun weekend read this is the perfect book for you, I am excited to look up some other stories from this author.
I received this book complimentary in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Ok ok ok.... I can admit it. I know what dungeons and dragons is. I've played DnD (my boyfrind made me haha. But now I kinda love it too). So when this beauty was suggested I jumped on the chance. Who doesn't love a fun romance with all the nerdy things haha.
The story was just adorable to me. It was cute and sweet and fun.
Plus if ypu are a musical kinda person (like me) you'll appreciate the things happening in the book too.
Now my boyfriend and I met in put late 20s. And with this being YA I can't totally relate to it. But there were definitely small moments that made me think of my relationship and the silly things we did. And how similar even as an adult experiences can be. Especially when I started playing DnD with my BF and his friends. It reminded me so much of those early days of playing. And made me smile.
Maybe I'm just getting old. I don't know.
But I do know I loved this book and all its cute quirky-ness
Sometimes a fake dating trope is all you need to read. It was a delightful afternoon read in which Riley ends up being punished for a little joyride by spending time working at her dad's comic and game shop. After the divorce, she doesn't spend much time there. It'll be miserable she thinks and then she also hears that the spring musical will not be performed at school due to budget cuts. Plus a few months back her boyfriend broke up with her.
All that shifts when she starts working at the shop and Nathan, a classmate and employee at the shop introduces her to a world of Dungeons and Dragons that parlays into a fake dating opportunity because the girl he likes shows up occasionally but seems more interested in him now that Riley is at the shop. And Riley happens to blurt out that her and Nathan are dating when the ex-boyfriend comes in with the ever-popular girl at school. Let the games begin. Until the games are the best part! Riley realizes that playing a bard in the game mixes her talent and allows her to shine. It enhances her drive, with her best friend Hoshiko to win back the opportunity to put on a spring musical.
And the fake dating with Nathan-- works a little too well (as expected and is necessary!) before they both come to their senses and realize they're perfect for one another-- even her dad thinks so. Even Riley and her dad patch things up after a scary incident at the end of the book.
All's well that ends well with the most creative use of D&D in a story (that makes me more intrigued as did Stranger Things) about the game and friendships around it, plus an homage to small businesses like comic/game shops, and awesome friendships. Excellence!
Wonderful story, great character development, great writing! Highly recommend this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it
Dungeons and Drama is my favorite type of YA romance – the kind that keeps me smiling the whole time. And, of course, it incorporates some of my favorite tropes and themes: fake dating, enemies to lovers (but where neither person is an actual jerk at the beginning, so I’m still fully rooting for them), theater, and Dungeons and Dragons. I breezed through this book really quickly and enjoyed every minute of it. I appreciated watching the main character fighting for something she loved the school musical) and also learning to love new things (D&D!). And the secondary characters all won me over too, especially Riley’s best friend Hoshiko, who has her back throughout the entire book and gets a subplot romance of her own. This book is also fantastic for younger YA readers, which is something I always have my eye out for as a bookseller. So much to love about this one!
Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review.
When I saw this, I was really excited to read it. D&D and a fake dating trope? Count me in. I started reading it, and I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to finish it, because I could not stand Riley. However, I kept going, and I'm glad that I did. I ended up really enjoying it. The characters were great, and the D&D campaign scenes were really enjoyable. All in all, it was a fun read.
First, this book was released January 9th in the US, so it is available now. I had actually intended to review it for release day, and obviously I wasn’t really blogging last month, so it didn’t happen.
If it hasn’t already been established by now, if a book talks about the characters playing TTRPGs, then I’m going to pick it up, and so long as the author actually either knows how to play or has done their due diligence researching it well enough to fake it, then I’m going to enjoy it. Oh, and I’ll also say that I’ve read three D&D books this year, plus one at the end of last year that comes out in March, so if you love D&D-style books, we are in for some pretty nice times……..especially if I can get my own book written (I hope).
For the first 30 percent or so, this book was just okay for me, but it really started to pick up from there and I really got pulled into it. By the last 5-10 percent, I was definitely having some emotional reactions to how the story had built up. So yeah, not my favorite story with D&D in it, but overall it was still pretty good.
Now, I will say that the book synopsis is actually misleading, because yes, Riley agrees to flirt with Nathan to make his crush jealous, but she does it because HER ex comes into the store with his new girlfriend and flirts with her. So to try and make him think that she’s moved on, Riley needs Nathan to be her pretend boyfriend. The shift covering doesn’t happen until after they agree to fake-flirt/fake-date while around Nathan’s crush and Riley’s ex.
I can definitely say that Riley acted like a teenager. I’m not complaining about it, especially since I am a 35 year old woman, and I know that this book is not written with me as the target audience. It is aimed at young adults, and the teen years are sometimes known for big emotions and drama and what seems like immaturity to adults, but teens are going through a lot. I remember it feeling like a lot when trying to figure out who you were going to be and what you were going to do with your life, especially heading towards graduation and people are asking about life plans as if you’re supposed to have it all completely planned out already.
So yeah, I’m not going to complain about Riley’s dramatics…she is a theater girl, after all.
I really enjoyed getting to know everyone at Riley’s dad’s game store. Since we get so much of the story from Riley, it was interesting to see her views and opinions change on everyone as she got to know them. Because, at first, I admit that I was ready to put the book down because of how she was describing and thinking about people who frequent game stores. It was that negative stereotype view of things, and as a loud and proud geek, I did not like it. Thankfully, I gave Riley a chance, and was happy to see her views shift. Because, in the end, this book really shows off the awesome community that is built from a shared love of these geeky hobbies.
I got a bit emotional towards the end, when everyone started rallying together to make something awesome happen in spite of the hurdles and speed bumps thrown their way…and I say this in a vague way to not actually spoil the details, but it honestly made me want to have more stories, possibly following some of Riley and Nathan’s friends. It probably won’t happen, because this does feel very standalone-y, but if it led to a series of inter-connected standalones, I wouldn’t complain.
This was such a cute read!!! I loved every minute of it and the chemistry between the two main characters. Highly recommend!
High 4 stars! ✨
This is the way I imagined Better Than the Movies should have been like: a near-perfect young adult romance, with just the right touch of pop culture references. I adored this book. It's a nice short read but perfectly paced, there's the perfect amount of things going on + side character storylines. I really loved Riley and Nathan. I really enjoyed the overall vibe of the book, from the nerdy game side to the theater geeks, the sweet, spice-free romance, and how it even touched on divorce and parent relationships. I can't wait to let my own kids read this book someday!
I LOVED this book, I found myself hooked reading from beginning to end and seeing Nathan go from "I'm annoyed by you" to "ACTUALLY I really wanted to kiss you since the day of the dice" had me swooning and honestly, this guy did SUCH a good job playing fake boyfriend, I am HERE for it. We need more cute books like this honestly, with uniquer concepts like people falling in love via Dungeons and Dragons (such a good idea honestly!)
A nerdy and light-hearted younger-YA contemporary novel! I understood most of the Dungeons & Dragons and Theater references. Be honest -- who wouldn't leap at the chance to work in a game-themed bookstore and play TTRPGs after shifts? Especially if you could play a Bard who really had to sing! This fun book had me seriously debating asking my Game Master if I can play a bard in our next campaign.
I was also really thrilled that even though the fake-dating-jealousy scheme is the A-plot, there was minimal-to-no romance content. Which makes this novel perfectly appropriate for the younger end of the YA readership bracket.
Content warnings: parental illness, heart disease, brief discussions of dieting, brief hospital scenes
Thank you NetGalley and Random House Children's for the eARC. I read this book via an audiobook from my library.
I received a digital arc from the Publisher via Netgalley though all thoughts are my own.
This was such a sweet book and I loved how many friendships were formed over rounds of D&D. While I do not know a lot about theater nor D&D, I found myself able to follow along easily with the gist of both and how they are important to celebrated along with other games and artistic paths that people decide to pursue.
Riley and Nathan appear to come from very different interests and yet it is soon revealed that they aren't so different after all.
Riley finds herself working at her Dad's game shop after she is grounded for going to see a Theater production with her best friend as she wasn't supposed to drive there nor be out after curfew. Then she finds out that they may be halting theater until the Spring which is not something Riley wants to have happen because she wants to some day become a director on Broadway.
Nathan works at Riley's Dad's shop, is part of a D&D campaign and is crushing on a fellow game player.
Riley hatches a plan of fake dating after her ex-boyfriend insinuates she's not over him and she hopes to help Nathan win the affections of the gal he's interested in. Cue the adventure, laughs, some miscommunication and so much sweetness.
Riley soon finds herself enjoying working at her Dad's game shop especially getting into character for D&D while also trying her best to get her school to not cancel theatre. She may be just a bit in over her head but she's determined to somehow find a balance of the two.
The fake dating trope was adorable and I love how they were having fun along the way and were supporting each other through difficult times. When someone close to Riley ends up in the hospital on an important day, she makes a choice that could affect her chances of making it to Broadway.
Luckily she has friends, many in areas she didn't realize who may very well come along and be the help she so very much needed which I absolutely loved!
I highly recommend this book whether you're a theater person, D&D or are just here for the fake dating.
Trigger warnings: health scare, hospital stay
Thank you to @netgalley for this advanced copy in exchange for a honest review!Riley, a theater enthusiast, dreams of becoming a Broadway director and hopes that her high school’s stage productions will help her get there. But when Riley gets grounded for taking her mom’s car without asking, she is made to work at her dad’s gaming store as punishment. There, she meets Nathan (D&D geek) who she doesn’t get along with. That is until she runs into her ex. She decides to make him jealous by telling him she’s dating Nathan, while also planning to help the girl Nathan has a crush on notice him too. But of course, real feelings soon get in the way, and Riley realizes that maybe role playing isn’t so bad, when you’re with the right person.This was a super cute young adult story! Riley and Nathan are pretty well written characters, with relatable high school struggles. I quite liked how their relationship progressed. I also liked Riley’s interactions with her parents and friends.I’m begging on my hands and knees for you guys to read this swoony book. You won’t be disappointed!
This was so cute! I loved the story, the world building and meeting the different characters. I felt completely immersed in the story and couldn't stop reading it.
I received a free copy of this book thanks to NetGalley and Random House Children's; all opinions expressed are exclusively my own.
Ooof, this is a tough one for me. On one hand, I'm a big fan of Dungeons & Dragons, gaming of all sorts, and musicals; this theoretically should be right up my alley. However, the depictions of the culture of the "geeky" kids felt... dated. It felt very familiar to me in terms of a young adult in the late 90's - early 00's, but didn't ring true to how I hear the geeky/nerdy/gamer kids talking today in terms of what is most popular or accessible to them (Monty Python is not nearly the cultural icon it used to be from what I see on a regular basis from teens and young adults.) Also, the game shop is populated almost entirely by men and boys, except for the "rival" female character (who is portrayed in an incredibly negative way, but more on that later) which while that might have been the vibe back in the day, doesn't ring nearly as true now.
Not only was that element somewhat jarring, but some depictions of the Dungeons & Dragons experience really rubbed me the wrong way. The main character and her best friend joined the campaign currently being played by the love interest, his friends, and the "rival", and they lament how the rival doesn't consider what's "best for the group" in her playstyle, while the main character almost exclusively acts as a support to the love interest. This is FRUSTRATING. Reading the afterword, it seems likely that this is based on some real life experience, which makes sense if that's how the author played herself, but relegating the "good" female characters to support roles and making the "bad" rival the more active really does feel unpleasant to read. Not all women RPers HAVE to be front and center any more than every female character in fiction must be depicted as a "badass", but this combination is a little too harsh to me considering how the main character views the actions of the rival within the game.
Specifically for those who are curious: at that point in the game, the rival character [playing a rogue] was pushing the group to pursue some ruins described by the Game Master instead of the trail the GM obviously wanted them to follow. This is not unusual player behavior, nor is it wildly selfish in and of itself. The only issue I could see was that one of the male characters said he wanted to go to town instead, and the GM didn't intend for them to investigate the ruins. As a GM myself who runs a lot of games for a variety of people in a lot of contexts, if you expect your players to only follow the exact paths you have set in your mind, you're setting yourself up for a world of disappointment, and if you're going to dangle something as juicy as abandoned ruins in front of your party, you really shouldn't be surprised if they take you up on it.
All of that said, the story is on the whole cute and sweet, and I think it satisfies the requirements for a solid YA romance. There's a lot of real warmth and tenderness involved in how the characters are expressed and how they relate to each other, and especially in their depiction by the author. It essentially reads to me like someone making a story out of real events that happened 20-30 years ago, and while I caught those nuances as someone alive and engaged in "geek" culture at the time, I'd be curious to see how it hits with a younger audience. Definitely not a bad read, but it was really hard for me to enjoy in the beginning because of some of the characterizations and stereotypes. I might recommend this one to one of my own Dungeons & Dragons teen players to see if it hits them differently; if so, I'll post that here as well and potentially change my rating.
For sensitive readers, this is a pretty mild read with romantic contact limited to things like hugging, hand holding, and kissing. There are some difficult family relationships (but things are discussed and resolved) and some toxic romantic relationships. There is no violence or gore outside of some vague descriptions of fantasy combat.
I wanted to love this one because it sounded like it was perfect for my nerdy little heart. And if this had come out when I was a teen it would have been. But I did enjoy it. But I loved the hero Nathan more than Riley, Nathan was the type of guy that I would have fallen for in high school and college. However, Riley the heroine got on my nerves for most of the book who I didn't think deserved Nathan. And while I don't play Dungeons and Dragons or other role playing games myself I'm familiar enough with it because my dad plays and has played for a big chunk of his life.
I have to say this one would be perfect for teenage bookworms, drama club members and other nerdy girls. It's also perfect for those nerdy girls who want a walk down memory lane.
Dungeons and Drama by Kristy Boyce, 304 pages. Delacorte Press (Random House), 2024. $12. Lgbtqia, the show must go on
Language: PG (13 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG
BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL
AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE
After getting caught driving home from seeing Waitress with her best friend—without a license—Riley’s punishment is to work at her father’s game store for several weeks. Now on top of homework and her unwanted job, the new choir teacher announces that the school musical has been canceled. And Riley can’t let that happen.
Riley is the definition of “if there’s a will, there’s a way,” which gets her into a myriad of scrapes. I loved that Boyce doesn’t focus on any one aspect of Riley’s life, but, instead, shows how this trial in her life affects her hobbies and her friends and her family—because that’s how this messy life works. Throughout the book, Riley learns how to reconcile herself to the changes in each of these areas of her life, and her story feels both relatable and adorable.
Riley and Nathan are depicted as White on the cover, Hoshiko is Japanese, Anthony is Latino, Jordan is Black, and Sanhi is Asian. A couple of guys in the DND friend-group are gay. The mature content rating is for mentions of alcohol (including underage drinking), illegal activity, kissing, and innuendo. The violence rating is for a joke about running into oncoming traffic.
Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen
Ohhhh how fun and lighthearted and cheesy and nerdy!! What a sweet read!
At first I didn’t love the mc, Riley. I’m not really a fan of the over the top theatre kids (in books and real life, lol), but she started growing on me when she started playing D&D. I liked her a lot more once she started having more of a open mind and stopped being so whiney and snooty.
Once Riley got better, I flew through the rest. I LOVED the game store - what a fun setting!! My husband loves that type of place.
And I’m always down for fake dating. ;)
I loved this book!!! It was such a cute read + I devoured the whole thing in 24 hours. I loved Riley and Nathan so much, they were so cute💕 I went into this book blind so I had so much fun with all the little turns it took to get to the HEA. I found Riley to be super relatable, at least to my younger self lol. But I loved her determination and her overwhelming amount of love she had for everyone and thing she was involved in. I loved the little fake dating moments between Riley and Nathan, and loved how Riley became such good friends with the D&D boys. I was not expecting the part with her dad at the end, so it had me near tears. But seeing al her friends pull together, it really showed how loved and appreciated Riley was to everyone around her. I am completely obsessed with this one and loved the writing as much as the characters. It's a good light, fun and easy read for anyone that enjoys a good YA book!