“Book Review: Life and Other Complications”
Reviewed by Toni Woodruff
This YA romance is a heartfelt friends-to-lovers story that confronts childhood trauma.
Content Warning: Sexual trauma
Author Heather Mullaly has more than just a strong story to tell. She has a mission to bring young women together in Life and Other Complications. This sweet romance is an opportunity for readers to get swept away into Luke’s dreamy smile while recognizing that, despite trauma and life-threatening diseases, there are people in the world who will love and support you.
Aly Bennet has a lot going on in her life. She hasn’t lived with her mom in years, instead bunking down with indifferent foster parents, and she has been dealing with bullying for what feels like forever. Because she’s the girl with HIV.
Over the years, she’s managed to find a few amazing friends in her support group of kids with life-threatening conditions. The only problem is—their friendship might be built on a lie. When she first introduced herself, she told them she was born with HIV.
That is not the truth.
And now, she is being called to trial to testify against her abuser, her mom’s boyfriend and the reason why she contracted the disease.
So not only is she going to have to talk about it, but she also knows that, despite being in love with her best friend Luke, she can’t admit her feelings; because she wouldn’t want anybody to get too close.
Life and Other Complications tackles some really big issues, but it never forgets its role as a lovable and sweet romance. Luke is so worth chasing after. He really understands Aly and wants to see her happy. Actually, he wants to see most people happy:
“I love Luke’s smile. It’s warm and steady and reaches all the way up to his eyes. I love that he has no idea how gorgeous he is when he smiles. I love how much time he spends making other people smile.”
He treats her really well, and the conflicts that stand in the way of them being together are real and always escalating. It’s so important for our leading man to play a thoughtful and supportive role in a novel of such serious circumstances involving sexual trauma; and Luke’s right here with us, being that character we can lean on without disappointing our readerly hearts.
Mullaly’s prose is also a bright spot. It is smooth and ever-clear with shining one-liners that punctuate paragraphs and start new ones with a chuckle or a detail that gets our brains churning for what will come next. With the pace at such a steady rhythm and the plot always developing, it’s easy to fly through its pages.
I do think that we lay things on pretty thick at times though. Some of the language shared in that court room really dives deep into evil supervillain territory, and her mom plays a fairly similar role. Aly’s refusal to acknowledge Luke’s romantic interest in her can also feel like a bit of a head-scratcher. But still, it doesn’t take away from how likable I found the romance portion of the story.
Life and Other Complications is a smart friends-to-lovers romance with plenty of heart and a strong moral compass. Come for the romance, stay for the razor-sharp sentences, and leave with a deep-seeded realization that you are not alone.
Genre: YA Romance
Print Length: 179 pages
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