Happily Ever Afters / Elise Bryant / Book Review


For sixteen-year-old Tessa, attending Chrysalis Academy is her dream. An aspiring romance writer, Tessa can't wait to be surrounded by other artists all day, every day. But Tessa has never shared her work before--with anyone but her best friend, that is--and though Chrysalis accepted her to the creative writing program, it was her mother who sent in her portfolio, not Tessa herself.

When Tessa realizes one of the requirements for her classwork will be sharing her work, she finds herself overcome with nerves, and suddenly, for the first time in her life, Tessa finds herself without words--completely and totally unable to write.

Afraid that she is a fraud and no artist at all, Tessa wallows in self-pity until her best friend comes up with a solution: what if Tessa could live like the heroine of her books? What if all Tessa needs is a little bit of romance in her own life? Luckily, Tessa already knows the perfect hero for her real-life love story: Nico, a brooding writer from her class. Handsome, artsy, and aloof, he is the perfect match, but as Tessa starts her pursuit, instead of finding inspiration, Tessa finds herself drifting further from herself instead.



High School Writer Perhaps it was my particular niche of friends back in high school, but it seemed that there were quite a few of us aspiring writers at the time. It is good to see a group of young writers represented on the page. This book features fanfiction, wish-fulfillment, and secret notebooks (along with best friends who read and respect the secret notebooks). In short, this book contains all of the hallmarks of a high school writer's experience. Even genre elitism makes the page: the requisite fear that young writers (and older writers, even) have in coming into a space filled with "people who write"--the fear that genre work like romance or fantasy simply isn't good enough, isn't "serious" writing.

Meaningful Diversity Every bit of diversity represented in this book means something. Diversity has a bearing on the plot (even when it doesn't have a bearing on the plot). Being biracial affects Tessa. It affects the way she lives her life and the way others live their lives around her--even when it doesn't stop her from living out her tried-and-true romantic plot. Tessa's brother Miles has disabilities, and his disabilities make a difference in his life and hers. Miles makes a difference in Tessa's plot not as a problem--something to "pity"--or as some "blessing" that makes Tessa stronger than others. Her brother, as she says, is her brother. He lives his life, and she lives hers. He is an inevitable part of her life, disabilities and all, and that makes a difference in itself. Tessa's anxiety affects her plot. It doesn't keep her from her plot. So, all said and done, these little inclusions don't overwhelm. The story doesn't become about race, disability, or anxiety. It just meaningfully features these little diversities, and that is great.

Good Voice Tessa has a fun, upbeat, and energizing voice that is exactly correct for a contemporary YA romcom-style book. Her narration drew me in from the first page, and it kept me engaged throughout the story. This would be a major point in the book's favor without the nuance that otherwise makes this book so good. Together, voice and nuance make this book great.


Though Tessa's propensity to keep quiet fits her character and her struggles with anxiety, it can still be painful to get through. As a reader, it is easy to understand that her problems will be less burdensome if she just shares them--if she just tells somebody what's going on so they can help her and come alongside her--so when she does not tell anyone but keeps her fears bottled inside, it becomes frustrating. The subsequent foibles and mishaps that happen because she hasn't told anyone can be especially hard to read. Painful Silence

It is an important part of the romance genre, certainly, to have the protagonist pursuing the wrong love interest. She must, after all, discover that he is wrong for her in order to discover just what makes the "right" love interest right. This type of trope is much loved by fans of the genre, and I generally don't mind it. Here, however, the wrong choice was at times so painfully obviously wrong--emphasis, again, on "painful"--that it was difficult to read. The secondhand embarrassment, both in this regard and in regards to Tessa's silence, was definitely strong in this book. Wrong Love Interest Trope

Ultimately a minor detail and only included to give three negatives, I did notice that this book was in need of another sweep by a copyeditor. This is not a major detractor, nor were the typographical errors abundant. They were noticeable from time to time, but they were minor. This problem is easily fixed, and so it may ultimately not be a problem at all as new editions are printed. Typos



Fans of the passionate leads of Marissa Meyer's Instant Karma will enjoy this artist-led contemporary romance. Those who enjoyed the diversity of Ben Philippe's Charming as a Verb should check out the appropriately colorful cast of this new love story.


Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Date: January 5, 2021
Series: Happily Ever Afters
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