Always the Almost / Edward Underhill / Book Review

 Miles Jacobson wants two things: 1) to finally win the regional classical piano competition and 2) to win back his ex-boyfriend, star football player Shane. But neither of these goals are as easy as they sound. Sure, Miles has placed high in the regionals every year before, but he has a new teacher this time... and she's pretty intense. He's not sure he'll make it to regionals in one piece, let alone ready to blow everyone else out of the water. And when it comes to Shane, well... Shane broke up with Miles just weeks after Miles came out as trans, and if that isn't a hurdle in a relationship, nothing is.

Plus, there's a new boy in town, a queer artist from Seattle named Eric. And Eric is interested in Miles as a person... and maybe as something more. But Miles can't afford distractions, not even handsome and funny ones. Not when he's got goals to achieve. 


I was surprised and delighted by this book. Though it got off to a bit of a rocky start for me (which I will go into later in this review), the story ultimately comes together very well. 


  • Piano Forward: I really do love a book that takes a niche interest--here, competitive piano--and really embraces it. Piano shines out from these pages, and the experience of really playing comes through bright and clear. I could get lost in the piano competition scenes, the on-the-stage performance, just like Miles did in the moment. And that is just wonderful.  
  • Balance: It is very rare to find a book that balances its subplots well, but Edward Underhill completely nails it. Piano might be a star in this book, but it isn't the only star. There's a budding romance that doesn't overwhelm an important musical endeavor, and there are school scenes laced throughout--i.e. this book feels very much like what this life would be like, a mixture of young love and music and school drudgery without one thing overwhelming or overshadowing the rest. 
  • Cute and Sweet: This romance is sugar and sweetness in the best way possible. It takes time to unfold, and the characters learn and grow with each other. It's not overwhelming, and it definitely isn't spicy. It's sweet and innocent, new and fresh--young love and nothing more. No big expectations here, and I really enjoyed that.  


  • Not Over Ex: They just broke up, and Miles didn't want to break up. Of course Miles still likes Shane. Of course Miles is still interested in him. But the fact of the matter here is that Shane is straight. Shane doesn't like men, and he clearly communicates that. And that's the part that I don't like. Miles isn't a girl, and now he's living like the boy he always has been. Sure, he might be the same on the inside, but so is Shane. And Shane is straight. Miles doesn't respect this very clear (and perfectly reasonable) boundary Shane establishes, and that bothered me so, so much. It felt icky. 
  • Deadnaming: This isn't a con so much as a reader-beware. Miles has only recently transitioned, and so his deadname comes up. It isn't malicious. It's just slip-ups, dips into the past. But it bears mentioned, I think, nonetheless. 
  • Cheater: I don't really like books with a cheating subplot, especially not when those involved in the scandal are meant to be the characters we're rooting for. It sorts itself out, and I understand why this plot was in the book. I just didn't like it. 



Fans of Lio Min's Beating Heart Baby will appreciate this new music-heavy romance. Fans of Elise Bryant's Happily Ever Afters will love this lighthearted of love story. 


Publisher: Wednesday Books
Date: February 14, 2023
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


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