Thursday, November 09, 2023

Reggie and Delilah's Year of Falling, by Elise Bryant

The trope of the young couple who never quite manage to hitch up gets a turbo charged treatment in this cute, but ultimately overdrawn romance of near misses and misunderstandings.  Through the course of an entire year, Reggie and Delilah agonize over whether to get together or not.  You can agonize along with them for nearly 400 pages.  Don't get me wrong, it's delightful and charming and these two young people make for a very appealing couple.  You just wish they'd get over their anxieties and get on with it!

Reggie is a rarity -- a black kid who loves Dungeons & Dragons.  And while it's the most important thing in his life, he can't share it with his family for fear of their rejection.  Reggie's passion isn't just limited to playing, but also to social criticism.  His anonymously written essays on racial prejudice in roleplaying games has gathered quite a lot of attention -- attention that won't translate to anything because Reggie is afraid of going public.  That's all so much unlike this girl he's met named Delilah who is an amazing singer and is so bravely performing in front of big crowds at local gigs.  He knows that she would never go for a loser nerd like him.

If you asked her, Delilah would never see herself the way Reggie sees her.  She has never felt particularly talented until she helps out some friends in a garage band and steps in front of a microphone for them.  As their singer, the band's popularity takes off, but her bandmates refuse to acknowledge her contribution and won't let her provide artistic input.  Should she risk everything by standing up for herself?  Looking at Reggie and how famous he is with his writing and how confident he seems to be, Delilah feels inspired to step up.

Each of them, convinced that the other is braver than they could ever be, try to be brave and become better people.  It has a positive end, but driven by lies and wishful thinking, there is a tragic nature to all this posturing.  When all things are revealed, can they salvage enough of their relationship to stay together?

All of this makes for a good romance that generally works well.  Beyond the romance, I found their struggle with racial identity interesting as well.  It was very organic and didn't carry the heaviness of a message book but also didn't feel like a whitewash.  Their racial identity informs who they are without being the only thing in who they are and a lot of good things about that got said through their mouths.  My only complaint is the one I noted at the beginning of this review: the drama drags out way too long.  A little less of that would have made for a better book.

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