Anything But Fine (ARC Review)

Book Title: Anything But Fine
Author: Tobias Madden
Release Date: March 29th, 2022
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance
My rating: 2/5 Stars

Synopsis:

All it takes is one missed step for your life to change forever.

Luca Mason knows exactly who he is and what he wants: In six months, he’s going to be accepted into the Australian Ballet School, leave his fancy private high school, and live his life as a star of the stage—at least that’s the plan until he falls down a flight of stairs and breaks his foot in a way he can never recover from.

With his dancing dreams dead on their feet, Luca loses his performing arts scholarship and transfers to the local public school, leaving behind all his ballet friends and his whole future on stage.

The only bright side is that he strikes up unlikely friendships with the nicest (and nerdiest) girl at his new school, Amina, and the gorgeous, popular, and (reportedly) straight school captain, Jordan Tanaka-Jones.

As Luca’s bond with Jordan grows stronger, he starts to wonder: who is he without ballet? And is he setting himself up for another heartbreak?

My Review:

As someone who danced for fifteen years, sustained several injuries that nearly made it so I’d never be able to dance again, I was so excited to read Anything But Fine, which is a story about Luca, a teen who loses everything he’s worked for when he falls down the stairs and breaks his foot, ending his future ballet career. Unfortunately, this book did not live up to expectations for me. It is possible that I went in with too much of a bias and an expectation based on my own personal experience, but even looking past that, there was several issues I had that were hard to ignore.

I’ll start with the main character, Luca. For someone who’s entire life was ballet until his injury, he rarely talked or thought about it. I know he was mourning the loss of it, but it felt a little unnatural that he wouldn’t at least think about it. The minute he met Jordan and started obsessing over him, ballet got pushed aside and wasn’t really mentioned until near the end of the book. I would’ve liked more contemplation about how much ballet had done for him, how he was different now that he didn’t have it, and who he was without it. Instead, he spent most of the book pining after Jordan, thinking about Jordan, talking to Jordan, or texting Jordan. At one point, he even mentioned how he didn’t have any interests now that ballet was taken from him, except for Jordan. His obsession bordered on unhealthy, but this was never addressed. He also excused a lot of Jordan’s poor behavior just because he liked him. In the beginning, Jordan could be a little bit homophobic, and even if it was internalized, it was still something that was affecting Luca. I understand he was being more homophobic to himself rather than to Luca, but Luca rarely ever called him out for his cruel words or actions. There was one argument they had when Luca finally said something about it, only for Jordan to be downright nasty in return, but instead of focusing on everything Jordan said, Luca kept harping on the fact that he had been unfair, and that what he’d said was uncalled for, when really, I felt it was more than justified. He was calling out Jordan on his unacceptable behavior, but this was completely diminished by Luca insisting he’d been in the wrong.

Because of all of that, I had a hard time getting behind the relationship, which is unfortunate, because it takes up a majority of the book. I never felt any chemistry between the two characters, and since Jordan spent so much time at school either ignoring Luca or being wishy washy about how he interacted with him, it was difficult for me to care about them. I almost wish this book hadn’t been a romance, and instead focused on Luca’s journey of self-discovery and growth, and on the friendships and family bonds that helped him along the way.

The one thing I really liked about Anything But Fine was Amina. Her character was lovely, and I adored her. She was so sweet and kind, and she encouraged Luca every step of the way, even when he was a less than kind friend. Every time she was on the page, I was far more into the story than when she wasn’t. This is part of the reason I wish more time had been spent on building friendships and how they helped Luca, because we could’ve had even more scenes with Amina, and I feel it would have made the book a little stronger.

While Anything But Fine was a disappointing read for me, there were parts I did like, and I’m sure this book will be for someone else, even if it wasn’t for me.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!

Pre-order it at: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Audible

Check out my last ARC Review: By Any Other Name (ARC Review)

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