ARC review: The Boy I Hate by Taylor Sullivan

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Samantha Smiles and Renee Montgomery have been best friends since elementary school.  They maintain their close friendship even after Renee moves to New York to pursue a career as a professional dancer and Samantha remains back home in Los Angeles.  When Renee gets engaged and appoints Samantha as her maid of honor, Samantha plans a cross-country road trip with Steven, her boyfriend of six years.  But when Steven prioritizes work over Samantha yet again, Renee enlists the help of her big brother, Tristan, to get Samantha safely across the country.

Samantha has always made a big show of how much she hates Tristan. Over the years, countless girls threw themselves at her best friend’s brother, often pretending to befriend Renee to get closer to him.  Samantha never wanted to be lumped into that category of girls, so when she and Tristan shared a heated kiss all those years ago, she never mentioned it to Renee. In fact, both of them pretended that it never happened. Now, years later, tensions are at an all-time high as Samantha and the boy she pretends to despise embark on a multi-day road trip from California to New York.

This book checks a lot of boxes for me:

✔️ Best friend’s brother taboo romance
✔️ Second chance romance
✔️ Road trip

But there are also a number of things that I wasn’t too fond of:

✖️ Samantha has a boyfriend
✖️ They’ve been lying to their friends and family
✖️ There’s so much angst for basically no reason

Second chance road trip romances are kind of my thing, so I thought that I’d love this book.  And, I mean, I liked it.  But love?  That’s a stretch.  As you can see from my bullet points above, cliches abound in this book.  To be honest, I’m okay with most of them.  We all know that I love a good forbidden romance, but I don’t actually see what’s so forbidden here.

The whole premise of the book hinges upon Samantha’s fear that Renee will disapprove of her feelings for Tristan.  Okay, that’s literally the premise of a thousand other “best friend’s brother” romances.  But Renee is so supportive of Samantha that I just don’t see it.  Renee knows that Samantha deserves better than a boyfriend who only cares about his job.  The thing that Renee doesn’t like is when girls pretend to be her friend just to get close to her brother.  And who wouldn’t hate that?  It’s totally reasonable!  For Samantha to spin that out to mean that no friend of Renee’s could ever develop feelings for Tristan lest the friendship be destroyed is just… immature.

So, of course, Samantha takes her feelings to the complete opposite end of the spectrum.  She pretends to despise Tristan.  Not just to Renee, but to everybody – including Tristan.  I could see this happening in high school.  But continuing on into her mid-20′s?  I don’t think so.

And not only does Samantha pretend to despise the boy she actually likes, but she jumps into a relationship with a boy she doesn’t really like for no real reason.  I don’t really have any sympathy for her.  For Tristan, yes, but not for her.

There’s just so much contrived drama around something that should have been easy and natural – a boy and a girl who’ve known each other for years fall in love.  That’s it.  But all of those repressed feelings sure built up to some excellent sexual tension with some explosive action once they finally gave in.  And let me be clear here because I know this will make or break the book for many people – there’s no physical cheating.  While Samantha may have pined for Tristan and lusted over him while dating Steven, their relationship is over before anything physical happens with Tristan.

Clearly, there were aspects of this book that I liked and aspects that I didn’t like.  One thing I can say is that the plot kept me reading – I read this book over just a couple hours, including staying up until after 1am, which is almost unheard of for me.  If unnecessary angst bothers you less than it does me, you’ll probably love this book.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

I received a free copy of The Boy I Hate from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.