Now I’m already a big fan of Becky Albertalli (who isn’t?!), but Kate in Waiting is just so effortlessly wonderful that it’s officially up there on a pedestal with my favourite YA romances. With endearingly lovely characters, genuine, realistic interactions, and a lively narrator, I couldn’t help but fall in love with this book.
The age-old love triangle dynamic has been done to death, so it’s nothing short of miraculous that Albertalli’s take is fresh and original. Best friends Kate and Andy both fall rather comically in love with dreamy, talented, adorkable Matt, and their friendship is thrown on the rails when he moves to their school and they realise that they actually stand a chance of being with him. Of course, only one of them could realistically manage this, so they make a pact: to be happy for the other person No Matter What Happens. Cue the drama (literally). The musical production all three teens are performing in provides the perfect backdrop not only for tensions to heighten, but also for the reader to have some fun, because the characters are exactly that: they are just So. Much. Fun.
I ended up simultaneously rooting for both (and neither, because they don’t need no man) Kate and Andy, because their friendship was just outrageously adorable and genuine. There is a tragic shortage of well-written and realistic friendship arcs in YA that don’t revolve around miscommunication and fall-outs, so Kate and Andy were an absolute joy to read about. They get each other in the way that best friends should – and when there is miscommunication, it’s short-lived, and all either character cares about is the other’s feelings, regardless of the romantic situation. There’s an endearing co-dependent, Will and Grace closeness to their friendship that makes you care more about their friendship than their romantic prospects, which I think was entirely the point, and I have a lot of time for it. No part of the friendship’s plot was contrived or unnecessary – every thought running through Kate’s head and every action she took was understandable, relatable, and made you love her even more. Plus, I adored all the side characters and their individual relationships, which is undoubtedly one of Albertalli’s strong points, given the success of her Simonverse characters. So Kate in Waiting gets a big thumbs-up from me in that department; I would leap at the chance to read more books about Kate, Andy, Matt, Noah, Brandy, Raina, etc. etc.
The musical and drama elements of the book were so gloriously Disney Channel that it took me back to memories of my own secondary school musical productions. I have no idea if Albertalli was a theatre kid herself, but you would genuinely believe she was based on how much the book sings with love and passion for the stage. It made me want to jump back in time and belt out questionable versions of Oliver! songs as part of a significantly more talented chorus, which, if I’m being perfectly honest, were highlights of my time at school. I think, though, regardless of whether you’ve had the same experience, the drama elements of Kate in Waiting are just utterly joyous, and just add to the enthusiasm and fun of the book.
As far as narrators go, Kate is incredibly relatable, if only because she’s used to being an understudy in life. She’s forever felt like a side character in other people’s lives and love stories, which is undoubtably a feeling readers will have experienced before; in this sense, it’s lovely when you get to see Kate succeed, as it feels much more like a personal victory for life’s underdogs. She’s also very personable, compassionate, and puts her friends first – basically, it’s impossible not to like her!
Overall, I just had an absolute blast reading this book. Albertalli is such an accomplished writer, and her characterisations and storylines are immensely satisfying, so it’s escapist fun at its finest. Amongst the pacy plot and witty character interactions, though, the book is interspersed with some genuinely lovely passages about love, friendship, and living in the moment; it had me looking back on my school years with a fondness I haven’t done in a while. I’d recommend Kate in Waiting to anyone who loves a solid, character-driven book with friendship at the heart of the story.
Kate in Waiting is available for purchase from Waterstones and other bookshops. I would like to thank @TheWriteReads and @PenguinPlatform for the advance copy, and @TheWriteReads On Tour for including me in their blog tour.