Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, How to Break a Boy by Laurie Devore. Thank you so much to Raincoast Books for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.

I knew from the beginning of this book that I was going to enjoy it. There is just something about a toxic relationship that sucks me in and doesn't let go.

This is the story of Olivia - and her sort-of best friend Adrienne. They, along with their other friend, Claire, are your typical mean girls running the school. One day, Olivia goes over to Adrienne's house and finds her in bed with her boyfriend, Ethan. Olivia secretly decides to wage a war. Olivia thinks she can beat Ade at her own game. Soon she meets Whit, an all-around good guy, flies under the social radar, great athlete and smart. Just who Olivia can use to help tutor her and do well enough on the SATs to get out of the dumpy town that killed her brother. And if a fake romance along the way is in the cards, Olivia will use that to her advantage.

I think, based on the synopsis and cover of this book, I was expecting something cliched and very dramatic. But this book is actually a lot deeper than that. It deals with real issues that affect the characters a lot.

Firstly, let's talk about the characters, specifically Olivia. This is a very character driven story, we get a lot of depth in the characters lives. I loved Olivia because she was so flawed. She is broken by the death of her brother (he committed suicide) and she feels responsible for his death. Her father is long dead and her mother doesn't seem to see that there is anything seriously wrong. I think it was important that Devore shows that Olivia hasn't always been this way, and doesn't really want to be this way. She is angry at everything and takes it out on those around her. Devore also makes it clear multiple times that no one is born this horrifically bad - that is something circumstance and environment creates.

I also wanted to say something about the romance between Olivia and Whit. I have been really enjoying the fake-relationship turned maybe-real lately, so this was right up my alley. I definitely liked Whit more than Ethan, I think he was funny and just a great guy. I really liked as well how he wasn't immediately on board. I think that showed a lot about his character and the type of person he is. I think they had great chemistry, and the slow burn of the relationship really worked for the storyline.

Some of the things that Ade and Olivia did were so horrific - and made me super uncomfortable and just so sad that they had to resort to dragging people down just so they could be a little higher up. That being said, I think that speaks to Devore's abilities as a writer, especially in a debut novel. She really gave each character a distinctive voice and made the things they said or did unique to them. I don't know if I've ever read such vicious characters - or characters that had so much pain in them.

I will also say that this book is definitely for a more mature YA reader, there is some mature subject matter, so just be prepared. I think the cover doesn't really speak to the darkness within the story, don't go into it thinking you are getting a fluffy romance - because you are definitely not. There is shaming, bullying, threats, a lot of dark things that many cannot or will not read about.

This book also touches on toxic relationships and the effects of that toxicity on both those in the relationship and those outside it. Part of the reason Ade and Olivia are friends is because they cling to each other in this social struggle. But Ade is really the kingpin of the operation and I feel like that speaks to most toxic relationships I've read. One calls the shots and the other follows, all the while reassuring each other.

Overall, don't be fooled by the cutesy cover and you'll love it.