Review: The Only Thing Worse Than You Is Me by Lily Anderson

Review: The Only Thing Worse Than You Is Me by Lily AndersonThe Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on May 17, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Won
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four-half-stars

Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West--and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing--down to number four.

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben's, including give up sleep and comic books--well, maybe not comic books--but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it's time to declare a champion once and for all.

The war is Trixie's for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben's best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben's cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie's best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they're on--and they might not pick the same side.

Benedick and Beatrice are one of my OG ships, because I’ve been all about that banter all my life. Basically everyone I know well went “oh hey there’s this book you must read IMMEDIATELY” about this one, taunting me with ship ship ship. Well, Morgan, Gillian, Angie, Dahlia, and whoever else has been lovingly throwing this book at my face, the day finally came. You guys were right. Lily Anderson delivers a clever, banter-tastic modernization of Much Ado About Nothing.

Retellings of fiction that I absolutely adore can be incredibly dangerous, because, if it’s something I know really well, I will know exactly what changes have been made. If they’re out of the spirit of the original, I will feel the rage, because it’s clear that the author didn’t get what the crucial aspects of the story were, the emotional arcs. Thankfully, Lily Anderson obviously knows her shit, and the changes she makes are considered and clever.

Messina, Italy becomes a school for the gifted (think the X-Men school minus the powers). All the students are legit geniuses whose parents wanted them challenged but didn’t want them missing out on social development by going to college young. Messina’s students have to handle a massive amount of pressure; for real, these kids got assigned essays on the first day of senior year. On a regular basis, the class rank of every single student is posted on a notice board, leading to rivalries over ranking.

In this tense atmosphere, the central cast excels. Trixie’s fourth in the ranking, knocked out of third by her long-time rival Ben West the previous year. Her best friend, Harper, is second, preceded only by her long-time crush Cornell. The third musketeer in their triumvirate, Meg, isn’t much further down the list.

Trixie’s not thrilled that Meg’s experiment of the year has to do with dating, meaning that the group’s conversations have suddenly gone boy crazy. Trixie has no interest in dating anyone in their school. Like a good friend, she throws her support behind Harper and Cornell, even though that means she has to spend way more time with the obnoxious asshole Ben West, who always tries to get the last word in their verbal sparring matches.

Basically everyone is adorably nerdy, aside from the sweetly clueless Peter Donnelly who can’t tell Doctor Who from Star Trek, much to the chagrin of the rest of the group. The character building’s pretty excellent. It’s hard to rock such a large cast in such a short book, but Anderson manages well. The rest of the cast isn’t quite as built out as Trixie and Ben, but they’re not flat or just there to move the central ship along (even though they’re all shippers).

Ben and Trixie nerd out like champions, and their relationship arc is super freaking cute. The hatred/frustration is really well done, culminating in fights so brutal that their friends start planning in secret to change the dynamic. Once they both get the knowledge bombs dropped that the other’s in love, they enter a tenuous phase where they forget how to be around each other and have to build a new pattern of banter, one that quickly has them experiencing feelings. The ending scene is so freaking cute, and I love the recurring line about them being equally smart and equally dumb. I also love how teen some of their relationship hurdles are. Most excellent thumbs up.

My favorite thing about the retelling aspect, aside from the sniping bantership, which is excellent, is the change of cheating on a romantic relationship to cheating at school. Anderson strips out the uncomfortable sexism of the original play and changes the whole thing to an academic scandal. Where you’re left at the end of the play frustrated to see Hero settle for Claudio, here the reconciliation makes sense because it’s a very different issue and Cornell was not nearly that mean. Plus, Harper totally takes him to task, because, mild though she may be, she’s not a pushover.

The one thing that didn’t work for me in The Only Thing Worse Than You Is Me was the plot resolution. View Spoiler »

If you’re in the mood for some shippy banter or a clever retelling, you cannot go wrong with Lily Anderson’s The Only Thing Worse Than You Is Me.

Favorite Quote:

“Idle nerds become supervillains.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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2 responses to “Review: The Only Thing Worse Than You Is Me by Lily Anderson”

  1. Dahlia Adler says:

    *smugly dances in desk chair*

  2. YESSSS I am so happy (and relieved!) that you loved it too!!! Ben and Trixie are the cutest and I love their friends and basically your review is perfect.

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