Desert Isle Keeper
One True Loves
One True Loves is sweet, honest and touching in its portrayal of that space between being a teenager and becoming an independent college student.
The delightful Lenore Bennett is brilliant, talented and no romantic – though she wants to be in love, has tried to be in love, and has lost repeatedly along the way. She’s the opposite of her starry-eyed friend Tessa (The central character of Happily Ever Afters, the first book in the series), who thinks romance, real romance, is right around the corner for Lenore. They stand on the brink of college (Lenore is headed to NYU with an undeclared major, to the concern of her parents who demand she decide because Black students don’t have the luxury of dabbling about due to the prejudice of others ) and the edge of a family cruise to the Mediterranean; adulthood and academia beckon but are held at bay by summer break. Lenore’s friends are breaking away and becoming couples, leaving her alone on the outside, and her parents want her to declare a major by the time they arrive back home.
Under all of this pressure, Lenore finds herself roped into hanging out with Alex Lee, whom she is instantly annoyed by. Alex has his future mapped out, his whole life planned – and Lenore is irritated by his composure, but she doesn’t learn that he’s trying to get over a heartbreak of his own until later. Their parents become friendly, which means more hang-out time lies ahead of them. As they tour Europe together though, Lenore’s feelings begin to shift. Will she be inspired to pick a major? And is her relationship with Alex the real deal, or will it be consigned to the dustbin all of her high school relationships tumbled into.
I loved One True Loves a lot. It has a beautiful way of capturing life in a loving family that understands what it’s like to battle against pressures – self-made and societal – and to try to figure out who you are as a human being.
I loved the way Lenore looks at the world – her frankness, her uncerrainty, the way she’s trying to ford her way to a future she loves. She is relatable, thoroughly sympathetic, and I sense many Black/BIPOC teens will see themselves in her easily.
The way she relates to her family – her parents, loving but demanding, and especially her brother Wally – is perfectly pitched. I liked revisiting her relationship with Tessa, which is still delightful. The romance with Alex is clear opposites attract – he is firmly decided when she is not, and as we stay within Lenore’s PoV, we don’t get to see her as Alex sees her, but he slowly, gently, cracks her shell and gets her to accept the idea of love that lasts.
The wonderfully visual storytelling which accompanies Lenore’s trip through Europe is spellbinding; I felt like I was there with her in Rome and all points east, and on that cruise ship, watching her parents indulge in corny dance trends. One True Loves will life the reader’s heart and comes highly recommended.