Book Review: May the Best Man Win by ZR Ellor

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Title: May the Best Man Win
Author: ZR Ellor
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Tropes/Themes: High School Rivalry, Trans MC, Neurodiverse, Homecoming
Edition/Pages: Audiobook, 11 Hours 6 Minutes
Goodreads page

Thank you so much to Roaring Brook Press and Netgalley for providing an ALC copy in exchange for an honest review.

Summary

A debut YA novel about a throw-down battle for Homecoming King between a transgender teen and the boy he dumped last summer.

Jeremy Harkiss, cheer captain and student body president, won’t let coming out as a transgender boy ruin his senior year. Instead of bowing to the bigots, Jeremy decides to make some noise—by challenging his all-star ex-boyfriend, Lukas, for the title of Homecoming King?

Lukas Rivers, football star and head of the Homecoming Committee, is just trying to find order in his life after his older brother’s funeral and the loss of his long-term girlfriend—who turned out to be a boy. So when Jeremy threatens to break his heart and steal his crown, Lukas hatches a plot to sabotage Jeremy’s campaign.

But then the boys take their rivalry too far and jeopardize the dance for everyone. To save Homecoming, they’ll have to face the hurt they’re both hiding—and the lingering butterflies they can’t deny.

Review

This is definitely not going to be a book for everyone. And this is definitely suffering from the fact that it was wrongly marketed as a cute rom-com. Because this is FAR from a rom-com. This is in fact a messy, coming of age story about two teens struggling to find their place and making many (many) mistakes along the way.

I will be completely transparent, this book starts off rough. In fact around the 18% mark I nearly DNF’d this book. Jeremy is extremely unlikeable at the start of this book. He is so closed off and wrapped up in his own life that he harms everyone around him, including his closest friends. And while Lucas is slightly softer, he makes equally terrible and harmful decisions.

But as the story progresses, these messy boys soften and acknowledge the mess they’ve created. And there are so many important discussion and themes woven into this story. This really explores what it’s like not only like as a trans individual, but what it’s like for those around them as well. 

Z.R. Ellor does such a fantastic job highlighting what it means to be different from a million different angles – friends, family, significant others, classmates, and the person themselves. You really get to see what Jeremy’s life is like and why he is the way he is. Because while he is unlikeable, his actions aren’t wholly unwarranted. He deals with everything from straight up transphobia to more subtle (but frequent) microagressions that lead to him being closed and steely. And you Lucas’s perspective on being neurodivergent and how that impacts the way he lives. Because in the same way that being trans has impacted how Jeremy interacts with the world, Lucus’ disability has altered his. He is set on keeping his autism a secret, despite in not only harming him but those around him as well.

This book gets really heavy and it can be difficult, and often infuriating, to read. But in the end I completely fell for these main characters. I love how they eventually come together and learn to let down their walls, without needing to be perfect in the end. 

This story is raw and rough around the edges, much like being an actual teenager. And I think this story is one that is really important to sit with and question why it’s so uncomfortable. But definitely don’t let this cutesy cover convince you it’s something it’s not – this is not a fluffy romance! But it is a story that will make you think. And I can’t wait to read more from ZR Ellor in the future.

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