Saturday 30 July 2022

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Review: The Falling In Love Montage by Ciara Smyth

The Falling In Love Montage by Ciara Smyth held up by a white hand in front of rainbow shelves.

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The Falling In Love Montage by Ciara Smyth

Published: 4th June 2020 | Publisher: Andersen Press | Source: Bought
Ciara Smyth’s Website

Two girls embark on a summer of montage-worthy dates (with a few strings attached) in this hilarious and heartfelt lesbian rom-com that’s perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Jenny Han.

Seventeen-year-old cynic Saoirse Clarke isn’t looking for a relationship. But when she meets mischievous Ruby, that rule goes right out the window. Sort of.

Because Ruby has a loophole in mind: a summer of all the best cliché movie montage dates, with a definite ending come fall—no broken hearts, no messy breakup. It would be the perfect plan, if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters have fallen in love...for real.

Ciara Smyth’s debut is a delightful, multilayered YA rom-com that will make you laugh, cry, and absolutely fall in love.
From The StoryGraph.

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The StoryGraph | Goodreads

Whenever I've heard anyone talk about Ciara Smyth's books, it's only to rave about them. They come so highly recommended, that when I fancied a nice light and fluffy romcom, I instantly reached for Smyth's first book, The Falling In Love Montage. And while it absolutely has it's gorgeous, sweet, funny moments, it's also so much more than a romcom. It's a beautiful, poignant story that moved me to tears.

A lot is going on with Saoirse. she split up with her ex-girlfriend a few months backs, her mum has early-onset dementia and is living in a home, her dad has started seeing someone new, and just dropped another bombshell on her: they're getting married. In three months. Having just finished school before heading off to uni, she's decided she's going to have a carefree summer of kissing straight girls; nothing will go further, there will be no commitment, there will be no heartbreak. Nothing heavy or serious, just fun. But then she meets Ruby, and the attraction between them is undeniable. Ruby, who adores romcoms, comes up with a solution; she'll be going back to England at the end of summer, and Saoirse will be going to uni, and until then they can go on dates inspired by romcom movie tropes, just fun, nothing serious. There will be an end date to their summer fling, surely that's something Saoirse can do? But when feelings develop, and Saoirse's home life becomes more difficult, things get a little messy.

Smyth does an absolutely fantastic job of balancing Saoirse's sadness and anger about the situations with her mum and dad and the sweet romance with Ruby; it's neither more sweet and fluffy, nor more sad. While I absolutely adored the romance, and it's the reason I picked the book up in the first place, I was really struck by what Saoirse is going through at home, and it hit me hard emotionally. My grandma had dementia, and I completely understand the heartbreak of someone you love not knowing who you are any more. Of the conflicting feelings of having her move to a home, which feels like a betrayal, but knowing it's no longer safe for her to not have 24 hours, around the clock care. I was an adult when things got fairly bad for my grandma, so I was somewhat more mature than Saoirse is at that time, and could understand her dad's position. But at the same time, empathised with Saoirse. It was all too easy to put myself in her shoes, and knowing how absolutely devastated I would be if one of my parents started seeing someone else while the other was in a home.

It was so incredibly upsetting. Saoirse's heart has broken. Her mum no longer knows who she is. She visits her every day, but it's not the same as having her at home, and she hates it. She wants her to come back. She's already angry at her dad for starting a new relationship with Beth, but when he announces that they're getting married, it's like having the ground fall out from under her. Her mum hasn't even been in the home a whole year yet, and her dad is marrying someone new. She thinks he doesn't care, she thinks he can't have ever loved her mum, and he's dumped her in a home to forget about her and move on. We find out that isn't the case, but it's so, so sad. They're arguments are so difficult to read, because I got exactly where her dad was coming from, but Saoirse is just all hurt and pain, and can't see past the betrayal. It's so terribly sad, I cried.

I loved the relationship between Saoirse and Beth and how it developed. Saoirse wants absolutely nothing to do with her, she is the woman stealing her dad away from her mum. But also, Beth is kind all right. She's very sensitive to the situation, and while she wants to get to know Saoirse, she doesn't force her presence on her, or push her, but she's unsure how best to proceed. She's marrying her dad, they're going to be living together, things can't stay as they are. Situations arise when they're in each other's company alone, and given the conversations they have, Saoirse starts to see Beth as a person in her own right, instead of just the woman stealing her dad. It's difficult, and it's not easy, and it doesn't change anything with regards to Saoirse's mum, and how Saoirse feels about the situation as a whole... but things do move slowly forward with them, and I thought it was just so beautifully done.

Then there's the romance! Honestly, it was just gorgeous. The cliché romcom dates, the funny situations they found themselves in and the conversations they had; it was just so sweet. But of course, as Saoirse wants this to be light and fun and not at all serious, she doesn't talk about what's going on at home. And doesn't ask Ruby about her life and family, because that could lead to questions about her own. There are points where she outright lies to avoid conversations she absolutely, categorically doesn't want to have. She like Ruby, but their romance is also her escape, and she wants to keep the two separate. She doesn't want anything remotely close to serious. Because she's been hurt by her ex. But also because early-onset dementia can be hereditary. So what is the point of commitment? What is the point in having any kind of future? She's only going to forget it all soon anyway. Saoirse is flawed, and makes so many mistakes and bad decisions, and you sit there shaking your head, knowing it's all going to go wrong for her. But you can also understand, and in itself, it's also kind of sad. It's all just so complicated for Saoirse, and I just really felt for her. She doesn't see that actually, maybe, something serious with Ruby might be good for her. But it's such a great story, and written so well, it's actually really lovely to see Saoirse work through her feelings and the situations she's in, and see her come to terms with some things and realise others.

Honestly, I absolutely adored The Falling In Love Montage. It was so, so much more than I was expecting, and it will stick with me for a very long time. I'm so looking forward to reading Smyth's next book, Not My Problem, and whatever she writes in the future. If you're looking for something that is sweet and cute, but will also tug at your heartstrings, definitely pick up The Falling In Love Montage.

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