Book Review: “Kate in Waiting” by Becky Albertalli

Kate and her best friend, Andy, always share crushes. Which is not weird when the crushes remain just that – something to fantasize about and bond over. But when summer camp heartthrob Matt shows up on the first day of school, things become more real than either of them bargained for. Because, fantasy or not, they’re both falling really hard for him. Things get even more complicated when all three get leading roles in the school musical… and Kate is starring as Matt’s love interest. In some ways, it feels like she’s getting everything she ever wanted; but if losing Andy is part of the deal, Kate’s not sure it’s worth it.

Despite how the premise might sound, this is not a book about two best friends fighting over a boy only to eventually discover that the most important thing is putting their friendship first. Kate and Andy know that trope, too, and their friendship being priority number one is clear to both from the beginning. While there are plenty of swoon-worthy romantic moments in Kate in Waiting, the relationship at its heart is a deep, platonic friendship; the tension is not about who gets the boy but about how to keep from breaking your best friend’s heart. (And, in case you also think of “Andy” as an androgynous name, the one in this novel is a gay teenage boy.)

The other great love story of Kate in Waiting is, of course, the theater, and it’s clear that the book is Albertalli’s love letter to both musicals and the drama nerds (said with affection) who obsess over them. Rehearsal and performance scenes really shine in this novel, and I think those moments will be a highlight for any readers who share Kate and Andy’s devotion to the stage. Albertalli has also been meticulous in ensuring that her narrative’s ensemble is an inclusive one in just about every sense of the word while limiting her POV scenes to Kate (who is white, cis, and straight).

I breezed through this novel, which was a fun distraction in a time when most of us desperately need some distracting. Fans of happy endings will not be disappointed here. My one quibble is that I do think Andy lets Kate off a bit too lightly for the way she (badly) handles certain aspects of this tricky emotional situation they are trying to navigate together. Albertalli gestures at some self-reflection in these moments for Kate, but I think it should have been more. If we accept, however, that Andy loves Kate as much as she loves him – which is a lot – I guess it makes sense that he would forgive her almost anything.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, HarperCollins, for review.

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