Review: Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert (2020)

True Colors, Book #1

Heat Factor: Feels like closed door, even though it’s technically not

Character Chemistry: These two felt super wholesome and super young

Plot: New adults road trip to a gaming convention tournament. ONLY ONE CAN WIN.

Overall: These young men made me feel a little old with all their, “What am I going to do with my life!?” crises.

Looking back with a macro lens, I enjoyed Conventionally Yours. Protagonists Conrad and Alden go through quite a bit of personal growth, but when everything becomes tense, and defensive reactions could include avoidance and refusal to communicate, Albert doesn’t opt for that lazy conflict option. Instead, Alden and/or Conrad take time to see the situation from another angle, and decide how they want to go about resolving the conflict with love and understanding. I loved their interactions during the tournament. At the end of the day, it’s a reasonably mature relationship for two new adults with very little relationship experience or life experience under their belts. Also, these two are just syrupy sweet once they open up to each other and quit being all judgy. 

Given their age and inexperience, as well as what we see of their relationship at the beginning of the novel, this maturity is both welcome and somewhat unexpected. The story begins with a self-absorbed antagonism based on misplaced assumptions. Conrad is a social butterfly whom everyone loves, but he doesn’t take anything seriously (Alden’s view), and Alden is an uptight know-it-all who likes to be right more than he likes to be nice (Conrad’s view). What they don’t know about each other, but what the reader learns early, is that Conrad was disowned by his family, couldn’t afford school, and was forced to drop out and work multiple jobs just to pay for his housing and asthma medicine. Meanwhile, Conrad might think that Alden’s life with his two supportive moms and stellar GPA is all roses, but Alden struggles with feeling inadequate because he’s somehow neurodiverse but no doctors can figure out in what way exactly, so he just comes across as socially awkward and rude. Furthermore, his moms keep trying to figure out what’s “wrong” with him while also making him feel bad for not getting into med school by pressuring him to figure out a suitably prestigious backup plan. 

I understand the gut reaction to dislike a person based on perceived rudeness or unlikeability, but also, given our growing awareness of neurodiversity, it’s frustrating to see Alden clearly struggling with what would be considered normal, polite behavior while Conrad (and the other gamers) constantly assume the worst of him. But I’m sure that’s what real neurodiverse people deal with in real life regularly, which is just depressing. This was one of those times that reading made me realize that I could be mindful of real life experiences in the future, because Alden’s sadness about never having any friends is really tough to read. He’s the more vulnerable protagonist quite a bit in this book, even though Conrad is the one living with absolutely no safety net.

Alden and Conrad do a bit of sniping at the beginning of the book, but it doesn’t take much time for them to see each other in new ways and then open up to each other on their road trip to Vegas for the gaming convention and tournament. The trajectory of this story isn’t particularly surprising EXCEPT for when we get halfway through the book thinking that these two need to 1) figure each other out and 2) figure out how their relationship can survive the tournament. At that point, all of a sudden, Conrad pops in to let us know he’s made too many bad dating choices and Alden is too good for him. So, yay! Worthiness relationship sabotagesetup!

If you like all the angst of a new adult (“OMG! I have to adult! That’s so hard! What am I going to doooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo?!”), this is a nice, soothing read with surprising emotional maturity. Plus the gamer culture representation is always fun to see.

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon

Looking for something similar?

I want something calm and soothing

I love me a good road trip story

Show me some more neurodiverse protagonists!

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