A Lot Like Adios by Alexis Daria
9/14/2021 by William Morrow
Review by Melanie
There’s so much that I want to talk about with regards to this book and it’s kind of hard to know exactly where to start. While the book does give us both Michelle and Gabe’s POVs, it very much feels like a book that’s really focused on Gabe’s journey. Therefore, I’m going to use the same approach in this review. Gabe’s professional obligations are the instigating factor that drives the plot of this book forward, impacting his relationship with his one-time best friend/the girl next door/the girl he was secretly in love with in high school and then deserted, and also impacting his relationship with his parents, with whom he’s been estranged for close to a decade.
Ultimately, this is a second chance romance between Gabe and Michelle, who were long-time best friends who finally decided to act on their mutual attraction the week after graduating from high school. Before they actually had sex, Michelle discovered that Gabe had been lying to her about his post high school plans, and instead of staying in New York for college, he’s going off to California the very next week. That deception causes Michelle to kick Gabe out and here’s the part I guess I don’t understand. After that huge blow-up, she reaches out to him several times and he completely ignores her until the present day, which is something like 12 years later.
Given Gabe’s complete and utter abandonment of his best friend, it’s very awkward when it comes to light that Gabe and his business partner, who are trying to open a new branch of their very successful gym in New York, need Michelle’s professional skills to establish their brand. Since Gabe’s partner is unable to travel to New York due to his family obligations, it falls on Gabe to return to his hometown for the first time in almost a decade. Michelle agrees to help her one-time best friend in exchange for him staying with her and discussing why he left her without a second glance and refused to have any contact with her for over a decade. Unbeknownst to him, she’s staying at her childhood home, which also happens to be next door to HIS childhood home and he’s caught between trying to agree to her terms and keep his estranged parents from finding out he’s in town. Given that Gabe and Michelle are sharing a house, one thing very quickly leads to another, and 20% into the book, the two give in to their long denied attraction and have sex.
So, let’s break all this down and examine what worked for me and what didn’t. First of all, I’m not super fond of fitness-oriented main characters but overall, that wasn’t so much of a problem in this book. There really wasn’t any body shaming and moreso, Gabe seemed more of a physical therapist than a trainer. Secondly, while Gabe eventually admits that the reason he kept his plans to move to CA a secret from Michelle was that he was afraid she could successfully convince him to stay, I really don’t understand why he chose to ignore her attempts to reach out. And therefore, the fact that Michelle is so willing to overlook his abandonment and move on and act on her attraction also seems quite fast. If you’re familiar with my reading habits at all, you know I love a good strong slow burn with lots of pining and longing and will-they-or-won’t-they sexual tension. The fact that the tension in this book is resolved so quickly means we spend a lot of the remainder of the book inside of Gabe’s head as he struggles to figure out what he really wants vs. what he thinks he’s supposed to want and how to go about getting it.
That leads to my next issue with the book: Gabe and his problematic relationship with his parents. The weight of familial expectations and his father’s desire to control his life acts as the motivating force that propels Gabe to move cross country in the first place. Gabe has not spoken to his parents in 9 years, since he and his father had a terrible fight at his sister’s wedding. I’m more than familiar with toxic parental relationships and buckling under the pressures created by parental expectations. However, Gabe has spent 9 years avoiding his parents and in the space of a few days, basically, manages to work things out. Again, it doesn’t make sense why he just stopped talking to both his parents for 9 years only to have the sudden realizations he did that lead to them reconciling. It happens very fast and Gabe’s tendency to run away from his problems instead of facing them head on is part of the reason I found him to be such a problematic character.
Going back to the Gabe/Michelle dynamic, one of the things that is used in this book are interstitials that involve fanfiction the two wrote when they were younger, about a tv show they both loved. If you think this sounds very familiar, you might be thinking of the book Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade which came out in 2020 and uses the same narrative device to help propel the romance forward. Listen, I’m not saying authors can’t use the same type of narrative device in their books. But it just feels so familiar that one can’t help but compare the use of these interstitials between the two books.
I will say, in defense of this book, the interstitials, while brief, actually did work in that they were illustrating a parallel storyline that basically reflected teenage Gabe’s growing feelings for teenage Michelle. And using the fanfiction narrative in a very pivotal scene towards the end culminates in Gabe making the necessary grand gesture to win Michelle back.
I did like parts of the book but I didn’t connect to the story or to Gabe as much and preferred the first book in this series, You Had Me at Hola. I adored the family relationships in this book, especially on Michelle’s side, and loved the insight into a culture I’m not very familiar with. I found Gabe to be indecisive and his penchant for running away left me unable to trust him and wondering how Michelle ever could. He also refused to let anyone in and help him shoulder his burdens and to me, that’s not a really great hallmark of someone who would make a good partner. His self-isolation was purely by choice and his tendency to cut people out of his life, whether it be Michelle or his parents, made me question his staying power in a committed relationship. However, I appreciated Gabe’s growth and his realization about becoming an adult and how that translates to having a different relationship with his parents. I also loved the queer rep in this book: both Gabe and Michelle casually reveal themselves to be bisexual and Gabe also has a niece who is transgender. And while I’m always on the side of a long-simmering slow burn, I did love the high heat in this book – that Gabe, for all his faults, is kind of a dirty talker and both Michelle and I are here for that. Ultimately, I wished Gabe had been more forthcoming about his feelings and his fears and felt Michelle was far more willing to be emotionally vulnerable than he was.
CW: toxic parental relationships, mention of previous drug use