Not If You Break Up with Me First

Not If You Break Up with Me First
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Release Date
June 04, 2024
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Two friends who have unhappily found themselves in an accidental relationship try to drive the other one to call things off in this tongue-in-cheek middle grade romance.

Childhood friends Eve and Andrew are destined to be together—everyone says so, especially their friends and classmates who are all suddenly crush-obsessed. So when Eve and Andrew’s first eighth grade school dance rolls around and Eve, feeling the pressure, awkwardly asks Andrew to go with her, everyone assumes they are Officially Dating and Practically in Love. Overwhelmed, Eve and Andrew just…go with it.

And it’s weird. Neither of them wants this dating thing to mess up their friendship, and they don’t really see each other that way. But they also don’t want to be the one to call things off, the one to make things super awkward. So they both—separately—pledge to be the worst boyfriend or girlfriend ever, leaving it to the other person to break up with them. It would be genius…if the other person weren’t doing the exact same thing.

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1 review
Funny and heartfelt middle school "romance"
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Eve and Andrew have been friends and neighbors most of their lives. They know each other's quirks, likes and dislikes, and favorite activities. When Andrew's family spends the summer in Florida, they both feel like things are a bit odd between them as they start 8th grade. Eve has spent the summer hanging out with the cross country girls, who are much more interested in boys and make up than she is. Andrew, who is in the marching band, also finds that his friends have a different attitude toward girls. Last year, they were interested in Legos and video games. He is especially dismayed when one, Holden, makes comments about girls being "hot", but isn't sure how to challenge him. Eve's parents have been fighting constantly, adding to her feeling of unease. When the girls on her team mention that another drummer, Madison, seems to have a crush on Andrew, Eve is surprised to feel a bit jealous. The others tease her, and dare her to ask Andrew to an upcoming dance. It's hard to say no when they are egging her on, so she breaks away from practice and approaches Andrew during marching band practice to ask him to the dance. Andrew is suprised by the nature of the invitation, but because HIS friends are watching, can hardly say no. From there, things just get weird. Andrew and Eve stop hanging out, but text a lot about the upcoming dance. Eve notices that her mother, who is best friends with Andrew's mother and has long thought that the two kids would get married when they grew up, seems happier and fights less with her father now that she and Andrew are "dating". After a disastrous dance, which includes golden hour photos by moms "taking pictures like it was their actual job", Eve is sure she has to break up with Andrew, but doesn't want to hurt his feelings. Andrew feels the same way. Both independently come to the conclusion that they have to make the other person break up with them, and each set up on a course of annoying behavior designed to irritate. Eve demands Andrew's hoodie, sits at his lunch table and calls him Andy, and embodies the clinging, smothering girlfriend she knows Andrew despises. Even this doesn't dissuade him, but he manages to mastermind an embarrassing Halloween costume that is even worse when Madison joins the group in a costume that coincidentally coordinates in a horrible way. There are some quiet moments when the two are alone that are very sweet, and they clearly care about each other. The dating and even the plan to break up are driven primarily by the pressure of the friend groups. When this all comes to a horrible confrontation in public, the two have to find a way to deescalate the situation. Will they be able to return to their casual but deeply caring friendship?

Good Points
Clearly, Miller has spent a LOT of time with middle school students. There were so many situations that could have come out of my own life, or the life of my children or students. That 24 hours when my friend Brad and I "went out" because our friends in Latin class pushed us to was... something. My proudest parenting moment was when I did NOT go with my daughter to a friend's house to get ready for homecoming and join the throng of mothers and grandmothers with cameras. And my other daughter's first summer on the cross country team? Revelatory. All of the swirling emotions, new experiences, and embarrassing moments are so perfectly captured, and the amount of clever, chortle worthy lines was positively Sonnenblickian.

The way that the struggle of Eve's parents affects her, and the way that Andrew's mother deals with it, is quite well done. It's great that when they see how much it is affecting Eve, decide to go to counseling. The way this mirrors the troubles that Eve and Andrew are having because of lack of communication is an important lesson in how relationships need work, no matter what one's age, or the duration of the relationship. Instead of killing off most of the parents, I really with that middle grade literature would explore how troubled family dynamics affect tweens every day lives.

It was sweet to see how much Eve and Andrew cared about each other, and how they felt bad about annoying each other, but felt it was for the best. Madison was an intriguing character, and it was great when she tells Eve she would love to be friends with her. I loved that while Holden was a complete jerk, his friends didn't let him get away with being that way for long. There's definitely jerkiness out there. Middle school has so many confusing emotions, and they are laid painfully bare on the pages of this book. Eve's relationship with Andrew's hoodie almost deserves a book to itself!

Another reviewer mentioned that this book was very heteronormative, and while I can see this, there is a fantastic moment when Madison is approached about her interest in Andrew (or lack thereof). One of the girls says something to the effect of "Or are you ace or aro? It's okay if you are." Madison has a fantastic response, saying that she is 13, and she just wants to be able to figure herself out without having labels placed on her. The simplest explanation is that Eve and Andrew's friend group is mainly heteronormative. I've seen in middle school that friend groups not only fall along gender lines, but identity lines as well. Even five years ago, students were much more heteronormative and are, in general, straighter than recent middle grade literature would have us believe. Could some LGBTQIA+ characters have been included? Absolutely. But was it realistic to not include them in this story that focused its lens on Eve and Andrew and their small circle of friends so closely? Also absolutely.

I loved this one SO MUCH. At its heart, it was such a sweet romance, with so many clever, funny lines. It had me alternating between snorting out loud and wiping tears from my eyes. I wanted to have a copy in my hand right now to give to my students, and might have mentioned it to patrons who were checking out Richards' Stu Truly or Acampora's Danny Constantino's First Date, two titles that are never on the shelf. This is the best middle grade romance since Heldring's The Football Girl.
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