With or Without You

With or Without You
Age Range
Release Date
November 07, 2023
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New from Eric Smith comes a delightful YA rom-com about two teens caught in the middle of their families’ orchestrated rivalry between their Philly cheesesteak food trucks.

All’s fair in love and (food truck) war.

Everyone knows Jordan Plazas and Cindy Ortiz hate each other.

According to many viral videos of their public shouting matches, the Plazas and Ortiz families have a well-known food truck rivalry. Jordan and Cindy have spent all of high school making cheesesteaks and slinging insults at each other across their shared Philadelphia street.

But the truth? They’re in love, and it’s all just an act for the tourists.

When the fake feud lands them a reality tv show pilot, Jordan and Cindy find themselves having to lie on a much bigger scale. Trapped between pursuing their dreams or their love, can they find a way to have their cheesesteak and eat it too?

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1 review
overall cute YA contemporary rom-com
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WITH OR WITHOUT YOU is a cute YA contemporary rom-com about finding your path, honesty, and reality TV. Cindy and Jordan work for cheesesteak trucks in Philly with a famous rivalry that brings as many customers as their food does. Behind the scenes, Jordan and Cindy are actually, secretly dating with plans to get their own food truck and travel the country in the upcoming year after high school.

However, their rivalry has also brought opportunity in the form of a reality TV show to spotlight the fight between their family trucks. As both families need the money, they accept the offer with the show revolving around their rivalry in the lead up to a food truck competition. As they participate, truths are coming out and their on-screen rivalry starts to feel more dangerous. With Cindy having her own plans for the coming year and both needing to figure out their own paths, their relationship seems more challenging than ever.

What I loved: This was overall a really cute and fun read about a rivalry between family food trucks. Under the surface, the story tackles some important coming-of-age themes around figuring out what you want with your life, finding your path, and understanding family and other relationships from a mature perspective. Both Cindy and Jordan feel like they know what they want, but they are still working it out - and when their plans differ, they need to reevaluate.

The story does focus around their relationship, which will work well for rom-com fans. Jordan and Cindy made a really great couple, even if it needed to be hidden. The relationship was established from the beginning of the story, but there are bumps in the road along the way that have the potential to build or break it. Ultimately, the way things worked out was really satisfying.

The plot around reality TV was interesting, focusing on the some elements of exploitation, staging, and the ways it can influence the actual reality. It definitely encourages more careful viewing, but also adds a layer of explanation and background through the confessionals. Beyond the show that they are participating in, Cindy also hosts a podcast with her best friends about another reality TV show that helps to give a bit more insight as well.

What left me wanting more: As a small thing, which is mostly personal preference, I would have loved to have more of the start of their relationship to see more of the foundation this was built on. The conflicts were also a bit tough, and it would have helped to have more foundation to really understand why they would want to make things work.

Final verdict: Overall, WITH OR WITHOUT YOU is a cute YA contemporary rom-com with strong themes around coming-of-age and reality TV.
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