Since last Sunday was Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d select something romantic for this week’s Friday Reads. My choice: Conventionally Yours, by Annabeth Albert. If you’re a fan of the “enemies to lovers” and “forced proximity” romance tropes, this might be right down your alley. If you enjoy reading about gamer culture, even better!
Conventionally Yours falls neatly into the new adult romance subgenre. Conrad (21) and Alden (23), the two protagonists, are both navigating fraught transitions between college and uncertain adult futures—Conrad because he had to drop out of college after his parents cut off financial support when they found out he was gay; Alden, who’s neurodiverse, because of failed attempts to get into medical school, followed by pressure from his mothers to come up with immediately-actionable alternate plans.
Conrad and Alden’s initial interactions are at a local game shop, where both participate in a small group devoted to playing the popular card game, Odyssey. At this point, they don’t get along at all. Conrad views Alden as rigid, rules-bound, and no fun, whereas Alden sees Conrad as a popular but irresponsible college drop-out working a series of dead-end jobs. Then, due to a cascade of chance circumstances, and to their mutual horror, they wind up stuck together in a car on a cross-country road trip to “Massive Odyssey Con West,” where they’ll compete for a seat on the pro Odyssey tour—an outcome that both view as a miracle solution to their near-term problems.
While this might seem like a recipe for disaster, in true romance fashion the drive time provides opportunities for the two to get to know each other better, correct misconceptions, and develop feelings. Alden grows indignant on Conrad’s behalf when he learns his family disowned him, and when he realizes Conrad is skimping on food because of tenuous finances he begins “accidentally” ordering more than he can eat in order to share. Conrad, for his part, really listens when Alden lashes out at him after he makes caustic comments about Alden always trying to be perfect. For the first time, Alden feels like someone understands how imperfect he feels after his moms spent years trying to get him diagnosed and fixed. And for the first time, he feels acceptance: “You’re just you. Just Alden. It’s who you are. Changing any of it isn’t necessary,” Conrad assures him.
Though Conrad and Alden experience a détente, coupled with growing attraction and affection, during their time on the road, there is still plenty of drama and tension to be resolved, not least of which is competing against each other in the tournament after learning how much the other needs the win. However, as you can probably guess given this is genre romance, there are happy resolutions in store for Conrad and Alden, both individually and as a couple, in the end.
Albert, Annabeth. Conventionally Yours. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2020.