Review: Level Up by Cathy Yardley01:19
Author: Cathy Yardley
Genre/Themes: Contemporary romance / gamers / fandom
Release Date: 3 Jan 2016
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My rating: 3.5 Stars
Geeky introvert Tessa Rodriguez will do whatever it takes to get promoted to video game engineer– including create a fandom-based video game in just three weeks. The only problem is, she can't do it alone. Now, she needs to strong-arm, cajole, and otherwise socialize with her video game coworkers, especially her roommate, Adam, who’s always been strictly business with her. The more they work together, though, the closer they get…
Adam London has always thought of his roomie Tessa as “one of the guys” until he agreed to help her with this crazy project. Now, he’s thinking of her all the time… and certainly as something more than just a roommate! But his last girlfriend broke up with him to follow her ambitions, and he knows that Tessa is obsessed with getting ahead in the video game world.
Going from friends to something more is one hell of a challenge. Can Tessa and Adam level up their relationship to love?
I picked this book for free a couple of weeks ago (and still is!) because I was intrigued by the premise - a geek gamers' romance with a Latina heroine who is a real game coder and is trying to fit in professionally with the rest of the boys in the game making/designing business.
Overall, I enjoyed this light and fun romance a lot. It has a an easy flow to it and I found the characters believable in their struggles into adulthood.
It's a friends (roommates)-to-lovers trope which I generally enjoy and found it pretty convincing here. Tessa was an introvert and a geek, focused on getting ahead professionally and not really good with social interactions. Adam on the other hand, was more outgoing and laidback at the same time, though he was struggling through the betrayal of his ex-girlfriend who left him for a better job in NY.
I quite liked both Tessa and Adam and they were adorable together, both resisting the attraction to one another because of fear it would destroy their easy friendship (and being colleagues, just further complicated things for them).
Adam's friends (who are also coders in the same company) and the group of girls Tessa befriends also fitted very well into the story. Together they made a very sweet romcom - geeky, full of pop culture trivia and fandom references but also easy to follow and relate to even if you are not a gamer or into fandoms.
What I liked the most is how refreshingly normal the characters and their issues were - just ordinary young people navigating the tricky road between professional success and personal relationships. While reading, I kept thinking yes, thisis real, this could happen to anyone.
I have some minor issues with the writing which felt repetitive at the times (certain phrases were used far too often). I also felt the the strong the anti-homophobic and feminist messages, which I greatly appreciate, came off preachy and overimposed on the story/characters rather than an intrinsic part of the narrative.