Content warning: This novel will contain elements of homophobia (outward and internalized), as well as sexual content broaching on new adult scenes.
Out of Character is an expansion of Annabeth Albert’s True Colors universe, but while it serves as a sequel to the first novel in the series, Conventionally Yours, it is a standalone story that new readers of Albert can enjoy without having read the first book. In this angsty and romantic rendition of ex-friends to lovers, Out of Character is an emotional fixation of remorse, forgiveness, love, and an adoration “geeky“ pop culture.
When Jasper Quigley is approached for help at work, the last person he expected to see was Milo Lionetti. His former best friend turned King of Jocks, Milo allowed Jasper to be harassed and bullied by his soccer teammates all throughout high school. Milo is desperate, however, having lost his brother’s extremely rare collection of Odyssey cards in a drunken bet. Unfortunately, Jasper is the best person he could think of to help.
Jasper is hesitant to reopen old wounds (and revisit old and possibly still-there feelings toward his former friend). Still, he agrees to help Milo under one condition: he must cosplay with Jasper’s group for when they visit the local children’s hospital as Odyssey characters. As both Jasper and Milo look for rare cards to replace the ones Milo lost, they are also confronted by past hurt and current struggles. The hunt for Odyssey cards shifts into a search for the friendship they lost and a possibility for something more.
Out of Character is a very cute story of two men who eventually find their way back to one another. This is not really a “coming out“ story. Instead, it is a story of how Milo comes to terms with his feelings toward Jasper and allows himself the liberty to finally act on them without fear. Both Jasper and Milo each have their own faults, but it was Milo who turned his back on Jasper after he had been recruited onto their high school soccer team. Terrified of how he would be treated if he was outed, and terrified by his own feelings for Jasper, Milo does nothing to stop the onslaught of bullying aimed towards Jasper throughout high school.
While there is no excuse for treating or allowing others to be treated so cruelly, Milo spends the entirety of the novel making amends to Jasper, fighting against his internalized impulses to run away or hide who he is. The moments where Milo stands up for himself and Jasper are admirable to witness. We get to see, from both his and Jasper’s perspectives, that Milo is still scared but unwilling to hide his true self any longer. This is not just limited to him being gay. It’s also to his love for creating art, a part of himself that he was not comfortable exploring publicly because of ridicule from his teammates and father.
Out of Character is a wholesome story of two former friends rediscovering love with each other. The inclusion of conventions, card games, and art are welcome additions to make this an all-around entertaining tale! For people that have read Conventionally Yours, there are also fun cameos made by the main characters within Out of Character. If you are a fan of the “enemies-to-lovers“ trope and adore books like Red, White & Royal Blue, Annabeth Albert’s Out of Character is a great read to add to your TBR list.
Out of Character by Annabeth Albert was published on July 6th, 2021.