Queen of cute Sandy Hall is back with her third Swoon Reads novel, this time with a LGBT slant. Gideon is a short demisexual gay Jewish overachieving Lord of the Rings fan, while his best friend Kyle is bisexual basketball player with a distinct height advantage and a learning disability. And yes, while our two protagonists have very specific characteristics, the diversity doesn’t seem forced, it just is.
Things come to a head when Gideon starts realising he may have feelings for his best friend, which presents a while new set of problems, naturally. Firstly, Kyle has a girlfriend, the fierce cheerleader Ruby who has a good heart but is easily hurt. Secondly, Gideon is left trying to figure out his place on the sexuality spectrum. Thirdly, and most importantly, he is really concerned about possibly destroying his friendship with Kyle.
Things start to get a little awkward. Both Gideon and Kyle start acting a tad strangely towards each other. Secrets are piling up, and it becomes a matter of when, not if, they will be revealed. There are plenty of adorable moments in the novel, and while my synopsis may make things sound serious, the author prevents the drama from becoming too heavy. There are some great supportive family moments, friend and sibling bonding sessions, and, of course, the sweet beginnings of a relationship built on mutual trust, affection and long-time familiarity.
I particularly enjoyed the treatment of Kyle’s learning disability. I think it’s something that’s quite lacking in YA fiction, and it’s a welcome inclusion which was sensitively handled. It’s also a novel that may be helpful for teens struggling with their sexuality, and especially for those who don’t necessarily fit neatly into the boxes.
One criticism is that due to the length of the novel, at around two hundred pages, it lacks substance. Topical issues aren’t examined in-depth, and the short alternating perspectives mean that you never really get great insight into the characters. Things are glossed over, or very quickly resolved.
Apart from that, if you’re looking for a feel-good read with a happy ending for a LGBT couple, you should totally give Been Here All Along a try. It’s a lovely take on the standard friends-to-lovers trope, and will leave you with a smile on your face and a “squeee!” in your heart.
Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall is now available where books are sold.