Kai Sheridan is a senior at Fairvale Academy. He’s also gay, but he’s not out to anyone.
Bryson Keller is one of the most popular boys at Fairvale. He’s also involved in a bet/dare: he becomes the boyfriend of the first person who asks him out at the beginning of the week. At the end of the week, they break up and the process starts over.
It’s all about the futility of commitment when it comes to high school relationships.
To be clear, the definition of dating is more akin to the “olden days” than contemporary times: dating involves rides to school and carrying books and there’s no physical stuff—not even kissing.
So, as the story begins during a hectic Monday morning, Kai asks Bryson to date him and Bryson becomes the first person Kai comes out to. Bryson is totally cool with the arrangement; he even points out that the dare involves the first “person” to ask him out, not the first “girl”. Bryson is also fine with not telling people that he’s Kai’s boyfriend for the week since Kai isn’t ready to come out to everyone yet.
And as the week progresses, it becomes harder and harder for Kai to avoid catching real feelings f0r Bryson, who is the best fake boyfriend a boy could ever ask for. But it’ll be over in a week, and then Bryson will date someone else.
Kai is a solid protagonist and a reliable narrator; there’s not much he withholds from the reader. He’s an average kid in many regards, with a great group of friends and plans for the future. It’s getting harder for him to hold onto his biggest secret, but he’s petrified of how his family will react. He’s also not sure about how the school community will take the news—there are several openly gay kids at his school, but it’s still a label, so he doesn’t even want to tell his closest friends until after they graduate.
So, I think Kai is more surprised than anyone else by his decision to ask Bryson out. He’s usually never impulsive like that, but it turns out to be much better than he could possibly have imagined.
This book is full of feelings as Kai and Bryson navigate their relationship over the course of the week. Kai initially sees Bryson as someone unattainable, but he learns that they have a lot more in common than he realized.
Kai and Bryson are supported by a well-rounded cast of secondary characters, some of whom are nice and some of whom are not so nice. But then again, that’s high school for you. I especially enjoyed Kai’s two best friends Donny and Priya, who are also dating each other.
As lovely as this book is, I do want to point out that there’s a fair amount of homophobia, moreso than in some of the comparable contemporary queer YA books. The ugly parts of the narrative add a level of gravity that make this book more poignant and they serve as a counterbalance to the lighter parts.
I would absolutely recommend Date Me, Bryson Keller. I loved every minute of this book as Kai figures out the right time to share his truth. This book is sweet and poignant and simply delightful. I’m looking forward to reading more from van Whye in the future.
I received a copy of this book from Random House Children’s/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.