Thursday, 9 June 2022

One True Loves by: Elise Bryant

 Genre: young adult fiction, contemporary 

Published: January 4, 2022 by: Balzer + Bray 

Pages: 314 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: racial microaggressions, struggles between teen and parent 

Lenore Bennett is a talented young artist who has freshly graduated from high school. She plans to go to NYU in the fall, but choosing an undeclared major has caused a riff between her and her parents, who wished Lenore would settle down and just pick something. To celebrate the summer, Lenore, her parents, and her two siblings embark on a Mediterranean cruise, for some much needed relaxation. However, while on the cruise, tension grows between Lenore and her parents, especially when they make friends with another family on the ship and their son, golden-boy Alex Lee. Lenore struggles to enjoy herself when all she can think of is how she can show her parents that she is making the right decision, but one thing Lenore did not consider is the possibility of a crush developing on the ship. 

Elise Bryant has done it again! I read the first book in this series, Happily Ever Afters, about a year ago, and I fell in love with these characters and the fluffy way that Bryant writes. In this book, we follow a side-character from Happily Ever Afters, Lenore, who loves her parents deeply, but struggles to connect with them because of their very different ideas about what she should be doing for university. All of this is mixed with a Mediterranean setting which makes the novel the perfect book for summer. I absolutely loved all the imagery and I just want to go on vacation now. Overall, this book is diverse, with some important themes packed in, alongside lovable characters. 

First off, I loved the Bennett family. Lenore is strong-willed and confident, her parents have such a great relationship mixed with the right amount of goofiness. Her brother Wally is a complicated character but I enjoyed getting to learn more about him as he developed, and her sister Etta is studious and sarcastic, she was such a joy to read about. Since I loved all the characters so much, getting through this book was breeze, because I really did just root for every character and tried to see something from their point of view. Overall, I think Bryant did a great job at portraying a perfectly imperfect family. 

An important part of this book is the idea of travel. Jesse @ Bowties and Books on Youtube put it very well that very rarely do we get Black travel narratives. Oftentimes it is white characters that are awarded the privilege to travel. To have a fluffy travel narrative with a Black main character where the plot doesn't rely on trauma, is very refreshing. Bryant touches on this idea of travel being a privilege often not accessible to Black folks, as she goes into how Lenore's parents had to work twice has hard as their white coworkers to get to a comfortable point in which they could take their family on a nice vacation. Lenore's parents are incredibly accomplished, but they also recognize how difficult it was for them to get there due to structural issues put in place. I think Bryant did a great job at depicting racial micro and macro aggressions that Black families go through, while still keeping the book quite easy to get through in terms of content. 

I mentioned before that the setting of this book was so great. I don't think I've ever read a book mostly set on a cruise ship before, but it was so fun to read about how Alex and Lenore keep bumping into each other despite the size of the ship. Similarly, Bryant also incorporates Mediterranean cities as the cruise makes its way to different stops, so there is some lovely food imagery and architectural imagery that just had me longing for hot weather and beaches. The settings were so fun to read about. 

Overall, this book was an absolute delight. I love reading books where families play a central role, it was great to learn more about Lenore's family and all of their quirks. I think this book integrates travel very well, and also has some great representation along the way. I would highly recommend this book for a perfect summer read! 

Have you read One True Loves? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess 


  1. "just pick something" I think many of us can relate to that ha ha. The struggle sometimes to know what you want to do, plus the Mediterranean setting- sounds fabulous! The family aspect, and your thoughts on Black travel stories as well.

    The food imagery, I must admit, kind of appeals to me too. :)

    1. Glad you find this one appealing, Greg! I think it had the perfect balance of a nice setting/imagery and a discussion on difficult topics.