Badass Book Review: I Like You, I Love Her by J.R. Rogue
In a lot of ways, I was one of the lucky ones. My high school crush liked me back. It should have been magic and fire, but it was tragic and brutal. I wrote it that way, anyways.
His name was Bryan Winthrop. He was our high school basketball star. The prom king. The most beautiful boy I had ever laid eyes on. He liked me — the theatre geek who never should have caught his eye — but he loved her.
It’s been more than 10 years since the homecoming dance. Since the night he kissed me, breaking both of our hearts for the first time.
After the scandal, after graduation, I left our small town and made a name for myself on Broadway, then in Hollywood. I didn’t mean for the play I wrote about our high school affair to blow up. I didn’t mean for it to reach all the way back to my roots, wreaking havoc, wrecking families.
Bryan Winthrop and I were not friends, not lovers.
But I’m back. And for one summer — if she lets us — maybe we can be.
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
“It’s a time warp. Towns like this seemed to be stuck in glass jars.”
This book hit the suffocation nail of small town living right on the head and is easily a 4.5 star read! I grew up in a small, rural, midwestern town very similar to the one portrayed in I Like You, I Love Her. Severin’s story whisked me right back to my childhood, my high school days, and all the challenges that come along with growing up in a little town full of little minds. All the politics of living life according to who has the right money and the right last name.
When I say small town, I’m not talking about a town of 60,000, or 16,000 or even 6,000. I’m talking SMALL. I’ve come to realize that to the rest of the civilized world, the idea of a “small town” is far bigger than my reality — they can’t fathom that the town I grew up in — a town of 1,600 whose population dwarfed the remaining towns that comprised our consolidated school district. A school district where, by junior high, they bussed all our little towns to a school building in the middle of a cornfield every day just to maintain a full class-size. I’m not sure how a person who grew up in another way would relate to this book but for me, it was the epitome of my high school experience. My house sitting across the street from the grade school. My crush from the first day of junior high that lingered on well into my early twenties, who would never date me because — even though it was obvious he liked me — I wasn’t a cheerleader like his bitchy girlfriend with whom he had nothing in common. The boy who would kiss me in the dark of the auditorium during lunch and then walk down the hallway holding his girlfriend’s hand the rest of the day. The small-minded, small-town gossip that is the only shred of excitement for anyone who’s resigned themselves to repeating the same existence generation after generation. The mentality is hard to understand if you haven’t lived it but it’s like almost like a disease.
J.R. Rogue captured this world beautifully. She captured the surreal dread of how it feels to return to that world after having been gone, how time stands still and nothing and no one ever changes. The heartbreak that comes from being more than that world, from breaking yourself against those who will never understand your need to leave, to live, to want more than this unforgiving bubble you were raised in. I could see it and feel it and smell it – the stifling smallness trying to suck the air from my lungs and the ambition from my bones.
She also captured what it’s like to be pulled to someone who’s ultimately toxic, I call them addiction relationships when you know it’s not love, you know it’s not good for you but you can’t stop that person no matter how destructive they are. They give you tiny slivers of hope and you hang onto them desperately, until you’re just about to give up and move on and then they feed you another tiny sliver. I’ve often wondered if those relationships were another symptom of the small-town disease, not being able to see that there’s so much more out there, there are people who won’t keep you in the shadows.
Rogue’s words in I Like You, I Love Her are as beautiful and lyrical as ever and this story is ultimately triumphant, although heartbreaking. I hope every small-town girl reads this and sees their world for what it really is and what it can someday be, that they can do so much more than live their lives on repeat. I honestly prefer living in a small town (although NOT the one I grew up in), but I think it is so terribly vital to go out into the world and experience life so you know who you are and where you want to be.
Thank you for this story Jen, it gave a voice to some of my most anguished childhood experiences.