BY: BRITTANY LEWIS
I recently discovered that my Amazon Echo can read my Kindle novellas. I’ve only used it as a speaker for my Audible and Spotify – and sometimes as an alarm – so this discovery blew my mind. So I went looking on my Kindle for something simple and sweet and Kindle Unlimited recommended me the first novella in Madeleine Labitan’s Bayfield High series “Truth or Dare.”
Preamble for this review: “Truth or Dare” is Madeleine Labitan’s first published novella and each subsequent story improves. These novellas are simple YA Romance romps that hit all the cliches, but that’s what I was wanting, nice simple sweet fluff and a quick read.
I can’t say these novellas are the best books I’ve read this year – certainly not the worst – but they have inspired me to get back to my own personal writing which is a plus.
This novella primarily happens during a party. Each chapter is a slightly different location at the party, so as I read and saw the hints to other characters who could be the protagonists for the rest of the series, I thought the whole series will be small vignettes of what else happened at this party. I kind of wanted that to be true but as I read more in the series I was so happy my theory was wrong.
This story is about a girl (Mackenzie) whose friend just got cheated on and now they are out for revenge – said revenge involves destroying her ex-boyfriend’s room. When the girls show up at the party they immediately encounter Mackenzie’s “arch nemesis” Sean, who is your typical hot and popular guy who is uber cocky and a full up ladies man and has been since middle school.
Sean and Mackenzie have this epic ongoing prank war going on since middle school and the novella tells you about a great deal of these pranks. Even though Mackenzie and Sean are not major players in the next four novellas their pranks get mentioned or witnessed, which I enjoyed.
The title gives you the basic premise as our two romantic leads play a game of truth or dare. The game lasts only one round leading to the characters skinny dipping. There are some cute interactions before they’re in the water and some tension outside of it as their clothes get tossed into a tree.
After the skinny dipping scene we get more of the party, get more info on the other characters. This is where I, after finishing the series, get a bit annoyed. This novella introduces you to some really interesting characters who barely pop up in the other stories. Which wouldn’t have been a problem if the other four books set up recurring characters, one of whom is only mentioned and alluded to in this one to set up “Kiss and Make Up.” I liked Mackenzie and her friends and wish they would have played bigger roles in the rest of the series.
The “what brings the romantic leads together” section of this novella was really sweet. They end up locked in a bathroom together – Sean’s ex-girlfriend is hooking up with the resident bad boy – and end up talking on a balcony afterwards. Sean talks about being broken up and it is revealed that he has always liked Mackenzie and a misunderstanding in middle school lead to their missed chance at preteen romance (and the start of the prank war). They end up kissing before Mackenzie’s friend tells them they have to leave before they are busted.
What happens as they leave the party might be my favorite little bit of story, so I won’t spoil it for you. This is an 18,000 word novella so it’s worth the quick read just for this scene.
There’s only one bit at the end of the story about the aftermath on Monday where Mackenzie doesn’t know if the kiss meant anything and she didn’t interact with Sean at school so it’s all up in the air. In the end the two come together as a couple, but the prank war continues.
I give “Truth or Dare” 3 ☆☆☆. Not much happens in this novella and it is primarily stuck in one location during a set period of time which makes the natural build up of the characters and their thoughts and feelings seem rushed. A lot of the chemistry and history is told to the reader and given in summarized flashbacks and character dialogue. I wish Sean and Mackenzie got more screen time in the rest of the series, but at least the repercussions of their ongoing prank war continues.
“Kiss and Make Up,” is my least favorite of the 5 novellas, mostly because you know the characters are going to get back together but Madison – our female protagonist – is dragging it out. Adam does deserve it for breaking up with her even though she legitimately didn’t cheat on him (she was seen being kissed by another guy, nothing more).
We’re told Adam said some harsh words in the beginning of the break up – I don’t remember if Madison told us what he said, if so it wasn’t memorable for me – but she also establishes that even before the truth came out (that the guy – name not worth remembering because he doesn’t play a role besides this – kissed Madison because she looked like another girl), Adam was already apologizing. (See “Truth or Dare” review about Sean’s ex-girlfriend making out with the bad boy.)
This novella can be summarized as Madison babysits Adam’s little sister and hangs out with Adam helping her get over being sad about the break up. Madison doesn’t take Adam back, even though she wants to, until Adam sings a song outside her window.
I give “Kiss and Make Up” 2 ☆☆. I enjoyed the introduction of Madison because I enjoyed her in the next three books.
“Perfectly Clueless” is my second favorite book and favorite couple out of the whole Bayfield High series. Bianca and Dylan were foreshadowed in the two previous novellas. They are your typical best friends to lovers trope.
Bianca is my favorite protagonist. She is feisty, the girl who hangs with the guys and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Dylan is the perfect best friend who cares and will drive you home drunk – though it’s revealed later Dylan is threatening guys to not date Bianca which is anti-perfect best friend – and buys you a new doll after breaking the first one.
Our conflict in this novella is that Dylan, who is known to hook up with girls and not have a serious relationship, gets a girlfriend. Bianca doesn’t like this, not with her secret crush and all. This leads to Bianca changing from a tom boy to a more feminine girl (barely). Essentially Bianca is open to hanging out with girls more than before and takes out her brown contacts to reveal her blue eyes. It’s a nice and simple character developmental arc.
This is where characters become recurring. Bianca and Dylan were in all three novellas, as was Bianca’s twin Adam. Madison and Bianca become closer friends in this novella which I approve of. I’m all for positive female friendships.
So, this novella is a best friends to lovers story and it takes until the very end for Dylan to realize that he also has feelings for Bianca after another boy, Rohan, shows interest. This is when it’s revealed that Dylan has been threatening all the other guys who were interested in Bianca which is a no-no. Don’t do that, ever.
In the end they get together, obviously. I just loved Bianca and Dylan’s personalities and interactions. They are the couple that I would root for lasting the longest out of all of them.
I give “Perfectly Clueless” 3 ☆☆☆. Bianca and Dylan were such a great pairing, be it as friends or as a couple. Their interactions were fantastic and made me root for them even with Rohan being a great alternative. I would have made it 5 stars, but Adam’s revelation of his feelings wasn’t set up as much as it could have been and Bianca could have been a bit more conflicted about Rohan especially after they kissed. This is the novella I wish Madeleine Labitan would have made into a full blown novel because this pairing has so much going for them and I just hope they last the test of time.
“Hate to Love,” started off as my least favorite but got so much better as it continued. Alexis and Nick have a playful antagonism that I enjoyed. It reminds me of how my husband and I interact. Nick calls her a “brat” and Alexis fires back with “asshole” (my husband and I use “bitch” in a playful tone with each other).
The premise of this novella is that Alexis spent too much money on a post break up shopping spree and her parents make her get a job. Her best friend Madison (from “Kiss and Make Up”) hooks her up with a job at a local pizza place that happens to be owned by Nick’s dad.
Alexis does start off the novel as a brat, whining about needing to work and that her co-worker Elana (El) hates her. Eventually Alexis gets over herself and realizes that El was just being serious about her job and the two become friends. El just happens to be Nick’s cousin, too. This leads to some drama and awkward moments, not just in this novella but in “Just Friends” since that’s El’s book.
Nick is the typical leather jacket, motorcycle driving, stoner bad boy type. I didn’t mention it in my review of “Perfectly Clueless,” but Nick is actually the one who helps Bianca and Dylan realize their feelings for each other because he is a great friend like that.
This novella shows a lot of Nick hooking up with other girls, which is his MO, but he eventually dates Alexis. It’s a bit rushed and they do a lot of hanging out (going to the drive thru and watching Netflix at Alexis’ house) and making out – typical things you would associate with dating. The main conflict is Nick’s inability to label the relationship and admit he wants commitment.
Out of the other couples who pop up in the last novel, I loved their scenes the most. They are the type of couple who is full on PDA and back alley make out scenes. Reminds me of my favorite couple in Jay McClean’s “More Than” series.
I give “Hate to Love” 4 ☆☆☆☆. Alexis and Nick remind me of my own relationship with my husband. Their bickering and playful antagonism was great to read and I enjoyed their whole arc.
“Just Friends” gave my boy Rohan his romantic redemption after the heartache from his date with Bianca in “Perfectly Clueless,” and it gives El time to shine as she was a “friend of female protagonist” side character since the second book of the series.
Rohan is established as this “Mr. Unattainable” guy who doesn’t date and blows off every girl who even tries to flirt with him (also he is from London). El is established as this serious girl who cares about her waitress job and is a gamer, wanting to pursue game design after high school.
Something I didn’t establish previously is that all these books take place during the characters senior year. It wasn’t prevalent plot-wise until this fifth book, as college and graduation are part of the conflict.
Rohan and El become friendly before they become a couple. The main conflict is Rohan’s ex-girlfriend from London wanting him back, and Rohan’s stepmother wanting the same. There’s also the stepmom trying to break them up by telling El that Rohan is going to London for college which is what truly leads to their break up.
In the end everything gets resolved and Rohan reveals he got into the same college as El after graduation. This final scene is also where you finally see more of Mackenzie and Sean from “Truth or Dare” and their friend group I fell in love with in that first novella.
I give “Just Friends” 3 ☆☆☆. It was a nice final couple for the series and ties up some loose ends as to whether the previous couples are still together and gives us some cute scenes with those couples. El and Rohan were the most realistic when it came to conflict, as post high school life is a real worry for new couples who hook up so near graduation like they did.
Overall I give the entirety of the “Bayfield High Series” 3 ☆☆☆. All the couples were cute, some needed more screen time and others were rather boring in the main role but great in later books as side characters – *cough* Madison *cough*. I do recommend this series. It’s five novellas but they are short and sweet. With the world the way it is, something fluffy will brighten your mood.
Currently I am working on reading the rest of Madeleine Labitan’s books. She only has 9 books with the newest “When We Fall” published July 20th, 2020.