Details & Summary:
Unconventional follows the story of seventeen-year-old Lexi Angelo who helps run her dad’s conventions. With her clipboard safely tucked to her chest, she’s in control and is on top of every crisis. Until Aidan Green – the author of her favourite book – shows up…
I really liked the setting of this book. I’ve never been to a convention in my life, but Maggie Harcourt transported me into Lexi’s world and into the world of fandom. It was fun to read about the conventions and all the books, games, TV characters, and actors the fans were obssessed with, but also to read about what exactly goes into running a convention. I never realised how much work goes into it, which is why I now have a newfound admiration for the people behind the scenes.
Moving onto the story, I want to talk about the supporting characters first. My God, the characters! Lexi has many friends who help run the convention with her, and there are many more staff people who make an appearance, but you never mix two people up or get confused as to who’s who. Harcourt did a great job at fleshing the characters out and giving all of them a different personality and voice. By the end of the book, you feel like you’re a part of the convention family.
“The thing about conventions, little lady, is that we are family. We fight and we try to outmanoeuvre each other and show off…but when it comes down to it, we’re all family. And family always sticks together when it counts.”
Also, can we talk about diversity? Because, again, Harcourt did a great job. There’s Sam – wonderful, crazy, weird Samira – and there’s Nadiya (who wears a hijab). Not to mention Lexi’s Mum who’s living in France with Leonie. Yes, that’s a woman’s name. No, this was not a big deal at all. To be honest, it was barely even mentioned because it was treated as a normal thing. As it should be.
But let’s talk about main characters and the romance that blossomed between them. Yes, blossomed. Yay for developing a relationship over time!
Lexi and Aidan don’t fall madly in love at first sight (no hate against insta-love, I swear). In fact, Lexi doesn’t like Aidan very much at all when she meets him. She’s in the middle of a crisis and he’s being a tad arrogant and smug, and he makes fun of her clipboard. She deals with the situation and then goes home to read what will become her favourite book of all time, Piecekeepers.
And, yes, you guessed it right. Lexi soon discovers that the author she’s been swooning over – Haydn Swift – is actually Aidan Green. The two of them are forced together during another convention to help launch Piecekeepers, and so their relationship begins. Lexi is a bit reluctant to give him a second chance at first but when she does, she understands that Aidan and Haydn are two different people. Aidan is the nervous, awkward, dorky nineteen-year-old and Haydn is the confident, sometimes arrogant big-shot author who feels comfortable in the spotlight. But it’s only Aidan she likes.
Nobody sees me – that’s the point. Nobody sees me and I’ve worked very, very hard to make that’s how it is (…) But it certainly feels like he can, because he’s looking straight at me. Straight into me.
I liked that Unconventional spends a lot of time discussing separate lives and identities. Lexi struggles with the idea of not knowing which persona – Aidan or Haydn – is the real one. To further complicate the relationship, Lexi is not sure who she is. Is College Lexi the real Lexi, or is Con Lexi? What if she’s neither?
Lexi doesn’t acknowledge her own battle with finding her identity until Aidan calls her out on it. He claims she’s too afraid to go outside her confort zone – the conventions – and figure out who she is and whether Real Lexi fits with the real Haydn/Aidan. I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but I will say I was happy with the way the book concluded.
Is Unconventional a spectacularly unique and different story? Other than the setting, no, it’s not. The romance is fairly predictable. Not once did I doubt that Lexi would change her mind about Aidan and that Aidan would find a good balance between being Aidan and Haydn. I also thought that, while Maggie Harcourt’s writing style was a joy to read most of the time, some passages dragged on for much too long. The book is 450+ pages long and I can’t help but think that she could’ve cut at least 50 pages to give us a stronger, more concise version of her story.
Overall, Unconventional is a funny, light read that celebrates fandom in all its glory and features a cute and slow-burn romance. It’s a coming-of-age story with well-developed main and supporting characters – including good friends and parents that are present – and a good helping of diversity. In the end, it leaves the reader with the idea that, at the age of seventeen, nothing is set in stone. There’s all the time in the world to figure out who you are and do whatever it is you’d like to do.
I recommend this to…
Fans of Rainbow Rowell and people who love fun and light contemporary YA fiction.
Have you read Unconventional? If so, what did you think?