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    4.5 stars- Unique storyline & great YA characters

    I generally steer clear of YA books, and yet this one caught my eye. I was first intrigued by the title and cover, then reeled in with the positive reviews echoing the same sentiment- "better and very different than expected". I completely agree. The first third of the book I was sure I once again stumbled upon a well- written YA book I'd struggle to connect with. The main character, Luke, is the awkward theater kid who's adjusting to life after the death of his sister. Then there's this sci-fi addition to the plot in which he can stop time. It appeared as though there would be a lot of storylines introduced, the writing felt a little stilted, and I wasn't convinced everything would come together. And then it did, and I couldn't stop reading. The story, the characters, their struggles- I was completely sucked into the story. The stoppage of time does play a central role to the story, but it's not really a sci-fi book. Rather, Hold focuses primarily on Luke and his relationships with his two best friends, a newcomer to the school, and his classmates. Miss Leigh does a wonderful job creating and embracing Luke's awkwardness. The pacing, his internal thoughts, and dialogue all reinforced that feeling of not quite feeling comfortable in one's skin. I thought the dialogue and reactions reflected the age group well, but it never felt too immature for me to enjoy. I really liked that the characters were different than what I've typically seen in the romance genre, YA or contemporary. Luke is Indian and adopted. The other main character, Eddie, is a refugee from Liberia. Luke is gay and Eddie is bisexual. There's a secondary character who is on the aro-ace spectrum. It's a unique set of characteristics and the author handles those elements and how they impact the relationships and personalities really well. The romance is focused on a blooming young relationship, so there isn't heat, but the attraction and pull towards another is written really well. Most intriguing were the conflicts and resolutions. They were so different than I ever anticipated. There were twists, but they made sense and drew together all the different elements that initially felt unrelated. The resolution was satisfying but didn't feel overwritten, more of a happy-for-now ending. I think any fans of m/m YA or readers looking for something a bit different will enjoy this book. It certainly will stick with me for a while, and I'll be watching for more from the author. *ecopy of book provided to Alpha Book Club. The author or publisher did not influence the review*
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