As you would probably expect from a British comedy, in Boyfriend material there are loads of characters. And they are just so particular in their ways. You can’t help but crack up whenever they grace the pages. Starting from Luc’s colleagues from work who try their best to understand and make jokes that fail spectacularly. Then, Oliver’s peculiar group of friends who are overbearing. But, have their heart in the right place and should most definitely be kept away from alcoholic beverages.
Sure, sometimes the humour is very pointed and exaggerated but it all feels natural to the characters. As long as you take some of the comments with a grain of salt, I think you’ll enjoy the humour.
Luc O’Donnell is tangentially and reluctantly famous. His rock-star parents split when he was young. The father, he’s never met, spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now, that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.
To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice normal relationship. Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and someone who has never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words, he’s perfect boyfriend material.
Unfortunately, apart from being gay, single, and really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So, they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust settles. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened. But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone, start falling for them, don’t ever want to let them go.
Boyfriend Material reads less like fiction than fanfiction. No one acts their age. We have an angsty protagonist and a plethora of silly side characters who express themselves using a sort of lingo.
The novel’s sitcom-like structure was predictable and often unfunny. Luc O’Donnell’s friends, colleagues, and acquaintances had very one-dimensional roles. We have the straight friend who is always having a crisis at work (one more ludicrous than the other); the lesbian friend who is short and angry; the gay couple that share the same first and last name (and are both referred as James Royce-Royce) and have opposing personalities; a few ridiculously posh characters (who had no clue of anything related to contemporary culture or social norms); the fanciful French mother (who is very much the British idea of a French person), the estranged rock star father…
Luc was so self-centred and monotonous that I soon grew tired of him. He has few genuinely funny lines: when he’s told not to give up, he replies: “But I like giving up. It’s my single biggest talent”.
The narrative tries to make us sympathise with him because he’s been sold-out by his ex-boyfriend and because his dad had no interest in acting like a father. Those things aren’t great but they don’t make his self-pitying narcissism any less annoying. Most of the conversations he has with other people, Oliver in particular, revolve around what he has experienced, what he feels, wants, and fears. I just wish he hadn’t been so focused on himself as it made him rather unlikable.
The other characters are really unbelievable and behave unconvincingly. They did not act or speak like actual human beings.
The running gags were just unfunny. Most characters treat Oliver’s vegetarianism as if it was an obscure dietary lifestyle. Luc’s posh colleagues doesn’t understand his jokes. Welsh characters accuse Luc of being racist against Welsh people. This is annoying me because they kept throwing around the word ‘racism’ when it had nothing to with racism. Luc not knowing about Welsh history or culture is not racism.
The romance never grabbed me as Oliver was such a stilted character as to be difficult to believe in. Luc often acted like a child with Oliver which made their romance a bit… cringe-y.
So, Boyfriend Material is a laugh-out-loud story about a hot mess of a guy fake-dating his polar opposite to save his reputation. A book that brings all the feels and will surely keep you flipping those pages late into the night!