ARC Review: The No-Girlfriend Rule by Christen Randall

Posted March 2, 2024 by Lisa Mandina in Review / 6 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Review:  The No-Girlfriend Rule by Christen RandallThe No-Girlfriend Rule by Christen Randall
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers on March 5, 2024
Genres: YA Contemporary Romance, YA LGBTQ
Pages: 336
Source: the publisher
Format: ARC
My Rating: four-half-stars
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Julie Murphy meets Casey McQuiston in this unforgettable queer romance about a teen girl whose foray into fantasy tabletop roleplaying brings her new confidence, true friends, and a shot at real, swoon-worthy love.

Hollis Beckwith isn’t trying to get a girl—she’s just trying to get by. For a fat, broke girl with anxiety, the start of senior year brings enough to worry about. And besides, she already has a Chris. Their relationship isn’t particularly exciting, but it’s comfortable and familiar, and Hollis wants it to survive beyond senior year. To prove she’s a girlfriend worth keeping, Hollis decides to learn Chris’s favorite tabletop roleplaying game, Secrets & Sorcery—but his unfortunate “No Girlfriends at the Table” rule means she’ll need to find her own group if she wants in.

Gloria Castañeda and her all-girls game of S&S! Crowded at the table in Gloria’s cozy Ohio apartment, the six girls battle twisted magic in-game and become fast friends outside it. With her character as armor, Hollis starts to believe that maybe she can be more than just fat, anxious, and a little lost.

But then an in-game crush develops between Hollis’s character and the bard played by charismatic Aini Amin-Shaw, whose wide, cocky grin makes Hollis’s stomach flutter. As their gentle flirting sparks into something deeper, Hollis is no longer sure what she wants…or if she’s content to just play pretend.

My Review

While I’ve always been nerdy, I have never played Dungeons & Dragons or really anything like it. This book makes me really want to at least try it! It also made me want to even just get back to writing my own books, because I loved the creativity of this whole world and just the characters in this game playing scenario. The only thing or the main thing that would have made this better for me is if it had been written in first person. I feel like that would have made me feel a little closer to Hollis. Not that I didn’t totally adore her and feel for her, but first person would maybe have made it a little more poignant. But that’s probably a just me thing since I like first person better than third person.

All of the characters were so good in this story! Even though Hollis was a senior, she seemed younger in a lot of ways. And of course at times I got frustrated with how she would be so indecisive or just let her boyfriend behave the way he did. Especially when that whole no-girlfriend rule was confronted later in the story. But I fell in love with how the characters seemed one way from Hollis’s online snooping before she met them, but as the game progressed and they got to know each other they weren’t quite as they’d seemed and even had changed. Just as Hollis did.

It was so understandable for me how Hollis reacted when Aini broached how they felt about each other. Based on how Hollis’s boyfriend Chris’s friends behaved and commented about gay people, it was no wonder it was hard for her to even think that she might be having those kinds of feelings. But then it made sense for Aini to have her feelings hurt and react the way she did. I liked how the group of girls was able to understand and give Hollis the time and slack she needed to deal, as well as the support for her as she came to terms with things.

As I mentioned before I loved the story telling and the whole aspect of the role-playing game. While I don’t know that I’ll ever play a game like this in real life, it is interesting to me to think about and I think it is such a great activity for people to enjoy.

Can’t wait to get this for my library and share with both students and teachers who I know are D&D players as I think they’ll really enjoy it.

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6 responses to “ARC Review: The No-Girlfriend Rule by Christen Randall

  1. Oh I have this one my wishlist! I requested it on Edelweiss hoping to get an early copy, but they didn’t approve me sadly. I am glad to hear you enjoyed this one so much. I have played Dungeons & Dragons myself and it can be a lot of fun when you can find the right group of players. I hope you can get back to writing your own books!

    • Lisa Mandina

      I hope you get to read it soon, you’ll probably enjoy it a lot with your D&D experiences!

    • Lisa Mandina

      I never got into it either, but from watching The Big Bang Theory learned a little more about it, and then this book made it sound fun!

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