A Little Bit Country by Brian D. Kennedy
Published: June 7th 2022 by Harper Collins / Balzer + Bray
Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5)
Genre: Young Adult // LGBT, Romance, Contemporary
Quick Thoughts: A gorgeous rom-com that left me starry-eyed and rooting for characters that were genuine, with swoony elements that made it completely unputdownable.
About The Book:
Emmett Maguire wants to be country music’s biggest gay superstar – a far reach when you’re seventeen and living in Illinois. But for now, he’s happy to do the next best thing: Stay with his aunt in Jackson Hollow, Tennessee, for the summer and perform at the amusement park owned by his idol, country legend Wanda Jean Stubbs.
Luke Barnes hates country music. As the grandson of Verna Rose, the disgraced singer who had a famous falling out with Wanda Jean, Luke knows how much pain country music has brought his family. But when his mom’s medical bills start piling up, he takes a job at the last place he wants: a restaurant at Wanda World.
Neither boy is looking for romance, but sparks fly when they meet – and soon they’re inseparable. Until a long-lost secret about Verna and Wanda comes to light, threatening to unravel everything.
Will Emmett and Luke be able get past the truths they discover…or will their relationship go down in history as just another Sad Country Love Song?
Readers of my blog will know that A Little Bit Country has been on my radar since last year, and made my “Want To Read in 2022″ post, too. So when the opportunity came up with my friends at Harper360 to read it, you just know that I jumped!
A Little Bit Country is told in the distinctive voices of Emmett and Luke. While they have very little in common when they first meet, there’s an instant, effervescent connection that is unmistakably electric. Emmett, seventeen with big dreams to be country music’s biggest gay star, is in Jackson Hollow, Tennessee, for the summer, staying with his Aunt Karen. He’s got a job performing at an amusement park owned by his all-time idol and country-music legend, Wanda Jean (think, Dolly Parton-style of icon/all-round entertainer.) He wants nothing more than to be a star, to sing to the world and show them he’s proud of being gay and that it can go hand-in-hand with being a superstar of country music. Wannabe chef Luke, on the other hand, detests country music, even though it runs in his blood. His grandmother was Verna Rose, Wanda Jean’s former friend that had a rocky, memorable and public fall-out with her many years ago. Subsequently, the painful betrayal of country music itself runs deep in his family. With Luke’s mother’s illness, MS, and the medical bills for her hospital admissions and general care building up, he knows that his family needs all the money it can have—which is the exact reason he clings to when he takes a job at Wanda World in their restaurant.
But when Emmett and Luke meet, suddenly both their lives are not only lit by admiration of one another’s strengths—Luke wishing he could be out and proud of who he is like Emmett, and Emmett wishing he had Luke’s self-confidence—but with how strong of a connection they share. Only, because Luke fears his family and friends reactions to coming out, it puts his and Emmett’s growing summer-born relationship into dangerous territory, both their hearts on the line. The summer doesn’t go without sparks flying, secrets shared, mysteries unsolved, and heartbreak. But when the biggest secret of all unravels everything they both thought they knew about Wanda—and Country music—will they ever get to live in their love song?
Overall, I looked to A Little Bit Country for a country-music rom-com with dashes of homages to Dolly Parton—and that’s exactly what I got and so much more. I fell in love with Emmett and Luke’s voices, their stories, right down to everything they represented. Yes, it had a little bit of insta-love, but I think when it’s shown how much two characters are suited to one another, that trope is so worth it—because it was clear to me they were meant to find one another. This was such a gorgeous rom-com that left me starry-eyed and rooting for characters that were genuine, with swoony elements that made it completely unputdownable. Four and a half stars!
Brian D. Kennedy writes books for young adults. His debut novel, A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY, will be released by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray in summer of 2022. Born a Minnesotan, Brian now lives in New York City, where he works at a LGBTQ non-profit. His slightly unhealthy obsessions include: seeing as many Broadway shows as possible, buying weird trinkets off ebay, and all things Dolly Parton.