Declan is the perfect son who play video games and get good grades. But whenever his sister Delia leaves the house to meet up with friends, Declan is in her closet trying on dresses and shoes and loving every minute of it. Eventually Declan is caught but instead of being judged Delia transforms Declan into her mysterious cousin Layla and drags him to the party of the year, hosted by Carter, the most popular boy in school. When Carter meets Layla, he fumbles to charm her. He adores her sense of humor and her poise. But when she vanishes in the middle of the night, he’s left confused and determined to solve the mystery of who she is.
This book is a basically a mix between Cinderella (surprise, surprise) and The Danish Girl. We switch between Declan and Carter’s perspective as they become more and more entangled in their relationship – and the lie that is Layla. It works really well since we get to see both sides of the story and feel more empathy for both of them. Meister has done an amazing job at setting up the parallels between Declan in his biological skin, where he feels awkward and in costume, and Declan as “Layla” where he feels comfortable and confident enough to shine.
My only problem with “Layla” is that she is a self-proclaimed expert on being a girl after only a few days of actually living a girl’s life. She give Carter’s friends deep insight in what girls really want and the pains they go through and I have to say, I felt slightly triggered. I have nothing but respect for guys like Declan who just wants to feel comfortable in their skin, but I just don’t think it’s realistic for him to give advice on a girl’s struggle after such a short time. In general, there were a few long dialogues about society, gender and love throughout the book that felt more like conversations between 30+ friends. Not that I didn’t agree with some of it, but I honestly don’t buy that high school teens has life all figured out at that stage.
I think I ended up sounding more negative than intended because I actually did like the book! It was a fun plot with a twist and the serious topics were kept in a light tone. I recommend it for anyone who would like a modern retelling of Cinderella or just an interesting LGBQT summer read!