Kevin van Whye’s sophomore novel Nate Plus One follows Nate who is excited to spend the first two weeks of summer with his family in South Africa for his cousin’s wedding. But when circumstances make it impossible for Nate’s mom to join him, Nate finds himself embarking on the epic journey with none other than his best friend (and secret crush) Jai. If only there wasn’t the slight issue of Nate’s ex-boyfriend showing up at the wedding…or Nate’s overwhelming feelings for Jai threatening to tear him and his best friend apart. As their trip accomplished, both Nate and Jai learn a lot about themselves and what started as an epic fail summer might just turn into a summer of love instead.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced, quick and light read, Nate Plus One should wander on your summer TBR immediately.
My favorite part of Nate Plus One was by far the trip to South Africa. Van Whye beautifully describes the geography, cultural heritage and overall vibe of South Africa during Nate’s trip which made me want to pack my bags and sprint off to Johannesburg. Not to mention that there are many instances where you get to know traditional dishes (that sounds delicious) and learn customs you might not be familiar with which is always a plus for me in novels that aren’t solely focused on the US You could also tell that the author knows a whole lot about historical events since Nate learns more about apartheid in this story and I found myself intrigued by how history was approximately in this novel. It was a good reminder that we sometimes forget how recent historical events have taken place even though we might not talk about them on a daily basis. Nate also tries to connect with the memory of his late father in this story which played a huge role in how he engaged with family members, which added much-needed depth to this otherwise light-hearted novel.
The friendship and eventual romance between Nate and Jai was also cute and fluffy. I think fans of the mutual pining trope will get their fill here and there are definitely some moments to chuckle when Nate is trying his hardest not to be overwhelmed by his feelings for Jai. I think the characters meshed well together and while I would have wished for a bit more depth for both of them, I liked how they bonded over music and had these moments of utter content between them.
All that being said, Nate Plus One didn’t quite work for me and the reason is that it felt like the book was trying to accomplish too much in a too short amount of time and thus sadly only scratches the surface of many important topics without really following through on any of them. There’s a lot going on and, of course, that’s what it’s like to be a teenager but I think the story would have benefitted more if it had one or two focal issues— just the being in love with your best friend, or the whole homophobic family members or the heritage of your father’s side of the family etc—instead of trying to figure them all out in a book that’s barely 300 pages long. Due to that length, there also wasn’t a lot of depth to the characters beyond what we get told, which is totally fine in a light summery read.
nevertheless, I did enjoy reading Nate Plus One and if you’re looking for a feel-good with the beloved best-friends-to-lovers trope, then this one might be the perfect read for you to breeze through this summer!
Nate Plus One is available from Amazon, Book Depository, and other good book retailers, like your local bookstore, as of May 10th 2022.
Will you be picking up Nate Plus One? Tell us in the comments below!
Synopsis | Goodreads
Boy plus boy. Two weeks in Johannesburg. A summer of music, adventure, self-discovery . . . and definitely not love. What could go wrong?
Nate needs a date to his cousin’s wedding. Jai is Nate’s best friend and secret crush. Could Jai be Nate’s plus-one–and only?
Nate Hargraves is a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. That’s why he dreams of being a songwriter instead of a singer. But things change the summer after junior year as Nate gets ready to fly to South Africa for his cousin’s lavish destination wedding. The trip is bound to be epic. Except–Nate just found out that his ex-boyfriend will be at the reception. Ugh. He does not want to face this one solo.
Jai Patel, Nate’s best friend (and secret crush), has his own problems. The lead singer of Jai’s band, Infinite Sorrow, quit weeks before a contest that promised to be their big break. But Nate rocks Jai’s world when he agrees to sing with the band. Even though Nate’s not one for the spotlight, he knows this is the kind of stuff you do for . . . friends. In return, Jai volunteers to be Nate’s travel buddy around South Africa, a buffer against his ex, and his plus-one at the wedding.
Maybe this summer will be epic after all. Now that Nate’s crush is on board, will love crash the party? Fall in love with this joy, swoon-worthy rom-com by the author of Date Me, Bryson Keller.