Thank you to Viking Books / PYR for a copy of The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summers in exchange for an honest review.
Micah Summers runs a popular Instagram full of drawings of his numerous imaginary boyfriends (99 so far) — though he’s never had a real boyfriend before. But when a meet-cute with Boy 100 goes wrong, Micah embarks on a Prince Charming-like quest throughout Chicago to find true love — for real this time.
Will Boy 100 be the One?
Micah is rich, dreamy and charming. As the “Prince of Chicago,”— the son of local celebrity sports radio host known as the King of Chicago — he has everything going for him. Unfortunately, he’s also the prince of imaginary meet-cutes, since he’s too nervous to actually ask boys out.
Instead, Micah draws each crush to share on Instagram with a post about their imaginary dates. Ninety-nine “boyfriends” later, his account is hugely popular, and everyone is eagerly awaiting Boy 100. So is Micah. He’s determined that Boy 100 will be different. This time, Micah will sweep the boy off his feet, for real!
So when Micah flirts with a hot boy on the L who’s wearing a vegan leather jacket and lugging a ton of library books, he is sure this is Boy 100. But right before he can make his move and ask for the boy’s number, the guy rushes off the train, leaving behind his pumpkin-embroidered jacket.
The jacket holds clues to the boy’s identity, so Micah and his friends set off on a quest to return it. Along the way, Micah will discover that the best relationships aren’t fairy tales. In fact, the perfect fit— and true love — might be closer than he thinks. — from the publisher.
…But make it gayer?
[Insert anything] but make it gay feeds my soul. I particularly love fairy tale retellings, especially when they’re queer. The good part of being shoved to the margins of society is not having to follow the rules. The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summers author Adam Sass knows that because this novel plays at pushing boundaries. It reaches right up to their edges and then, unfortunately, says, “Haha. JK.”
The beginning and end of the book are delightful, but the middle is a bit of a slog. It’s clear by then where it’s all headed, and you kinda wanna hurry up and get there. I’ll admit I had difficulty relating to Micah because he comes by everything so easily. On a surface level, I understood his second-hand fame had scarred him, but I never felt it. Perhaps if this book had been from one of Micah’s potential suitors’ point of view, it would have had more of an edge and would have felt less cotton candy. Maybe more like bubblegum — a little something to chew on.
I always find it interesting when books deal with fame and wealth in the modern world. I appreciated the attempt here, but it didn’t work for me. The money/fame issue is such a big elephant left in the room it threatens to derail Micah’s fairy tale HEA. So, it’s just swept under (Cinderella‘s) rug. The inherent power imbalance in Micah’s relationships and his tendency to throw money at problems hangs there.
Does Gen Z even?
Throughout the book, Micah repeats that gay people must make their own stories. (Speaking about the US… ) While that will always be true to some extent, things aren’t how they used to be. The breadth of queer stories out there is growing rapidly, and the normalization of queer culture is too — even while queer lives are being legislated back into the closet.
We’re reaching a point in queer storytelling where we can be picky, where I finally feel comfortable criticizing queer work. That’s certainly something to celebrate. It does make me wonder if I’ve reached a point where I expect too much from queer media.
(Also, maybe I’m wrong and will get roasted for this, but do the youngsters care about Barbara Streisand or Cher anymore?)
Should you read it?
Ten years ago, The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summers would have been revolutionary. Today, it’s a quick vacation read. Because the novel seems to be written with queer readers in mind (though the cisheteros would enjoy it as well), the story’s simplicity makes it feel slight.
You’ll read and enjoy it, but ultimately you won’t remember it. And maybe that’s OK. (P.S. The artwork throughout the book is super cute.)
The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summers is out on September 20, 2022. I recommend picking this one up at your local library. 📚🤴
Content warnings: Emotional cheating, classicism, less-than-healthy relationships.