I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Reggie and Delilah’s Year of Falling by Elise Bryant. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
I’ve read three novels by this author, and I think this one might be my favorite so far!
In Reggie and Delilah’s Year of Falling, we follow (you guessed it) a boy named Reggie and a girl named Delilah. Reggie is into Dungeons & Dragons, but faces a lot of teasing from his family. Delilah has started singing with her friends in their punk band, but is sure she doesn’t actually have what it takes. They meet by chance at New Years and have an instant connection—except that Reggie is only pretending to be confident about his interests, and Delilah is sure she isn’t enough for someone as cool as him, even as she tries. But then, they keep running into each other: on Valentine’s Day, then St. Patrick’s… As the year goes on, they grow closer and closer, but Reggie still feels as if he’s wearing a mask, and Delilah feels inadequate. The question then becomes who they are together if the person they’re falling for isn’t quite real?
I finished reading this on New Year’s, which was perfect, considering the premise. It’s a fun format for a story, watching the holidays go by and seeing how these two people evolve and grow closer. And I really liked both Delilah and Reggie. They’re funny and smart and interesting, and seeing their development both as a couple and as individuals was fantastic. Their struggles with self-worth are sympathetic and relatable.
There’s a lot of amazing themes explored here through the two protagonists’ journeys, from how nerd culture sometimes marginalizes certain groups to how society often has expectations based on stereotypes of how people should behave. I loved hearing from Reggie how historically D&D tends to be dominated by Western views, which often can perpetuate racist (or at least prejudiced) themes. I would read the essays he writes on the subject, no question. But at the same time, I love that his story highlights that you can both love something and critique it, how you can enjoy something and seek to improve it. It’s also lovely to see his path to being proud of his interests, rather than ashamed of them.
As for Delilah, watching her grapple with being brave and visible was so moving. She’s not naturally bold and loud, but finds that she loves performing, even if it’s scary. The way Bryant explores the nuances of this is wonderful. I also loved the complex feelings Delilah has regarding the fact that she is biracial. Often, Delilah wonders that people seem to sometimes consider her either too Black or not Black enough—depending on what group she’s in company of. Being half-Asian, I can relate to this feeling sometimes, and it was very gratifying to see it presented with such empathy here.
Anyway, enough about our main characters, because there are several other lovely characters in this cast. I really liked Delilah’s sister Georgia, and her new friend Ryan. They were a great group who encouraged her; the same goes for Reggie’s D&D friends. (Side note, I really thought it was going to come out that his friends Yobani and Greg were secretly in love, which is why they were constantly bickering. It didn’t happen, but I will hold out hope regardless.) I like what Bryant did with Delilah’s band mates, and even though I didn’t like Charlie, it was a great part of the narrative. I wasn’t that into Reggie’s brother Eric, and I think his transformation at the end was a little abrupt and convenient. However, it was still sweet and I’m glad there was a happy ending on that front.
Okay, I feel like I’ve gone on for longer than I usually do, so I’ll wrap up. In the end, Reggie and Delilah’s Year of Falling was a delightful last book of 2022! It’s full of emotion and brilliant themes, with an endearing and complex cast of characters. Every reference, from Taylor Swift to d20s, was excellent. The teens’ voices are believable and witty. The romance is clean, perfectly paced, and so easy to root for. I can easily recommend this to teens and adults alike!
Reggie and Delilah will be published on January 31st, 2023!