Book reviews and recommendations, Young Adult 16+

YA Book of the Month Recommended by Orla 

What Love Looks Like by Jarlath Gregory - Dublog

Author: Jarlath Gregory

Genre: Contemporary Fiction YA (Suitable for 16-18 yr olds)

Review by: Orla O’ Brien, Kildare Town Library 


Ben, the main protagonist, is gay and proud. The first chapter zones in on how difficult he finds it meeting a significant other. Whether you are gay or not, the dating scene has changed drastically over the last decade.  All too often online dating sites offer a fake façade of reality. Navigating them can be frustrating especially when filters are applied. The old-fashioned way of meeting someone on a night out barely exists. Ben points out ‘how many guys met their future husband when they were both dancing their heads off to Lady Gaga?’

Knowing this, the reader can empathise that Ben has limited options, meeting the boyfriend of his dreams. He rejoices, and is pleasantly surprised, when he meets Peter online. Ben is infatuated with Peter. It takes a while for him to look beyond his chiselled features and physic. Peter is not fully out of the closet. He is embarrassed to be seen in a gay bar. He is uncomfortable mingling with gay people who flaunt their sexuality. He is mortified to be so close to Soda. Soda is a flamboyant drag queen and one of Ben’s best friends. Peter’s snide comments and put downs turn everything sour. Ben clings on even though Peter treats him no better than dirt. He would almost rather be in a toxic relationship than be lonely. 

Soda brings comic relief to the book. He tells it how it is, and he doesn’t mince his words. Being a few years older than Ben, he gives him invaluable advice. He lights up the pages with his wit and wisdom. Ben is a strong character. He is comfortable in his own skin. However, Arron, Darren and Wayne try to intimidate him by hurling homophobic slurs at him.   

Ireland still has a long way to go to fully embrace people in the LGBTQ+ community. Ben notes that it is still not safe for two boys to kiss in certain pubs. When Peter tries to keep Ben as a secret it makes Ben feel unwanted. As though he is some rag doll that Peter will play with now and again, and then toss away. Ben’s friends try to intervene, and tell him Peter is no good for him, but Ben is stubborn and can’t see the wood for the trees. 

Chelsea is best friends with Ben. Living next door to each other they practically live in each other’s pockets. They do everything together. She accompanies him to gay bars and is always lending her ear and giving good advice. Chelsea bravely evolves into the person she wants to be. At first her old-fashioned parents can’t comprehend her life choices.  Everyone is worried about Chelsea when she goes AWOL. Her parents keep tight lipped about her whereabouts. 

This book tackles taboo issues such as the stigma of divorce. Ben’s grandfather is concerned what the neighbours will think of his divorced daughter settling down with a man from a different background. Prejudice and discrimination of mixed families is explored. The vicious nature of bullying is also highlighted and how hurtful and damaging it can be. 

There are many lessons that can be learnt from reading this book. One being life is too short to live a life pleasing others and sacrificing your own true happiness. Relationships come and go but don’t forget the friends that stand by your side through thick and thin. Don’t stay in a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship. Be the person you want to be and live your best life.   

Feel free to request it online from your local library here 

We hope you enjoyed this review. Remember under the Government’s Keep Well Campaign – Switching off and being creative or learning something new, getting back to nature, and finding ways to relax can help our general wellbeing. For more information check out our blog posts here and here or take a look at the Kildare County Council’s Keep Well page for the latest activities to help you Keep Well.

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