A common theme in novels, motion pictures and television is the fine line between love and hate. One only has to look at William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (or it’s modern reincarnation 1999’s Ten Things I Hate About You) for an example of supposed loathing turning to love. And there are many, many other examples of this theme. Annabeth Albert takes this idea and sends it on a cross-country road trip in her latest novel, Conventionally Yours.
Conrad and Alden are two of the regular gamers who play at Professor Tuttle’s shop near Gracehaven College in New England. While they play Odyssey against each other often, and regularly appear on the “Gamer Grandpa” vlog for the shop, they are far from friends. They are almost diametrically opposed in every way to each other: physically, Conrad is tall and muscular while Alden is of average height and lean; Conrad is charming and outgoing, Alden is reserved and introverted; Alden is methodical and orderly while Conrad is carefree and spontaneous, living his life, as he plays Odyssey, by the seat of his pants. These differences in demeanor and play have gained the two young men a bit of a following online. As a result, Professor Tuttle has been offered complimentary tickets to Massive Odyssey Con West, the national gathering of Odyssey players. MOC West has the potential to be a life-altering event for serious Odyssey gamers, with cash prizes and the potential to be included in a national pro-tour for the best players.
While both young men want to attend the convention, neither is able to fly to the location: Las Vegas. Being aware of this, Professor Tuttle has an alternative: a road trip! The “Gamer Grandpa” group will drive cross-country, stopping at gaming shops across the country to play local players as they make their way to Nevada. While both Alden and Conrad have reservations about this, neither is willing to turn down the opportunity to attend the convention and, possibly win the tournament. So, they leave Gracehaven on a weeklong driving trip, initially concerned if they will ultimately kill the other somewhere along the way. And neither young man could anticipate the actual outcome of the trip.
In Conventionally Yours, Annabeth Albert tells a tale that is simultaneously familiar and new. The settings for this romance are new and interesting, with a series of gaming shops across the country that illustrates the popularity of this type of game play and the wide range of aficionados. Albert also uses the trip to highlight the types of local attractions that are generally only experienced by those who live locally. These include a zombie themed hot dog restaurant and a museum dedicated to Jim the Wonder Dog.
The outcome of the trip, and the novel, is not really a surprise. While both young men are driven to attend the convention to try and win the life-altering prize to solve their problems, it is clear from the beginning that, if there is a winner, there will be only one. Albert presents each with a number of realistic concerns, insecurities and potential misunderstandings to allow their relationship to develop as they travel west. The main characters are likeable and relatable, and readers will find it hard not to root for them to discover each other.
Conventionally Yours is a wonderful trip worth taking! And here is our interview with Annabeth Albert.
This novel is available in e-media.