Rating: 4 STARS
How I got this book: Bought
Bloomington High School Lions' star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he's got a coach who doesn't ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team's success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir's trust. But to Sebastian's surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town's streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them.
Since first hearing about this book a month or so ago, I've been desperate to read it, which is a little weird for me as I'm really not a big fan of sports, especially football (a.k.a soccer). However, I am an absolute sucker for enemies to lovers romances and since everyone was raving about it, I just had to try it myself.
It's actually a 'best friends to enemies to lovers' romance, which I really loved, I enjoyed the history between the two characters and that there was already a foundation to their relationship, even if it was via the misunderstandings that drove them apart.
I really enjoyed the camaraderie between the team and absolutely adored the LGBT and cultural diversity; it was lovely to have characters of colour and various religious beliefs all co-existing in one setting.
Sadly, I did struggle a little with the writing style, it felt a little clunky in places but didn't stop me from enjoying the story.
Bastian has to be my favourite character. I felt so strongly for him throughout the book, his desire to please everyone whilst having no clue what he's doing with his own life is completely relatable.
"He's tired of trying to be this amazing version of a guy that everyone else sees but Sebastian can't find when he stares in the mirror."
I felt the author's portrayal of how overwhelming being a teen is was extremely accurate and I love the positive mental health and body positivity messages throughout. It's fantastic to read a book that specifically tells teens that it's ok to freak out and feel like you have no control, it's ok to not know what you're doing and to not be certain whether or not things will work out. I felt that this was perfectly summed up in a lovely quote from Bastian's mum:
"The only thing in life you have to do is live it." Her hand covers his, squeezing. "Go to college, chase your dreams of being a pro athlete. Or take some time off, find yourself, and be an 'adult' later."
I can't get enough of this. Of parents who are supportive and offer actual meaningful advice instead of just pushing their children to conform to the norm.
The portrayal of the characters is done perfectly in my opinion. It's great to read a book that clearly shows that, even a group of boys, mostly the same age and with the same interest(s), are all different. No one is a black and white stereotype, everyone has different layers, everyone has various insecurities and it's great to experience this in a book, especially a YA, where I feel diversity is especially important.
Running With Lions is filled with beautiful, poignant lessons, such as the coach's message to Sebastian that, "You are not defined by who you love."
The romance is so sweet and that includes the supporting characters also! I love the slow-burn, the sweetness, the fumbling - all of it!
Overall, this is an exceptionally sweet story of summer love, acceptance and friendship! Highly enjoyable!
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Book addict, film mad, music lover, business owner, aspiring writer and mum (not necessarily in that order), living in the UK.
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