This story follows Elliot Goodman during his senior year, but everything changes when a new student named Jordan becomes his lab partner. Throughout the book they come together and become very close friends and even more. But things like bullies and unaccepting families get in their way. I really liked this book and appreciated the LGBTQ+ characters.

I give this book 4 stars (out of five). I loved this story, 100% loved it. It’s a very, very cute romance, honestly one of the cutest romance novels I’ve read in awhile. I have to say, just to state the obvious, that this book is not for anyone who is homophobic or doesn’t like non-heterosexual relationships. I think that viewpoint/opinion is very, very inhumane and unethical and hateful and I do not support those ideals at all. But I just thought I’d throw it out there just in case a homophobe accidentally reads this and then gives a good book a lot of hate for invalid reasons. I also have to say that the main reason I ended up picking this book out at the library was because I noticed it was a Wattpad book. If you are unfamiliar with Wattpad it’s basically a website/app/platform where anyone can post and share original writing and fanfiction. In my experience there is lots of quality writing on the site but because anyone with an account can post content it’s sometimes hard to find, this is why I wanted to check out a real book coming from that platform-also until I saw it I didn’t know that Wattpad Books were actually printed and sold so I was immediately interested. I’ll share my thoughts on this aspect of this book and my overall thoughts on Wattpad books after a summary of Lab Partner’s plot.

The main character is a high school senior named Elliot Goldman, he’s your typical social reject nobody. He doesn’t really have any friends in school and he gets bullied a lot by the popular guys at his school. Besides that Elliot likes soccer and cooking, he has a twin sister named Ellie who graduated high school earlier and is taking courses at a nearby community college for a few years before going to an actual university and his parents really want him to go into engineering and business just like they did. Elliot however is not so sure that’s what he wants to do, mainly right now he is focusing on surviving and graduating high school and no longer being forever stuck in the same small town.

Another important character is Eliot’s sister’s friend Holiday Tucker, she’s tough and almost like a hacker. Like Elliot’s parents, she’s known about him getting bullied for a while but he always said he could handle it and didn’t want anyone to step in. Elliot’s rationale for just taking all the bullying and not doing anything to try and stop it is that if they’re spending their time focusing on him then they can’t hurt anyone else. He wasn’t even initially a target but he stepped in and provoked the bullies because he saw them bullying other people. This is the real reason Elliot is bullied.

But everything changes when a new guy named Jordan Hughes moves into town and becomes his new lab partner. Their friendship starts out small and simple; a few passing words, knowing who the other is, simple interactions with each other. Then it grew, slowly and subtly. Elliot warned Jordan that he shouldn’t associate with him if he wants to have any friends at their school, it’s basically social suicide since he is the biggest outcast and target there. But Jordan was resilient and ignored all of Elliot’s warnings, in fact he even made an effort to get closer to him. (For example, Jordan gave Elliot a ride home when he’d missed his bus).

Their friendship blossomed as they worked great together in Chemistry and hanging out outside of school for the first time. But this doesn’t go unnoticed by the bullies (Morgan, Nate and Cole) and they target him yet again while accusing him and Jordan of being together sexually and/or romantically. This actually gets to Elliot more so than normal and after they insult Jordan he snaps and throws the first punch, which might not have been the best idea because he was very outnumbered and easily overpowered. They beat him up badly and left him on the ground in a hidden corner behind the school. A while later Elliot woke up to Jordan calling him, he just told Jordan where he was, when Jordan wanted to take him to the hospital he refused and asked to just be taken home instead. Despite not agreeing with Elliot’s choice he respects his wishes and drives him home, once they get there there’s the matter of treating Elliot’s injuries. He’s pretty beaten up and he has a broken nose, which Jordan has to reset. They start talking and arguing about who’s fault it was that this happened, Jordan argues that it’s his fault they thought he was gay but Elliot counters that it’s both his fault for being an easy target (and willingly being so) and them for being judgmental and homophobic.

That conversation is what starts it all; Jordan kisses Elliot. And then the gay panic starts, there’s no other way to put it, Elliot goes into full on panic mode. Elliot was sure he wasn’t gay, as he starts thinking about it he rethinks lots of their interactions and can finally see the signs. {Quote from this part of the book; “This is not good.” } A few days later (Elliot hadn’t been going to school during that time because of his injuries) he finally finds a bit of peace after talking with his sister. Elliot had been certain he wasn’t gay but El pointed out that he’d never actually been with a girl or a boy so there was no way to know for sure what his sexuality is. They had a very helpful conversation about sexualities and she even comes out to him as asexual (more on this scene later on), she encourages him not to be close minded and to try and explore his sexuality.

It’s also important to mention that Ellie clarifies people are complicated even ourselves and that how you identify can change too, just because you identify as something at one point of your life doesn’t mean that defines you for the rest of your life. She also explains terms and different sexualities Elliot isn’t familiar with, it isn’t just straight or gay. There are many different things people can identify as, many of which fall in between heterosexuality and homosexuality (like bisexuality and pansexuality to name a few). This really helps Elliot and he doesn’t feel quite so lost anymore, although he is still quite panicked and confused.

Elliot is still panicked when he eventually returns to school and this is where the (Wattpad style) romance really starts. When Elliot and Jordan first talk again alone Jordan tells him he’s is determined to ‘convince’ him. It’s sort of more that Jordan has already been through the struggles of being confused questioning his sexuality and he wants to help Elliot figure things out (but said in a sexier way). A few days later Elliot has had some time to think and decides to ask Jordan to meet up with him again outside of school, they end up going for a walk in the park. They talked and lowkey made out {also had a hilarious conversation afterwards which I will controversially share here: Jordan: “How’d I do?” Elliot: “F*ck.” }.

A while later Jordan invites Elliot to his house to catch up on some chemistry homework, he meets his family and all is well and good. While in Jordan’s room totally doing homework and definitely not anything else, Elliot comes to the conclusion that he’s gay. And he shares this revelation in probably the funniest way possible during a family dinner with Jordan’s mother and siblings. Here is that conversation:
Jordan’s little brother to Elliot: “So, how long have you been gay?”
Elliot: “About ten minutes, actually.” (this had me dying when I read it for the first time, just saying.) And they actually did spend the rest of the night studying.

Later on Jordan is driving Elliot home and suddenly asks him out on a date, he had to use the “I won’t drive forward until you answer” strategy to get an answer right away but Elliot said yes. And directly after that Jordan drove Elliot somewhere else and they went on their first date. It was laser tag, a few hours at the arcade and then making pizzas together at Elliot’s house. The date goes great and Elliot is really happy. At the end of the night Elliot’s family comes home and they all eat dinner together, Jordan gets along with them great too. And for a while everything seems okay.

And then back at school Elliot gets trapped in the bathroom by Morgan, Nate and Cole and they’re taking their bullying to the next level, making it a hate crime. They somehow have a picture of Elliot and Jordan kissing in the parking lot after their date and they want to send it to everyone in the entire school. I’m not getting into it too much but throughout the entire book Cole has been part of the bullying but more of a willing bystander. He’s been encouraging them to stop hurting Cole and often was the thing that got them to stop or not be extra cruel to him. But here when Cole suggests they don’t do it Morgan immediately turns on him and accuses him of being gay too, he makes Cole be the one to send it out to prove he isn’t one of them (to which Cole reluctantly agrees). Obviously this terrifies Elliot, he’d be outed when he’s only just discovered himself and he had no way to stop him. They left him trapped in there by physically taking off his shirt and throwing it into the hallways so he couldn’t walk around without a shirt on until everyone had left. (this was assault).

After that ordeal Elliot is pretty clearly upset and relatively traumatized, eventually Jordan finds him and takes him home. Later that night, a group text is sent out and everyone has/sees the picture, including Holiday/Holly who calls Jordan to see if they’re okay. In two simple words Elliot tells Holly that she can do whatever she wants to the bullies, she’s been waiting and willing to destroy them for years and now they really, really, crossed a line. Elliot says, “ Sic ’em”. Hangs up and she knows what to do. Around this time Elliot and Jordan also get talking about coming out and what it’s like, Jordan shared how it was I guess accidentally outed at his old school and when he came out to his family-which didn’t go very well to say the least (his Dad isn’t’ in his life anymore).

The next day at school Jordan and Elliot officially become boyfriends and Jordan successfully distracts Elliot from all the weird looking and whispers (resulting from the text). (Around here Jordan also started calling Elliot ‘Kitten,’ which is super cute.)

During lunch in the cafeteria is when the revenge on the bullies starts, first with Stage One : Humiliation. Morgan’s girlfriend walked up to him poured milk all over him after she found out he cheated on her, Nate came rushing into the cafeteria ranting about how he got kicked off the football team since someone ticked off the coach about where he keeps his ‘stash’ and Cole was stopped when a guy named Jason ran in, quickly kissed him on the lips, made a few comments (about how he’d changed) and then left again-effectively outing Cole as well (who promptly left the cafeteria). The attention was turned to Holiday after Morgan’s girlfriend revealed who tipped her off, and that started Stage Two: Regurgitation. When Morgan and Nate came over to Holiday, Elliot and Jordan they were fuming, and what Holly had to say did not change that. She went through their lives and all the likely reasons they became bullies out loud directly to them. But before anything escalated to violence Cole, Morgan and Nate were all called to the office. This is when we learn what Stage Three is; Incrimination, Holiday has a video of Morgan and Nate assaulting Elliot in the bathroom. Cole had recorded it and sent it to her and she sent it to the Principal, soon after hearing that Elliot and Jordan were called to the office as well.

Apart from an uncomfortable wait while everyone was talked to and they all had to sit awkwardly in the same hallway everything went okay. The principal was very understanding and serious and let Elliot have a say in their punishments (most likely expulsion for Morgan and Nate and suspension for Cole). Jordan also convinced Elliot to go to Prom with him.

Days later it’s Elliot and Ellie’s birthday party and their entire family plus Holiday and Jordan are there. Jordan gives him a small figurine of a little lion for his Kitten with “E and J” carved into it. The epilogue is a very cute prom night (Elliot even talks with Cole and Jason again) and at the very end of the night Elliot finally comes out to his parents and they are totally 100% accepting of him and Jordan as his boyfriend. The ending is the best because it ends with Elliot and Jordan exchanging “I love you”’s, his parents accepting and loving him and Elliot also loving and accepting himself which is huge character development from earlier n the book when all he could say was “I’m not gay.”

My thoughts and comments:

I do have to point out that one particular part was unrealistic, when Jordan and Elliot are at that arcade they use a claw machine and they actually got something out of it, in fact they both won something which is preposterous and blatantly unrealistic.

I was honestly very, very surprised when I read the About the Author and realized this was written by a girl. Not to assume genders or stereotype of anything, but I was very impressed with her ability to write from the perspective of a male character and a gay relationship. I can’t be the one to 100% confirm this but I thought both the characters and romance were very well written so I have to say I prematurely judged/made assumptions about the author without even realizing it or meaning to, which is my fault, 

I loved how this book almost foreshadows Elliot’s feelings for Jordan, long before Elliot ever identifies those feelings they’re mentioned as weird sensations or evident through details from his perspective. It was a very good combination because it never outrights labels those things but they’re always there, so you can totally see that his feelings don’t come out of nowhere when he starts questioning things. I think this was done really well because Elliot is never fully aware of those signs or lingered/questioned them for longer than a moment, if he had then maybe he would’ve realized things sooner but either way they were prevalent.

Can we take a moment to appreciate that the chapter where everything between Elliot and Jordan really starts is called Kiss it Better, which foreshadows the entire chapter and everything that comes after in just 3 three words. Also this chapter and the main scene specifically were just so powerful, it showed so clearly how they felt about and interacted with each and then when Eliot started talking about love just being love, the hesitation and hope/relief in Jordan was also clear. I just thought that scene was amazing since it was so on the nose about homophobia, and so blatantly calls out the characters (bullies) for having horrible motivations, making unreasonable judgements and assumptions as well as just being terrible people. It says straight up that they don’t have the right to decide what is right or wrong, they can’t decide that for other people and they can’t just decide someone is wrong for being different from them (which is a lesson some people sadly still haven’t learned).

Similarly the scene where Elliot and his sister Ellie have that conversation about sexualities is my favourite part of the entire book because it’s so important and well done. It’s the type of conversation I can realistically imagine having with somebody while being in a similar situation or starting to question my sexuality. Someone who’s never even questioned their sexuality could literally not know who or if they’re attracted to, so it’s important to not just assume you’re straight. I think lots of LGBTQ+ people have been there though so I honestly really like that Elliot’s reaction was just “oh I can’t be gay,” because he’d never considered that as a possibility. But then throughout the rest of the story he realizes it is one. This scene was also just very powerful and meaningful, I think it could be emotional for some people reading as well especially since this is when Ellie comes out.

This book also had the cliche where in the epilogue when Elliot comes out to his parents, they exchange money like they bet on it in the past. This cliche is actually really funny when used well, although it is used more and more these days in similar works of fiction that it’s becoming at least slightly overdone. In this particular case I found it to be a bit cheesy if anything but also not too out of place with the story and characters.

In around the middle of this book there’s a seemingly insignificant scene where Holiday is talking about the meaning behind a book she’s doing a report on. While I was reading it it felt very out of place from the rest of the story and I just knew it had to be important, so as I was writing this I looked back on it and I realized it might actually have a connection to the main storyline. The book (within this book) is The Most Dangerous Game By: Richard Connell (I’ve never read it so I’m only going off of what was said in dialogue), which is about a man who hunts other humans. Holiday points out that everyone makes him out to be the villain and a terrible person but he’s basically exactly like all the other hunters except for the difference as to what he hunts. This could be a comparison or metaphor for discrimination and hate based on sexuality or other differences. We’re all human, or in this example, we’re all hunters but we might use different tools or hunt different things. That doesn’t make one type of hunter less valid then the others and it doesn’t mean one is worse or better then the others, it means we’re all hunters and all humans regardless of those differences. I just thought this was a great detail for something that played such a small and unimportant part in the main story.

I’d also like to comment on the scene where Elliot says he is gay aloud for the first time, now this scene is really important. I can’t speak for everyone when I say this but for me and many other LGBTQ+ people I know saying it out loud is sort of a big deal, you know? It makes it real. When you’re only questioning or thinking in your head that you might not be straight it’s a possibility but it’s like a secret thought if that makes sense. But once you say it, it’s out there even if you don’t say it to anyone even if you just say it to yourself. At least to me that makes it real, because if you believe it and you say it then it’s true and even if you don’t believe it or know for sure yet you should also feel free to try saying stuff like that out loud. Again I know this is different for everybody but in my experience saying things aloud made it feel real for me and it helped me accept that. I think that accepting and loving yourself is probably the most important thing you can do and saying things out loud can be really helpful, exhilarating and exciting. I just want to say I love this scene for those reasons.

The scene where Jordan catches Elliot during their laser tag game is also really cliche, I don’t know if this has been used a lot in non-online fiction but it’s a well known trope/prompt to have a couple in a laser tag place and mix romance with intense gameplay. Although in this book it doesn’t follow that prompt/trope exactly it is very similar to things I have already read, however I do have to say that it was very well done. It was incredible, there was the right amount of tension and build up and everything was good. So despite the fact that it was a little predictable I can’t say anything else bad about this scene.

Now, more about Wattpad books. At first I didn’t know exactly what to expect from one, Wattpad has the general I guess track record for having lots of bad writing. It’s full of new and young authors posting things for the first time, so of course we shouldn’t expect all the writing on the site to be amazing or perfect although there is also quite a lot that as well. So I wasn’t sure exactly where this would fall on that scale, but it was great! I think it broke the stigma I had around Wattpad writing and I’m actually looking forward to finding and reading some other published books from Wattpad and seeing what more of them are like. I can’t talk about all Wattpad books but the one I read really changed my mind about this, I’ll write more on this topic after reading more Wattpad books. At this point comparing Lab Partners to anything else I’ve ever read on the site this book was way better, but I don’t think I would’ve been shocked if I saw this as just a normal story on there.

Reading this book made me so happy, there were lots of sad parts and things that made me mad (mainly the homophobia) but overall it’s just a really good story. I didn’t have high expectations for this book going into it, I thought it would be predictable just like any other romance novel; but I was wrong. It’s actually really, really, really good. The process of questioning your sexuality and dealing with bullying and also just learning to love and accept yourself were explored in ways I couldn’t have predicted and done well. I have an overwhelmingly positive opinion of this book and I would totally recommend it as a great gay romance novel.