A cute coming-of-age romance with amazing character development
Thank you so much to TBR and Beyond Tours and Kristina Forest for allowing me to be part of this experience and also providing me with a complimentary ARC and media kit!
A fresh new YA romance novel by Kristina Forest, Zyla & Kai is an epic star-crossed love story about first love and not just the will they, won’t they— but why can’t they?
While on a school trip to the Poconos Mountains (in the middle of a storm) high school seniors, Zyla Matthews and Kai Johnson, run away together leaving their friends and family confused. As far as everyone knows, Zyla and Kai have been broken up for months. And honestly? Their break up hadn’t surprised anyone. Zyla and Kai met while working together at an amusement park the previous summer, and they couldn’t have been more different.
Zyla was a cynic about love. She’d witnessed the dissolution of her parents’ marriage early in life, and it left an indelible impression. Her only aim was graduating and going to fashion school abroad. Until she met Kai.
Kai was a serial monogamist and a hopeless romantic. He’d put a temporary pause on his dating life before senior year to focus on school and getting into his dream HBCU. Until he met Zyla.
Alternating between the past and present, we see the love story unfold from Zyla and Kai’s perspectives: how they first became the unlikeliest of friends over the summer, how they fell in love during the school year, and why they ultimately broke up… Or did they?
Romantic, heart-stirring and a little mysterious, Zyla & Kai will keep readers guessing until the last chapter.
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/zyla-kai-kristina-forest/1140141861
Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Zyla-Kai-Kristina-Forest/9780593407240
Content and Trigger Warnings
For a list of warnings, tropes, and representation for this book, check out its page on BookTriggerWarnings.com.
About the Author
Kristina Forest is the author of romance books for both teens and adults, including I Wanna Be Where You Are, which The New York Times called, “a big hearted story,” and Now That I’ve Found You, a Book Riot Best Book of 2020. Her next YA romance, Zyla & Kai, will publish with Kokila Books on June 7, 2022, and her adult romance debut, The Neighbor Favor, will publish with Berkley in Spring 2023. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing at The New School and she can often be found rearranging her bookshelf.
Review (no spoilers)
If you’d like to follow along with the rest of the tour, you can find the tour schedule here.
Welcome back! Today’s review deal with a new young adult contemporary romance novel by the lovely Kristina Forest. This is my second book of hers and I really enjoy her style of writing and character development.
Zyla & Kai tells the complex love story of two young teenagers who are struggling to figure out how to incorporate romance into their lives. Having witnessed her parents marriages and subsequent relationships quickly fall apart, Zyla is a bit of a love skeptic. Afraid of being hurt and betrayed by anyone she opens her heart to, she simply decides never to date. Our boy Kai on the other hand is a hopeless romantic. He falls for any cute girl he meets quickly and completely, accumulating a total of 9 ex-girlfriends since middle school. In fact, he gets so distracted by his fleeting romances that he is put on a dating ban by his aunt and uncle (his legal guardians) until he gets his act together.
I loved both Zyla and Kai (and their best friends Beatrice and Jamal) very much. They’ve been hurt by past (and current) events and are struggling to find out what matters to them and who they want to be. Their budding romance was one of the cutest things I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. This book is definitely a good choice for romance lovers around the world.
Regarding the plot, it’s a pretty standard high school contemporary. Relationships are made and broken, family drama rears its ugly head several times, and college applications/decisions are a major plot point. These things will show up in basically any YA contemporary/romance novel you read since many authors choose to make their main characters juniors or seniors. Still, the story is both enjoyable and well-written, so nothing about these reoccurring things bothered me at all. It is told using dual timelines of “present day” (where Zyla and Kai have been broken up for weeks and are seeing each other for the first time in a while) and the past (where we see how their relationship started and why it ended).
I felt the ending of this novel was perfect for the characters and their journeys into adulthood. My only real complaint is that the third-act breakup required a very overused miscommunication trope that I basically never enjoy reading. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this novel and definitely recommend that you check it out if you’re interested!