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Anything But Fine

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All it takes is one missed step for your life to change forever.

Luca Mason knows exactly who he is and what he In six months, he’s going to be accepted into the Australian Ballet School, leave his fancy private high school, and live his life as a star of the stage―at least that’s the plan until he falls down a flight of stairs and breaks his foot in a way he can never recover from.

With his dancing dreams dead on their feet, Luca loses his performing arts scholarship and transfers to the local public school, leaving behind all his ballet friends and his whole future on stage.

The only bright side is that he strikes up unlikely friendships with the nicest (and nerdiest) girl at his new school, Amina, and the gorgeous, popular, and (reportedly) straight school captain, Jordan Tanaka-Jones.

As Luca’s bond with Jordan grows stronger, he starts to who is he without ballet? And is he setting himself up for another heartbreak?

368 pages, Hardcover

First published August 31, 2021

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About the author

Tobias Madden

6 books265 followers
Tobias is an author and editor from Sydney, Australia. Originally from Ballarat, Tobias worked for ten years as a performer, touring Australia and New Zealand with musicals such as Mary Poppins, CATS, Singin' in the Rain, and Guys and Dolls. In 2019, he edited and published UNDERDOG, the first #LoveOzYA short story anthology for previously unpublished Aussie young adult fiction writers. Also in 2019, he wrote the cabaret show Siblingship, which played to sold out audiences in Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra. Tobias is a passionate member of the #LoveOzYA and LGBTQ+ communities, and currently works in publishing as a Digital Marketing Executive and YA Publicist.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 509 reviews
Profile Image for Charlie.
84 reviews418 followers
June 27, 2022
If you’re looking for something to read after finishing Heartstopper, I’d definitely recommend Anything But Fine! This wonderful friends to lovers story has everything you need. A coming of age story, bisexuality rep, coming out & teenage drama. Jordan and Luca gave me serious Nick and Charlie energy - they were so cute!

Anything But Fine follows a teenage ballet dancer who breaks his foot and has to step away from dance. This book is all about having a teenage identity crisis and not knowing what to do with your life. Luca’s dance career is stolen from him before it ever really begins, and the grief he experiences was incredibly palpable. Luca’s life shatters alongside his foot, and everything gets difficult for him to navigate. He becomes lonely and isolated, his relationship with his father begins to strain, and he questions if his relationship with his ballet classmates were held together by friendship or dance.

Slowly, Luca begins to heal, and learns to love so many new things. He does all the things he never got to do, and rediscovers his love for dance in a new light. The three people who helped him grow and recover - Amina, his father, and Jordan - were vital throughout his healing process. Jordan was struggling with his own identity as he tried to navigate his bisexuality and realised his friends were completely toxic. Together, Luca and Jordan were their happiest, and it was wonderful to slowly watch them realise that an open relationship was possible.

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Profile Image for ☆ cal ☆.
520 reviews139 followers
November 22, 2021
very very cute shit! and swoon worthy. like the netflix-needs-to-adapt-this kind of cute and heartwarming. a powerful character-driven story.
Profile Image for luce (that loser crying on the n° 2 bus).
1,436 reviews4,037 followers
May 25, 2022

I had quite hopes for Anything But Fine and the first few chapters promised a ya coming-of-age in the realms of The Sky Blues, Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun, and You Should See Me in a Crown. As the story progresses however I found myself growing weary of the unnecessary miscommunication. If you are a fan of Netflix teen comedies/dramas, Anything But Fine will likely be your next favourite read however, if you prefer more nuanced characters and more realistic scenarios/dynamics well, this may not deliver.

Set in Australia Luca Mason, our 16-teen-yr-old narrator has dedicated his life to ballet. His hopes of being accepted into the Australian Ballet School are thwarted after a bad fall results in a broken foot. After his doctors tell him that he is unlikely to ever be able to dance again Luca is more-or-less booted out of his fancy private high school. A lost and confused Luca distances himself from his ballet friends, three girls who do not seem to truly understand the irreversible consequences of his fall. At his new high school, Luca is befriended by Amina, an affectionate, dorky, genius. Luca also falls hard for Jordan Tanaka-Jones, the school’s handsome, popular and allegedly straight jock.
While the novel does rely on insta-love Luca’s crush/obsession with Jordan did strike me as fairly believable. Luca is a horny teenager whose life has recently experienced an unwelcome drastic change so he decides to focus his attention on the seemingly unattainable Jordan. Luca’s dad, who is still grieving the death of his wife, Luca’s mother, tries to reach out to Luca and talk about how his ballet-less life is affecting him but Luca is quick to shut down this conversation. He spends most of his time daydreaming about Jordan and only on occasion allows himself to think about ‘what-ifs’ where he is able to dance again or has never fallen in the first place.

Some positives: the writing was fairly engaging and there were even some well-delivered moments of humor. I appreciated that Luca was portrayed as flawed. He makes mistakes, he is rather self-involved, a bit desperate when it comes to Jordan, and could be a more attentive friend/son. The author also shows that while he is often at the receiving end of homophobic ‘jokes’ and verbal abuse, he has a lot to learn about other people's experiences. He does grow aware of this and works to improve himself, which was nice to see. Amina, for 70% of the novel, was a very sweet lovable character. Yeah, she had the type of personality that is often given to secondary characters in teen movies, so some of the stuff she does/say is a bit ott but overall it kind of worked (or at least it did until that scene…). She had her own arc, which made her character more rounded.

And the negatives (spoilers ahoy): we are told that Luca’s raison d’etre is ballet and while he does now and on occasion think about I didn’t really buy into this aspect of his character. Look, I get that he would avoid thinking about it too much but surely he would notice how different his everyday life is now. He only comments on this once or twice which isn’t entirely credible. Like, the guy dedicated most of his life to ballet, something that requires a certain amount of devotion. He would have been performing/practising daily and followed a strict diet etc., yet he seemingly adapts to his new life with no problem. Also, while he does one time acknowledge to his father that he is in pain due to his foot, the author seems to gloss over his physical recovery. He has physio but those scenes are all about developing his romance. I just would have liked for ballet (or lack of ballet) to play more of a role in his story. As things stand, we are told he love(d) it but there were few scenes showing this. His former ballet friends are portrayed in a very mean girl way. And sure, there are girls who behave like they do but I did not appreciate that Lucas is dismissive of them from the start. He uses certain terms that were low-key sexist and the story doesn’t challenge any of them. Even the popular girls at his new school receive a similar treatment, and even Jordan and Amina dismiss them and imply that ‘popular’ girls are promiscuous/bitchy/and-other-negative-descriptors-almost-exclusively-used-for-women which seemed a bit out of character if I’m honest. Also, while I am a fan of media that falls under cringe comedy, and I am aware that one’s teen years may be filled with plenty of embarrassing/awkward moments, here there were several scenes that just seemed gratuitous. I am not keen on adult authors going out of their way to embarrass their teenage characters. And here we have a major plot point involving a character doing something very unbelievable and utterly embarrassing themselves and the people around them. Amina has a crush on Jordan and suspects that Lucas is hiding something from her, possibly something that has to do with Jordan. Lucas tells her he has a girlfriend but Amina doesn’t seem to believe him and decides to declare her feelings to Jordan in front of his teammates who have bullied her and Lucas. Why…why would she ever do such a thing? While I am willing to believe that she would confess her feelings to Jordan despite Lucas' attempts to stop her, I didn’t believe that she would do it publicly and seemingly on the spur of the moment. Her refusal to listen to Lucas’ pleas not to go ahead with her plan also struck me as inconsistent with her characterization so far. Sure, she is shown to be a tad naive and very wholesome, her fangirling over one direction comes across as a tad childlike at times but she is also portrayed as empathetic and in many ways more mature than her peers. I struggled to reconcile her actions at that party with her character. She’s obviously turned down and made fun of by the one-dimensional-jock-goons. Both Jordan and Amina take it out on Lucas, which wasn’t entirely fair. In fact, this whole section strings together scene after scene where Lucas is made out to be an ‘awful’ guy. The boy is not perfect sure but I didn’t think it was fair that he was blamed for so many things and rather than communicating/explaining himself to Amina, Jordan, or his dad, he just chooses not to. After being blamed by Amina and Jordan for making her embarrass herself, he inadvertently outs Jordan to his homophobic teammate. In an attempt to warn Jordan about this he forgets that he and his dad are meant to be celebrating his mother’s birthday (i think it was her birthday). Rather than explaining what was going on, he lets his dad think he is simply ‘boy obsessed’ and too busy to care. The dad also insinuates that Lucas ditched his old ballet friends, and the boy doesn’t think of telling him that said friends mistreated him and were racist to Amina.
Now, onto the romance. Jordan was a slightly one-note character, and I am a bit tired of lgbtq+ YA novels where the lead falls for the popular and ‘totally straight’ person who isn’t ready/or sure they want to come out. But rather than discussing this with our protagonists, they make them feel ashamed of who they are. While Lucas does call Jordan out, he is ultimately made into the bad guy because hey ho he outs him!!! Like…ugh. I am not a fan of that plot point, at all. It would have been more suited to a show like Glee or something. But here it just comes across as totally unnecessary. While I do acknowledge that the author does allow both Jordan and Lucas to have valid opinions on the whole being ‘out’ and dating someone who is not ‘out’, towards the end he seems to just dunk on Lucas. Amina too after that whole confession-gone-wrong thing is angry at Lucas. Surely, the following day or whatnot, once she learns that the two were in a secret relationship, she would understand why Lucas couldn’t tell her? Best friends or not, Jordan told him he wasn’t ready to be out, so Lucas respected that. And Lucas even tries to stop her from making a fool of herself…and she blames him? Argh. The drama and miscommunication really annoyed me.
I would have liked for this book to be less focused on the romance with Jordan and more on Lucas’ character growth. His personality was not particularly well-defined, and I would have liked some moments of introspection where he truly thinks about ballet, what it means to him, etc. His character instead is more or less defined by his crush on Jordan, which ultimately does his storyline a disservice.

I'm sure a lot of readers will love this but I am just not a fan of the latter half of the novel.

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Profile Image for drew.
213 reviews92 followers
May 5, 2022
i went in this with high hopes, and unfortunately, they weren't met. i just had a hard time connecting with Luca, our POV character. he was kind of rude and selfish and it made the book a bit of a chore to get through. and, like, yes, i get that he went through something very traumatic at the start of the book and it fucked up his whole life, but he was still not a very fun character to read about, unforch! he needed, like, legit mental health therapy to deal with his trauma on top of the physical therapy he was getting. the way he treated his dad, especially, really made me dislike him at several points.

the love interest, Jordan, was a bit unlikeable for me as well. the way he treated Luca through most of the story was pretty shitty (ignoring him at school, wanting to keep everything a secret, putting his number in his phone under a girl's name, ghosting him, etc.) - he was more of a Ben than a Nick, imo - and for that, i never really bought into the~great romance~ the writer was trying to sell me. their big love declaration at the end fall flat for me, sadly.

so, yeah, this was not a bad book by any means, just not one that i really connected with! 2.75 stars rounded up.
Profile Image for rachel, x.
1,725 reviews864 followers
Want to read
April 17, 2023
... about a teenage ballet dancer who breaks his foot and begins to question everything he once took for granted, including his relationship with the dreamy, perfect-in-every-way, and seemingly straight captain of the rowing team.

an australian ballet dancer in an #ownvoices mlm sports romance? give me

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Profile Image for Mari.
390 reviews28 followers
Want to read
June 21, 2021
Profile Image for Marieke (mariekes_mesmerizing_books).
506 reviews336 followers
January 23, 2022
Ballet isn’t something l’ve lost. Something I’m missing. It’s me. It’s all of me. And it’s gone. And I’m trying to be happy but I haven’t a f*cking clue who I am anymore and nothing is working out the way it’s supposed to.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a ballet dancer badly. I begged my mom for ballet lessons, and then my dream shattered into pieces. I hated those lessons because my friends were so much more flexible than I was. I think that’s when I started detesting sports ….

Luca’s ballet dream also shatters into pieces when he tumbles down the stairs and breaks his foot. Not being able to do ballet anymore as a sixteen-year-old super talent is way different than finding out you’re not cut out for ballet (or any sports at all) when you’re only six years old. At six, you cry and go on. At sixteen, you cry and think your life is literally over.

Anything But Fine is just my kind of story. I smiled, and I swooned, and I shook my head, and I cheered Luca, Jordan, and Amira on. I loved Luca’s voice from the first page. Despite his sadness and anger, he’s also witty and sarcastic, sometimes messy and annoying, even an asshole, but I like flawed characters and laughed out loud at times. Amina is the star of the book. She’s nerdy and sweet and chatty and so caring, the best friend you can have. Jordan is more or less the standard seemingly straight, closeted, hot cinnamon jock. He’s cute and sweet and figuring out what to do with his feelings for Luca, wanting to be in control of his own story.

The father-son relationship in this story was beautiful, and I loved how Luca’s dad talked about crying, especially about crying men:
Why should we ever stop ourselves from crying if that’s what we feel like doing? It’s totally natural. It’s like, an instinct. If we feel something, we should let ourselves feel it.

Anything But Fine is an adorable, sweet read, and I highly recommend it! Oh, and Tobias, I liked that 1D reference, I finally understood it in the end!

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Profile Image for Claudia.
340 reviews95 followers
March 24, 2022
Do I like it? Or do I like Australian accents? Both?

Anything but Fine follows Luca, a gay teenage boy who’s life falls apart after he falls down the stairs, breaking his foot and his ballet dancing dreams. Luca finds himself having to find out who he is outside of the small ballet world he was in for the first 16 years of his life. New school, new friends, new self.

So I think your ability to like this story will be entirely dependent on your ability to like Luca as a character. The story is told entirely through his perspective and he is the entire crux of the story. If you don’t like him then I doubt the story will be good for you. I, however, found him very likable and sympathetic even when he was being a little shit. Which would happen sometimes, he is a teenage boy going through A LOT. I found something totally relatable in the removing of oneself from things that upset him and the way of insisting everything is fine and generally acting fine when you are taking things basically day by day, minute by minute. But not really being able to look beyond or around that small frame of time without having a little bit of a breakdown.

Luca is definitely very passive throughout the story which may frustrate some, but felt like a real reaction to the things happening to him. His entire personality was based around one thing and suddenly it was gone. He kind of forms his entire personality around the next ‘thing’ and doesn’t really discover the issues with that until the end. But again, this felt realistic to me. Because the character journey was him discovering himself though, it means he doesn’t really become a ‘whole’ person until near the end. Which may be frustrating (but it helps if you are listening to it in an Australian accented audiobook).

Luca gets involved with TJ, who is basically the most popular guy in school and supposedly, straight. TJ wants to hide their relationship until he can figure it out himself. I actually really liked the direction this went in, as both Luca and TJ are painted as sympathetic and neither really in the wrong for their feelings over the matter.
He also makes friends with Amina. Who was a great character and I can’t believe she has less than five million friends for being so nice. I did like that they called out racism in Australia through her character which I feel like is kind of ignored a lot.
His relationship with his dad is also really interesting. I liked their dynamic and how they both grew from his accident.

There’s definitely some teenage embarrassing cringe moments that I struggled with as a second hand embarrassment sufferer.

Overall, I enjoyed this! The Australian accents really smoothed over most of the faults I might have and made the characters all super likable.

Thanks to Netgalley and RB media for a copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Andy.
2,527 reviews205 followers
August 17, 2021
Thank you to the publisher for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Anything but Fine is a YA contemporary about Luca, a promising ballet dancer whose career ends after an awful injury. Luca doesn't know who he is without ballet, and to make matters worse, his prestigious private academy is taking away his scholarship now that he can't dance. Luca isn't looking forward to navigating a new school environment, especially without any of his childhood friends with him. But when he meets Jordan at their OT appointments, things start to look up.

This book was fine... It feels weird to say that, but it was just fine. I liked Luca as a character, but I wasn't completely sold on the way things developed. I also was kind of sad that ballet wasn't as big of a part of the story--though that's completely my fault because I didn't realize there was a career ending injury involved, I just saw ballet and said YES.

I loved that this was a YA contemporary set in Australia. YA is incredibly over inundated with US and UK based stories, so it was nice to see a different location. There was one point where I was really confused and thought the characters were in college/university, but then someone said they were like 16-17 so I realized it was more high school/the Australian equivalent.

Luca was a fine character, but I kind of wanted more from his character. Like his whole personality was dance, then it was pining for Jordan, and now it's just kind of ?? missing? I did like that Luca is still figuring out who he is and what he likes, but I wish there had been more of this coming of age search earlier in the book.

The one character in this that I absolutely loved and gets 5 stars on her own is Amina. I loved Amina so much. Her character brought me so much joy and I loved that she was such an amazing friend to Luca.

Rep: white gay male MC with a broken foot/crutches, bisexual/questioning Japanese-Aussie male love interest, Indonesian Muslim female side character.

CWs: Abandonment of friends, alcohol consumption, bullying, death of parent (happened in past), hate crime, homophobia/homomisia, homophobic slurs, islamophobia/islamomisia, outing, racism, toxic friendship.
Profile Image for Anna.
1,503 reviews250 followers
April 4, 2022
Reread in prep for book tour, April 2022:

So I still have some mixed feelings about this book. After listening to it a second time and knowing some of the problematic comments that were going to come up, I really tried to focus on the bigger picture of the story.

I feel like a lot of people can relate to Luca and his journey of thinking that his whole life was planned out and one moment was all it took for his planned future to come crumbling down. As a society we ask teenagers to figure out what they want to do for the rest of their lives and put so much pressure on them to know their own interests and understand themselves when many of us don't understand ourselves as adults.

The second time around I could appreciate the messiness of this book. Sometimes I forget that teenagers are allowed to be messy and dramatic and ignorant and make mistakes. They are allowed to be selfish and do the wrong thing. And that's exactly the kind of character that Luca is. He is kind of a jerk and he has a lot of growing up to do but he starts to realize this and recognizes his mistakes and makes active strides to do better. That is an important distinction to note when you have a messy main character.

I stand by the fact that Amina is the best part of this whole book. I still think that she did not get to the credit she deserved nor did she get the apologies she deserved from both Jordan and Luca.

I also still super duper appreciate the stance on fighting toxic masculinity and encouraging boys and men to share their emotions and to cry. Lucas relationship with his dad and his dad in general are one of the highlights of this book for me. Grief is a hard thing and trying to fit that element in as well did get a little bit muddled at points but Lucas dad is awesome and deserves some credit.

I think this time around I was able to recognize the fact that Luca made strides to be better. The first time I listened to this I was so annoyed at the little things that I kind of missed that he did work to apologize and he knew that some of the comments he made were out of line. I still don't think that he apologized well enough but whatever.

As for the problematic moments, unfortunately I found a few more. I think it's one of those frustrating things where these are small comments within the story but they add up and because they are left unchallenged it leaves this story as a bad taste in my mouth. I am still super frustrated by the actively gay comment. You do not need to have sex in order to be queer or should know that you are queer. Full stop.

I also am super frustrated with Luca who is out and gay and should understand the struggles of coming out yet still pressures Jordan into picking a label and coming out. Coming out is a personal thing and you do not owe your identity to anyone. You do not need to have a label you do not need to come out. I wish this was dealt with more in the story because the the biphobia was a little much. You cannot label other people. Only individuals can decide which labels fit them best.

There are a couple other comments that I noticed this time around that I didn't notice the first time. The first is a comment about how all the bullies must have small dicks and friendly reminder that things like big dick energy and making fun of penis size is really transphobic and not a good look and someone's worth is not tied into the size of their genitalia.

Then there's a comment about how vaginas are weird and I am just tired. I am so tired of misogyny in books written by cis gay men. Vaginas are not weird. It is exhausting The sheer level of misogyny within queer books written by cisgay men and I'm going to need them to do better. Second friendly reminder that you can not be attracted to someone or their body without being discriminatory or transphobic or misogynistic. I am a sex repulsed asexual and I would still never say that any genitalia is weird. Do fucking better. (Also this was just a weird moment because Jordan is literally questioning and potentially bi or pan and he's attracted to women. And so Luca going in and basically shitting on part of Jordan's identity was really crappy).

Okay that's all. I can find some merit in this book and I understand why people have enjoyed it, but it is not a favorite of mine.

Original review march 2022
So objectively speaking as a whole, I really generally liked this book. It is a story about Luca who is a ballet dancer and set to be a fantastic ballet dancer except a career ending injury leaves him with both a crushed foot and dream.

Luca has to leave his love of ballet behind, his school, and his friends and start a new school. He is the only queer person and there is some homophobic language used and slurs. Anyway, Luca meets Jordan at one of his physical therapy appointments and turns out to go to the same school now. Except Jordan is Captain of the football team and the rowing team and very seemingly straight. Luca is the gay guy with a broken foot who has no friends.

Except Luca does have one friend, and that is Amina. Amina is the absolute star of this book. I don't care what anyone says, I don't care that she's a secondary character, she is the best and she got fucked over. I loved her so much and I am upset on her behalf for Luca and Jordan being assholes.

Okay now that I'm rambling let's continue. There is some friend drama from Luca's old friends and also with his new singular friend. Eventually Jordan kind of starts hanging out with them but very on the down low because God forbid anyone catch him with the gay guy and the nerdy Muslim girl. There are also a handful of islamophobic moments in this just as a CW. Amina is Indonesian and a Muslim and she also wears hijab.

So basically Luca and Jordan start dating in secret and fuck everyone over and then there's some family drama with Luca and his father. There's a lot going on in this book It's kind of hard to describe without giving away everything. Not that it's not predictable because it's totally predictable, but in the way that YA is predictable. It's not a bad thing necessarily and I liked that the characters were flawed but there were some big red flags that I have to mention.

My first red flag is the use of the phrase "actively gay " and that is in relation to Luca saying that he's gay but he's not actively gay because he hasn't actually had sex yet. Can we please stop? I'm so exhausted by this rhetoric that you have to be in a romantic or sexual relationship in order for your queerness to be valid. Your queerness is not dependent on a partner or your sexual activity. I do think that after this phrase was mentioned I got a little bit annoyed with this book and maybe nitpicked more than I normally would.

The other thing that drove me absolutely wild was the fact that Luca is gay but still so absolutely blind to the fact that other types of queer exist. He sits there and assumes people's sexualities and automatically thinks of it as a binary, one or the other. No wonder Jordan, who is questioning potentially bi or pan didn't want to come out because of Luca's attitude. It's freaking annoying.

Then there's the way that Jordan and Luca treated Amina. Now I think that both Jordan and Luca were kind of assholes during this and they both fucked up a lot but the way that they collectively treated Amina was garbage. The fact that she forgave them so easily was nonsense. I think that Luca had some growing up to do about what it's like to come out of the closet later and not as a preteen and Jordan has some growing up to do about how to treat people even when you're scared. Both of them kept secrets and contributed to a lot of emotional damage for Amina and that is just unacceptable and I'm angry about it.

So I'm supposed to be doing a pride book tour for this book and I received the audio copy from NetGalley and so I'm probably going to try and read it again. I think this book has a lot of redeeming qualities and is a genuinely good book but there were a couple red flags that spiked my annoyance. I also listen to this book at a time when I was annoyed with my non-book-related life as well and so I will probably give another shot before my book tour date.

I do still recommend this book and there's an audience for it but it is important to be aware of some of the CW as I mentioned and also some of the potentially aphobic language.

Also besides Amina, my favorite part of this book was Luca's Dad and his stance on crying and emotions. It's wonderful. Dismantle that toxic masculinity 🙌🏼

White gay Australian MC, Japanese Australian LI, Indonesian Muslim SC. Set in Australia.
Profile Image for ally.
144 reviews
February 26, 2023
yay this was cute!

update: changing my rating to 3.5/5. still very cute though
Profile Image for Jeann (Happy Indulgence) .
1,010 reviews4,136 followers
September 10, 2021
A heartfelt, inspirational read about recovering after a devastating injury, that means the end to your dancing career. Loved the sweet m/m romance and the wonderful story of Luca working out what his life will look like afterwards.


This review was originally posted on Happy Indulgence Books. Check it out for more reviews!

How would you feel if everything that you knew about your life changes in an instant? Anything But Fine, of course!

In this #LoveOzYA contemporary book, that’s exactly what happens to Luca, when he trips over the stairs of the ballet school and shatters his ankle. Everything he knows disappears in an instant – his promising ballet career, his shiny scholarship to his private school, and even the closest friends he’s had since he could talk.

Anything But Fine covers the time after his accident, about the depression and uncertainty and adjustment to his new life without ballet. Not only does he have to walk around with crutches, but his days usually filled with practice have suddenly become empty. He’s also kicked out of his old private school and subsequently, his friendship group, and needs to make new friends at the local public school. It is a dark and trying place for Luca, but slowly, over the course of the book, he finds his place.

There’s also a m/m romance in Anything But Fine, as Luca majorly crushes on Jordan the half-Japanese School Captain and Captain of the Football team – who also happens to be straight. Or is he really? There’s a lot to navigate here with Jordan’s sexuality as he gets to know Luca for the first time, including his reputation as the most popular guy at school and perhaps even coming out for the first time. I thought the developing relationship was really cute, but I could definitely see how things were complicated and frustrating at the same time. I loved how the romance developed through flirty texts and communication and could really sense the chemistry they had with one another.

I also loved Amina, the nerdy, Indonesian girl who quickly befriends Luca at the new school. She’s chatty, outgoing and bubbly and also a genius and doesn’t hesitate to help out Luca with his studies. I love how she handled the racist microaggressions that were dealt towards her by various people in the book, and how she doesn’t really care about what others think of her. Her attitude was really refreshing and I could see how she was such a positive influence on Luca, especially while he was having a difficult time.

From first love, to ballet, healing and rehabilitation, Anything But Fine covers a trying time in a dancer’s life when they are injured and can’t dance anymore. It tells a story of things working out, no matter how bleak they look at the start. I thought the story was really lovely and inspirational, with a wonderful gay romance as well.

I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Annie.
665 reviews18 followers
April 8, 2021
Firstly I wish to send my special thanks to the author, my friend Tobias Madden and to Penguin Random House Australia for bringing me on board as a sensitivity reader for this manuscript. It truly was an honour to be one of the first readers and to have the opportunity to provide thoughts on the loveable Indonesian-Muslim character who is featured in the story: Amina Ahmed. I was so chuffed to see Tobias include an Indonesian-Muslim character in this fantastic story - it brought me so much joy.

Please note: my review is spoiler free and based on what I have read in the manuscript which is an uncorrected proof and there will probably be changes by the time the finished copy hits the shelves.

From what I have read, I can say Y'ALL MUST READ THIS! and I am not just saying that. I devoured the manuscript in 2 days, staying up until 1:30am to finish reading it - if I didn't have to work, I would have finished it a lot sooner as I really could not put this down.

The story drew me in from the very beginning and held me in suspense throughout. When I say suspense: I became so invested in the characters and Luca’s story that I simply needed to know what happened next. I also experienced emotional reactions from laughter to cringing to gasping to even tears and when I have a reaction like that to a work of fiction, I know it is a fantastic read.

The friendships, drama, romance and the life-changing incident that affects Luca psychologically, felt all very genuine and very real. The characters are well defined the moment I met each of them, which made it easy for me to identify the good characters from the ‘villains’. Each character had such distinct voices and the dialogue was very witty, humorous and written very well that I felt like I was right there beside Luca each time he interacted with someone throughout the story. Every scene I read as we went along felt important as it showed character development as well as gave us an understanding to how each character behaved the way they did and even covered important themes teens need to be aware of.

As a Muslim reader, I was elated to see a character I truly identified with and represented so positively. I feel the author showed a lot of empathy and did so well in constructing Amina’s character. I am truly happy with how she is represented in the story. I also related to Amina on such a personal level and honestly Luca and Amina's first meeting reminded me of how Tobias and I first met and became friends all those years ago! (lol) I admire how Amina demonstrates friendships between Muslims and Non-Muslims actually exist in the real world and the respect, kindness and acceptance Amina shows towards Luca without question is really how it should be. The author also did very well in describing Amina from her hijab to his first insight into her Indonesian culture, family and the Islamic faith. I found it interesting to see Amina through Luca’s lens as he did not stereotype her at all.

Luca is a loveable character, to see him deal with his life changing incident to then seeing him grow throughout the back was truly admirable. I also enjoyed seeing how Luca dealt with challenges that came with the transition in school, friends and the like. I also adored his relationship with his father - that really got me in the feels!

Such a great book, wonderful diverse characters, real life issues and incidents that really took me back to high school! The story is so addictive from the start and I cannot express how much I love it. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

Once again, with special thanks to the author Tobias Madden and Penguin Random House Australia for bringing me in as a sensitivity reader for Amina's character.
Profile Image for Natalie M.
1,121 reviews35 followers
December 12, 2022
Yes! An authentic, rich and character-driven YA!

A fantastic debut by Aussie author Tobias Madden! Ballerinas, buff jocks, bitchy girls and the backdrop of the small town of Ballarat (Australia) collide with injuries, gay teens, exam angst, teen trials and traumas, for a one-sitting read! Oh, the drama and dilemmas, the decisions, dating and defiant attitudes. But these characters grow, learn and change realistically and authentically.

The story follows Luca, who is on track to audition for the Australian Ballet School until a freak fall shatters his foot. Ballet, until the accident, is his entire life, his friendships and his focus. Luca is faced with the challenge of a new school and learning to move on in such an unexpected way. And then there's Jordan Tanaka-Jones, school captain, rowing captain, the perfect distraction...and he happens to be straight.

Excellent characterisation, humour and a sound dose of reality. A great read (listen), and I highly recommend the interview with the author and the narrator at the end. Definitely a writer and narrator I will be following.
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,423 reviews215 followers
March 24, 2022
I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Anything But Fine was a really cute book. In it, you will meet Luca and he's pretty good at what he does: Ballet. Well, he was until he had an unfortunate accident that actually ends his career and dream. Ballet is all he knows and he's not quite sure what to do with his life now. It also doesn't help that he lost his school scholarship since he is no longer dancing.

Before he meets Jordan, he's not really excited to go to a new school. Especially without all his friends. Things definitely change for the better after Jordan though. So, it's safe to say he's a little excited about a new school due to a possible new crush.

Now the characters were pretty likable throughout the book. I also really liked how it was set in Australia because of the accents. Okay, I liked it for other reasons, but the accents will always be a huge plus for me. I also really enjoyed the friendships being developed over the romantic ones. Not that I hated or dislike Luca and Jordan being together. I totally liked them. Possibly loved. I just really enjoyed the friendships more.

In the end, I'm really happy that I got the chance to jump into this. The narrators did such a good job and definitely made me want to keep listening. Not sure if Tobias has another book coming out but I will be on the lookout for sure.
Profile Image for Sam.
590 reviews51 followers
June 2, 2023
And Matt from Play school narrating, well it was the cherry on top that added even more perfection! And then... Both Tobias and Matt having the cutest Q&A at the end of the audiobook... I could've died from cuteness overload.
I love all the characters in this book, but a big shout out to Luca's dad. What a beautiful man, if only all dads were like him.
Did I already mention that I absolutely adored everything about this book? No!? OK, well in the words of Luca "I fucking loved this book!"
Profile Image for Ryan Buckby.
664 reviews88 followers
March 25, 2022
I really enjoyed this book! it was such a cute and easy read that i got done in two reading sessions and it was such a fantastic Aussie YA novel.

There are so many great aussie YA authors that Australia has to offer and this debut novel by Tobias is an accurate representation of a country town in Australia. This novel follows Luca a gay high school teenager who is on track to hopefully get an audition for the Australian Ballet School when his dreams are shattered when he falls down stairs and breaks his foot which puts a stop to this dream.

Luca was a good main character and it was easy to get into the story and i feel like he was really well written which made it so much better. Luca does go through a big change during the time from when he breaks his foot and changing schools which was very interesting to read as a reader. He goes from being on a scholarship in a private school to having all these friends to moving to an entirely new public school and only having one friend. What he does to his old friends was very unacceptable and also how he treated Jordan and his dad was also very questionable at times but i'm glad that things got resolved but still very questionable.

Amina was such a gem of a character i really loved her and good clearly see a person fully formed in my mind and i would love to have a book with just her. She is a very intelligent girl who is into her faith, her parents and schooling and I loved the journey she also went on during the course of the book with not wanting to study medicine and telling her parents that she wants to become a teacher with the help from Luca is such strong character development. Honestly we just really need to protect Amina at all cost because she's just a perfect ray of sunshine. Jordan is the typical sporty 'straight' character who is not entirely what he portrays to the outside world and it's a journey he takes during the book. I feel like the relationship between the two was a little complicated and it shows with Jordan not identifying as anything and the two having to keep things quiet. I liked Jordan as a character very simple but the very stereotypical guy that you would expect but it doesn't take away from the story in anyway.

I'm glad that are more aussie YA contemporary and i hope that more people from different countries start to pick these books because we have some very talented writers that people should check out!

The own voices in this book is also a big highlight of this book and i loved it!

Profile Image for Megan Rose.
206 reviews27 followers
March 21, 2022
As someone who danced for fifteen years, sustained several injuries that nearly made it so I’d never be able to dance again, I was so excited to read Anything But Fine, which is a story about Luca, a teen who loses everything he’s worked for when he falls down the stairs and breaks his foot, ending his future ballet career. Unfortunately, this book did not live up to expectations for me. It is possible that I went in with too much of a bias and an expectation based on my own personal experience, but even looking past that, there was several issues I had that were hard to ignore.

I’ll start with the main character, Luca. For someone who’s entire life was ballet until his injury, he rarely talked or thought about it. I know he was mourning the loss of it, but it felt a little unnatural that he wouldn’t at least think about it. The minute he met Jordan and started obsessing over him, ballet got pushed aside and wasn’t really mentioned until near the end of the book. I would’ve liked more contemplation about how much ballet had done for him, how he was different now that he didn’t have it, and who he was without it. Instead, he spent most of the book pining after Jordan, thinking about Jordan, talking to Jordan, or texting Jordan. At one point, he even mentioned how he didn’t have any interests now that ballet was taken from him, except for Jordan. His obsession bordered on unhealthy, but this was never addressed. He also excused a lot of Jordan’s poor behavior just because he liked him. In the beginning, Jordan could be a little bit homophobic, and even if it was internalized, it was still something that was affecting Luca. I understand he was being more homophobic to himself rather than to Luca, but Luca rarely ever called him out for his cruel words or actions. There was one argument they had when Luca finally said something about it, only for Jordan to be downright nasty in return, but instead of focusing on everything Jordan said, Luca kept harping on the fact that he had been unfair, and that what he’d said was uncalled for, when really, I felt it was more than justified. He was calling out Jordan on his unacceptable behavior, but this was completely diminished by Luca insisting he’d been in the wrong.

Because of all of that, I had a hard time getting behind the relationship, which is unfortunate, because it takes up a majority of the book. I never felt any chemistry between the two characters, and since Jordan spent so much time at school either ignoring Luca or being wishy washy about how he interacted with him, it was difficult for me to care about them. I almost wish this book hadn’t been a romance, and instead focused on Luca’s journey of self-discovery and growth, and on the friendships and family bonds that helped him along the way.

The one thing I really liked about Anything But Fine was Amina. Her character was lovely, and I adored her. She was so sweet and kind, and she encouraged Luca every step of the way, even when he was a less than kind friend. Every time she was on the page, I was far more into the story than when she wasn’t. This is part of the reason I wish more time had been spent on building friendships and how they helped Luca, because we could’ve had even more scenes with Amina, and I feel it would have made the book a little stronger.

While Anything But Fine was a disappointing read for me, there were parts I did like, and I’m sure this book will be for someone else, even if it wasn’t for me.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!
Profile Image for Nathan Bartos.
952 reviews41 followers
April 8, 2022
First of all, this cover is gorgeous, and that's definitely what first drew my attention to this book; I'm so glad it did. The start of this book is devastating because it feels like Luca has lost so much, and in a way, he has. But in his floundering after the major accident, we get to follow in his re-evaluation of his friendships and other relationships, his exploration of love and sex and what he wants from them, and finding where his passion now lies. It's a little heartbreaking but very beautiful to see Luca struggle and blossom. The messy romance was also a great addition to this extremely Australian gay contemporary, and I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Jason Conrad.
134 reviews16 followers
March 29, 2023
Tobias Madden is the king of making books that are compulsively readable. If given the chance, I'd have read this book in one sitting. I read Take a Bow, Noah Mitchell earlier this year and absolutely adored it. I read it in 24 hours -- I simply could not put it down, needing to know what would happen. Anything But Fine managed to take a hold of me the same way.

Luca's story was beautiful. One of redemption, growth, and courage. Heartbreaking, yes -- but also heartwarming. Watching Luca's journey was a delight. Seeing him develop further and further as a human as he found his place in a new life that he did not ask for was touching. And along the way, we had amazing characters like Amanda, Jordan, and Luca's father. Watching his individual relationships with the 3 of them was a true delight.

Despite Luca seeing himself as a horrible human during the third act when everything that could possibly go wrong goes wrong, my heart had so much love for him -- because when all was said and done, he was trying his best and was being so hard on himself. He had an enormous heart, which is what I loved the most about him. When you connect with a protagonist this way, it makes for a different reading experience. And it's the same reason I loved Noah in Tobias' next book -- because you care about what happens to them.

I am such a fan of Tobias' writing and will be eagerly awaiting his 2024 release. If you are looking for a read with both light-heartedness / levity and a healthy dose of emotional impact -- this is your book. Cannot recommend both Anything But Fine AND Take a Bow, Noah Mitchell enough.

"I'll stare directly at the sun, but never in the mirror. / It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero."
- Taylor Swift
Profile Image for Cass (all too tired).
295 reviews110 followers
July 14, 2022
An engaging, cute read with a strong beginning and middle but a downhill ending.

Luca is a ballet dancer, one who is on track to be accepted into a prestigious ballet company. Until a misstep causes him to shatter his foot and forces him to uproot his entire life. At his new school, he meets Amina, a nerdy girl who is assigned to be his tour guide, and Jordan, a supposedly straight guy who Luca immediately falls for. With this mix of drama and friendship, what could possibly go wrong?

From the premise alone, I was hooked. I’ve done ballet recreationally for 8-9 years so I get unnecessarily excited when ballet is a main focal point of a piece of media. The book did a pretty good job showcasing Luca’s passion and love for ballet, but I wish there was more of a transition period of him going from ballet is my life to there’s more to life than ballet. If he was going to become a profession ballet dancer, he would have a specific diet or cramps in his feet. I don’t know, I wanted a bit more than what I got.

The romance was instalovey. There wasn’t enough time to develop the romance fully and it left Luca and Jordan’s relationship feeling rushed. They didn’t get together or even talk about their relationship until after the halfway point which I feel is too late to develop something that feels real. Yes, friendship comes first and I’m glad Tobias Madden tried to showcase their platonic-ness before diving in, but I need more.

Luca himself is a complex, self-absorbed (but he gets better) person who makes some questionable remarks about women, but overall I liked him. He grows over the course of the novel which was lovely to see. He feels half way between real and a character. Some of the things he does are things that I can’t see a real life human doing, but while doing other things he’s so real.

I loved Amina. For 80% of the book. But for the other 20%, her actions did not line up with her established character.

I know it’s mostly ignorance on the characters part and does not reflect on the author at all, but there is a scene where Luca and Jordan are talking about their sexualities and it’s uncomfortable.

Really all the characters had to do was communicate their fears and feelings with one another and a majority of the conflict wouldn’t have happened.

The side characters were mostly archetypes - bully jocks, mean girl ballerinas, etc. Which served the story but made it feel like it was the author pushing characters in only to serve the plot.

Overall, the story, characters, and themes were good, but could’ve used some polishing. I would recommend this to people who like Heartstopper or #ownvoices queer coming of age stories.

2.75 stars
Profile Image for Royce.
65 reviews55 followers
April 4, 2023
Unlikable main character—inconsiderate, rude, and self-centered. Some of the character conflicts were shallow, and there were lots of unnecessary miscommunication that could have been resolved easily. I had higher expectations for some of the characters, but they turned out to be clichéd and predictable. On the plus side, the writing was engaging and there were several amusing passages that were written effectively.
Profile Image for Chaitanya Srivastava.
205 reviews93 followers
November 21, 2021
HYPE : BALLET DANCER AND ROWING CAPTIN ? Do I smell a new troupe of its own? Hehe! Looking forward to consume this #OwnVoices!
Profile Image for dobbs the dog.
640 reviews12 followers
March 25, 2022
Received from NetGalley, thanks!

CW: homophobia, islamophobia

I really enjoyed this book! It had a great, diverse cast of characters, and it felt like the main side characters were really well developed. As frustrating as I occasionally found the MC, Luca, I still really liked him and the frustrations definitely comes from him having a bit of a life crisis.

Luca is a ballet dancer, hoping to attend the Australian Ballet School, but a misstep has him tumbling down a flight of stairs, horribly fracturing his foot. This isn’t a spoiler, it happens in the first chapter. I really enjoyed reading about a male ballet dancer, as there aren’t even that many books about any ballet dancers. I did ballet for a number of years as a kid and again as an adult, and I do love it. I think my appreciation has grown now that I’m older, I didn’t love it as a kid.

So, this fractured foot hugely impacts on Luca’s life, as he’s been doing ballet since he was 3 years old (now 16). Because of it he loses friends, makes new friends, meets a cute boy at the occupational therapists office, and has to make some tough decisions and realizations about where his life is going to go if he can’t dance professionally.

I listened to the audio of this and really enjoyed the narrator, I think he did a great job. I’ve hardly listened to any audiobooks narrated with Australian accents, so this was a nice change. There was an author Q&A at the end, with the narrator, and hearing the narrator’s natural/normal voice, really showed how much range he has, as I don’t think that any of the book was narrated with his natural/normal voice.

Very good book, excellent debut, definitely recommend, especially if you enjoy ballet.
Profile Image for Trio.
3,058 reviews175 followers
May 9, 2022
What an absolutely lovely coming of age story!

Tobias Madden has written a true jem with Anything But Fine. A young adult, coming of age story, Mr. Madden touches on some powerful issues, and manages to keep a hopeful tone throughout.

I was repeatedly impressed by the depth of Luca's voice. Faced with some intense challenges, Luca’s reactions, and the choices he makes, are admirable. What he learns about himself, and the way this sweet boy grows over the course of the story, is a joy to experience.

Author Tobias Madden has a real gift, and I’m eager to read the several other books he’s written… and here’s to hoping there are many more to come!

I was lucky enough to enjoy Anything But Fine as an audiobook, and I’ve got to spend some time crowing over the narrator! Matthew Backer delivers an absolutely stellar performance. His ability to infuse Luca’s character with the youthful innocence he surely possesses, and the lighthearted tone Mr. Backer keeps up the entire way through, is exceptional. Bravo, Bravo, Bravo!!!

thank you to RB Media, through NetGalley, for providing an audiobook copy of Anything But Fine for the purpose of my honest review, all opinions are my own
Profile Image for Tilly Booth.
181 reviews930 followers
October 5, 2021
I listened to the audiobook of Anything But Fine and despite it being anything but...this book was just eh, fine.

I'm stoked for some #OzYA but this book just did not hit the mark for me and reading it, I had a few WTF moments and a lot of head shaking. I'll start off with what I loved and that is Amina. I loved this character and I would love to have a book centered around her completely. She was beautiful, funny, kind, and an amazing friend (a friend that Luca didn't appreciate enough if you ask me!). There were some racist comments made towards her in the book and I would love for there to be a chance in a future book for that to be addressed.

The book was an easy read, despite there being a lot of things I didn't like (see below), I also didn't feel the need to put the book down. The writing style is fun and easy to read (or listen to) and that saved the book as I ultimately would've put it down otherwise.

Now, the bad. Luca's character was okay, as was the love interest, Jordans. However, the two characters together felt like a train wreck. Luca is a bit self-absorbed and once he meets Jordan, everything else disappears which I get, it's a YA romance and it's a first-time love story however, the way that Jordan treats Luca, is pretty rough and the way that Luca expects Jordan to be out, loud and queer and then getting upset about it, wasn't fair. They both seemed to expect a certain relationship and got mad at the other for not fulfilling that without even communicating their expectations which resulted in a lot of hurts. It made me dislike the relationship and part of me actually hoped that they wouldn't get together, agree that they both need time to better themselves, and then maybe come back together when they were ready. Their actions didn't scream a cute, healthy relationship but one that was founded on pain. Plus, Luca kinda sucked as a friend. As I said, he was a little self-absorbed, didn't reply to his first friends for a month, and then the way he hid things from Amina (WHEN SHE IS A QUEEN) putting her emotions last...I can't agree with that. Maybe it's because of my dislike of Luca and Jordan that made everything they did seem so unbearable but hey, if the author writes about Amina, I AM DOWN. However, if it's a sequel about these boys, no thank you.

2 stars...for Amina
Profile Image for Jayse.
131 reviews7 followers
July 4, 2021
This book was incredible!!!

Flawless and evocative writing places Madden in a league of his own in debut novel filled with heart.

In Anything But Fine, one missed step is all it takes to shatter not only Luka Mason's foot, but his entire world. An already accomished ballet dancer, Luka now faces an uncertain future as his dreams lay pieces. Ballet was Luka's entire world, it gave him escape, friends, a scholarship to a fancy private school and a goal for the future. All of that now ripped away.

Starting at a new school is hard for anyone, but try being gay and on crutches in a small town school. Ugh. I could 100% identify with Luka's pain and frustration with this whole situation. As someone who went to a public school in a small regional town, Madden's writing instantly transported me back to the halls of Benalla College.

Tobias Madden has written a debut suburb novel here which is uplifting and shows that even when life is 'Anything But Fine,' there's always something good just around the corner.

I devoured the book in two sittings, it was one of those books which even when you put it down, it's all you think about and want to dive back into. I haven't had a book do that to me in a long time and it's one of the wonderful things I adore about reading. I was totally and utterly sucked in to the world Madden had crafted. If I could gush about this book any more and keep it coherent, I would. I just want to tell everyone to READ THIS BOOK!!!

Perfect for lovers of Alice Oseman's Heartstopper or Becky Albertalli's Love Simon this punchy LGBT+ novel is filled with heart.

Congratulations Tobias on this brilliant novel.
Profile Image for K..
3,796 reviews1,021 followers
December 19, 2021
Trigger warnings: death of a parent (in the past), career ending injuries, descriptions of physical injuries, homophobia, homophobic slurs, accidental outing, grief, toxic friendships, bullying, racism, Islamophobia.

Oh, I loved this so much more than I expected to. I mean, I figured I would probably love it. But I had no idea how MUCH I was going to love it.

First of all, I loved that it's set in Ballarat. There are far too many LoveOzYA books set in Melbourne and Sydney, and it's fantastic to see authors (and publishers!) branching out. I adored Luca as a protagonist. I loved him having to navigate a new school and new friendships and a completely different path in life all at the same time. His relationship with his dad was an absolute joy, even when it was difficult. And the dynamic between Luca and Jordan was precious and wonderful and I adored it.

Madden's writing was glorious and heartfelt and I may have hugged the book when I finished it. I'll definitely be reading anything Madden writes in the future, because even in its messy and complex moments, this was just a joy to read.
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