My Not So Anonymous Best Friend by Elizabeth Arroyo

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Noah aka NOS2321: Gamer. Weeb. Up-and-coming rock star. And gay. Encouraged by his anonymous pen pal, XES6969, Noah takes the leap and comes out of the closet—no instructions needed—accidentally sending his father to the hospital during his reveal. Despite his horrible dating track record which included two girls (because it was required that he at least try) and one boy (because he had to start somewhere), Noah believes in happily ever after. That belief gets tested when he falls for Evan Santiago.

Evan aka XES6969, believes in sacrificing yourself for those you love. Learning NOS’s identity hadn’t been his fault. Except he carries the lie which begins to fester, trapping him into silence. When a stray football brings them together, Evan no longer wants to keep silent. And when he learns that Noah is interested too, he takes a chance at love, risking everyone he’s tried to protect, including himself.

16+ due to sexuality, adult situations, substance abuse

 

Excerpt:

The green dot next to his name meant he was currently online, and he must’ve been waiting for me, because I got a request to join his party chat. I put my gaming headset on and accepted.

“You there?” Noah asked.

The high-pitch version of his altered voice wasn’t that much different from his real voice.

“Yeah, sorry, what’s up,” my own deeper one responded.

“I hate football players. They are male hulks who think about nothing but their balls,” he said very animatedly.

I had started to drink water and almost spilled it out of my nose. I coughed instead. “Ouch,” I said. “Balls are important, I might add. What happened?” I entered the realm of gamers, although I wasn’t playing. I couldn’t get my thumbs coordinated with my brain enough to score a kill. I’d given up trying a few years ago when Noah said I sucked. I agreed. Gaming just wasn’t for me. I could tell by his occasional outburst that he’d settled in for a few hours of gameplay. Which was okay with me. I just liked listening to the guy talk. Even raging.

“I got slammed by a ball thrown by a Neanderthal today. Then called the wrong guy an asshole, and when I tried to apologize—he just made it so difficult. Like he was having fun with me. Liked seeing me squirm. I don’t know. Maybe it was a hetero thing. I’m still trying to figure out biases against my kind.”

He used the word hetero to refer to all insecure males who had something against the gay community. I hated him thinking that I had made him feel awkward because he was gay and not because I was insecure and had a secret crush. “Your kind is human. Stop setting yourself apart from the rest. It doesn’t end well.”

He swore right before I heard him slam his controller down. Then he sighed. I could imagine him leaning back on his bed, like me, staring up at the ceiling, with his headset, like me. It made it feel as if we weren’t a world apart. “Some guys just have it all, you know. Looks, muscles, smile—okay, my prickly non-asshole football player has a really nice smile.”

I smiled. Couldn’t help it.

“But the guy has gone through a girl a week. Maybe less. I mean, who does that?”

Someone pretending. I’d only been with two, and that had ended after a few weeks. I had experimented. Safely. But I had a rep to uphold and people to lie to, so the rumor held. “Sounds like you don’t like him much. That bad?” I loved torture.

“That’s the thing. No. You really want to hear this?”

Yes. I did. I really did. “Yeah, I’m listening.”

“He had these bruises he said were from football, but I don’t believe him. He fights a lot. I think.”

My heart crumpled a little. “Are you afraid of him? Do you think he’ll hurt you?” I felt like a cheater, fishing for information on how Noah felt about me. It didn’t stop me from asking, though.

“No. I mean, not on purpose. He could ram me in the hallway, he’s so big. It’s just … you’re going to think me a horrible person, but I think I’m attracted to him. I mean. I don’t think he’s my type, but the way he looks at me sometimes. I’m just really confused.”

That got my heart pumping. Fast. Do this right, Evan. Don’t push. If he ever finds out you knew, you’ll lose him. Then I closed my eyes and heard the words tumble out of my mouth. “What about Carlos?”

“That’s the thing. I think I don’t want to be with Carlos anymore. Oh, God, I didn’t have this much anxiety with girls.”

I chuckled. Relieved. Elated. Scared again. “It’s called life.”

“What about you? You don’t talk about your girlfriends.”

Uh-oh. “I’m single.”

He snorted. “Bullshit.”

“For real. Don’t need that drama, you know?”

That seemed to make him drop the question.

“This is our last year of high school. Did you ever think we’d stay friends for this long?”

Not really. “I’m happy we did.”

There was a long silence, but I could hear him breathing. “You don’t say much. Ever.”

“You keep telling me that.”

“It’s true.”

“And?”

“I’m just saying. Are we ever going to meet, meet? I mean, we’re not kids anymore. This isn’t going to last forever. I have money saved up. Except where I need a passport, because I don’t have one. I can visit you.”

Knowing Noah would go out of his way to meet me made my heart ache. I hated the lie. I wanted to tell him the truth. It hadn’t been my fault my dad hauled us to Florida, to the same town as Noah, to the same high school. Not my fault I found out who he was. And he was attracted to Evan. Me. Me! “I need to tell you something.” I shut my eyes, concentrating on his breathing, on my body coiled tight, and on the words I probably shouldn’t say.

Just then, I heard someone in Noah’s background. “Okay, Ma. I’m ending it,” he hissed out. Then into the mic, “I gotta go. I didn’t realize it was so late. School tomorrow.”

I let out a relieved breath. “Okay, talk to you later.”

I ended the call and yanked off my headphones and threw them across the room, where they always ended up whenever I got pissed. I’d gone through five of them already. I leaned back on my bed, staring at the pale ceiling. I’d almost told him. Almost. The cosmos were probably pointing and laughing at me. Out of all the towns and high schools, I had moved into my anonymous best friend’s life. I would’ve preferred meeting NOS when we were both away in college. When I escaped my father and the shit show of high school. Not now, when I couldn’t do anything with how I felt for him.

Life sucked.

Product Reviews

Score: 5 out of 5 (based on 13 ratings)
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5/5
5 stars
Written by Cindy on 22nd May 2022

I know I mentioned this once before, but I have to admit when I am reading eBooks I never really pay that much attention to the percentage of how much I read and what the length of the book is. So, imagine my surprise when I read this pretty much in a sitting. It was a rather quick and fun read for me. I should mention before I go any further that there are a few trigger warnings in the book. ( grief, violence, abuse) This book had me all over the place with my feelings. There were so many ah that is so sweet and adorable to heartbreaking. This is a young adult contemporary debut. Elizabeth is the Latinx author of speculative fiction novels for teens. (Before Dawn, The Second Shadow, and The Second Sign.) The book is about Noah and Evan. They first met in sixth grade through a pen pal exchange program at school. Do you remember doing that in school? I do and I had two penpals. One was Lucy from England and the other was Maria for Italy. The penpals are anonymous. Over the years, Noah started to confide in Evan and I think that was because they never thought they would actually meet in person. That is until one day Evan moves. What will each other do and say to the other? Will secrets they shared privately be exposed? Not only is Noah a gamer but he is an up-and-coming rockstar. Up until now, Noah has kept a secret and that is he is gay. Evan encourages him to come out but how will everyone react especially his father? Evan is a high school football player who has secrets of his own. I felt so sad for Evan because he thinks he doesn’t deserve to be loved and that he doesn’t deserve better and to me, that is so sad. Everyone deserves a good life and to be loved. I guess this is where the mom in me comes out because I just wanted to reach into the book and tell him that he deserves to be loved and to have all that the world can give him. Evan is worthy of all that. But will he see that? I really enjoyed this and you can’t help but root for Noah and Evan throughout the book. There were a few things that didn’t sit well with me and that was how dominating Evan could be and Noah just taking it and not standing up for himself. I wish there would have been a little more back history as to why Evan was like that. I guess when you have parents who leave you alone all the time it could be expected. Also, I love how forgiving Noah can be. Without giving away anything I will say when someone does him wrong that was major he is like okay I forgive you let’s go grab a coffee. For me, I don’t think I could be that forgiving right away if someone did something major to me and I know for sure I wouldn’t say hey let’s go get a coffee. Not sure if there is going to be a second book or if this is a standalone but I felt like there were a few loose ends that needed to be tied up. Not sure if it’s just me or not. I have to say that this book has been pretty much under the radar. I didn’t hear about this until one morning when I was scrolling through NetGalley to see what new books were available to read now, after reading the synopsis I instantly downloaded it, and then I got an email from Xpresso Book Tours looking for hosts to do a book blitz of the book and I instantly signed up because this book definitely needs to be out there.

5/5
Amazing LGTBQ Coming of Age Romance
Written by Ajy on 15th May 2022

I loved and enjoyed so much about this book, but from the start I surprised to begin the chapter in Evan's point of view. Despite both boys being mentioned in the synopsis, the format seemed set up to have Noah as the main character but that is not the case–and it's all the better for it! This book explores the difficulty in both in the closet and being openly gay, as well as navigating very different family dynamics, responsibilities, stereotypes, and discrimination. This is more rom-com style book, but doesn't hesitate to explore deeper topics and shows more than once that having the right friends around may just save your life. The book seems to start a bit slow, but really all the events progress at just the right pace. There is a lot of character development throughout, and there was exploration in how parents actively and passively shape who their kids grow up to be. I loved all the characters, the different dynamics between them and how they choose to handle different situations. I would definitely recommend this! I received a free copy of this book via Evernight Teen and am voluntarily leaving a review.

4/5
interesting premise
Written by Coffee on 15th May 2022

Noah and Evan know each other…but only Evan knows this. It’s an intriguing twist to build a story around: pen pals for years, when they meet in person and Evan decides to keep it a secret for *reasons* things of course get complicated. I liked the premise of this story a lot, and I can’t deny that the characters are well developed and interesting— protagonists and supporting characters alike. I worried, a bit, for the relationship dynamic at times (and not just because of the secrets). Noah is very, very forgiving and Evan has a controlling streak that seems to be celebrated and excused in ways that maybe it shouldn’t be. Still, there’s a lot to like about this story, with protagonists who definitely bring their experiences, the struggles as well as the triumphs, to clear and vivid life.

5/5
Noah and Evan
Written by Emily Pennington on 15th May 2022

Noah Stone (NOS2321; future rock star) and Evan Santiago (XES6969; football player) were assigned a school project in grade school to write to an anonymous pen pal. The two of them became friends without knowing each other in person. However, Evan inadvertently finds out who his penpal is when he moves to where Noah lives. He doesn’t say anything about it to Noah, however. The reader can expect this is going to get complicated! Evan’s life isn’t easy, but he tries to protect his little brothers from an abusive parent. And his penpal chats keep him focused. Will he finally tell Noah who he is? Will they take a chance on each other? Will it work out for them? There is a lot more brought up in this story to think about. It was well-written and enlightening. It shows the important of friendship and what others can be going through that no one realizes. The characters are great and the reader will be cheering for them all the way. Grab your copy and share their story.

5/5
I love this book!
Written by Angel Nieves on 15th May 2022

Noah is a weeb growing into his rock star image while Evan hides in his own secrets, trying to keep his brothers safe. They come together and sparks fly. I was rooting for them at the end.

4/5
4 stars
Written by Diane A on 15th May 2022

Thank you to NetGalley and Evernight Teen for the electronic ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Noah Stone and Evan Santiago meet anonymously in 6th grade, as part of a school pen pal assignment. They are only introduced by initials, NOS, meet XES. They stay in touch throughout the rest of their school years without giving their real names, but when they are in high school, Evan’s family moves, and he inadvertently learns that Noah is NOS. On the surface, they have little in common. Noah is a musician—on his way to becoming a rock star, under his father’s management—as well as a gamer, and newly out of the closet. Evan is an athlete, on the football team as well as being a competitive swimmer, and a bit of a player. Their worlds begin overlapping—a stray football hits Noah, giving Evan a reason to interact with him directly. Noah is mentoring one of Evan’s brothers. As the book alternates between their points of view, it becomes clear that they are definitely interested in each other. This is a book about secrets—how they affect our lives and relationships, and the way others see us. It’s a book about family, and the roles we play in our families, whether by choice or necessity. It’s about figuring out who we are, and how that fits into others’ expectations. It’s about father-son relationships. And it’s about first love. I raced through this book—it was an easy read, and I really cared about what happened to the characters. The only thing I struggled with was remembering that they were teenagers. Their experiences sometimes made them seem much older—and then the story would jump right back into high school to remind me that they were seniors. I really appreciated how the book addressed mental health issues, and how this tied into the father-son relationships. I will be keeping an eye out for more by this author.

5/5
I loved this book!
Written by Angel Nieves on 6th May 2022

Noah is a weeb growing into his rock star image while Evan hides in his own secrets, trying to keep his brothers safe. They come together and sparks fly. I was rooting for them at the end.

5/5
5 stars
Written by Nikki on 2nd May 2022

“Noah believed in love everlasting. Love trumps all. Love is enough. I loved him with all my soul, but the inevitable still had us separate. And in truth, I just had no clue.” I LOVE this book! I love the characters, I love their growth and how they took on the challenges they faced and came out on top. I loved the way Evan and Noah’s relationship grew and how even in the moments that they were tested - both personally and as a couple - and made decisions that would normally make me as a reader want to scream and shake them, I just loved them every more. There was a great balance of lighthearted and serious moments that kept the story from becoming boring or predictable! It was both heartbreaking and heartwarming. 100% recommend! Thank you NetGalley for an ARC of this beautiful novel!

5/5
5 stars
Written by Sarah on 28th Apr 2022

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc of "My Not So Anonymous Best Friend" by Elizabeth Arroyo. Noah and Evan have known each other for years but only Evan is aware of this fact. He has moved and met Noah at school one day and found out that Noah is NOS, his old pen pal from elementary school. Now that two are dancing around each other as the attraction between them is there but neither feels like they can confess it to each other. Evan is posing as straight not only because of his football credit but to keep himself alive at home wit an abusive father. Noah has only recently come out at school and has left his first boyfriend, he also thinks that Evan hates him and so is afraid of acting on his feelings. When the two of them finally do get together the chemistry explodes. I really enjoyed this book, as an older reader I have found myself starting to get frustrated with YA reads (expectedly and not as a problem with the writing in any way at all) because of the characters. Noah and Evan only mildly hit that problem area for me and their character building and background more than compensated for that. While I adored this story I do struggle with the idea that it is categorized as YA, for me it reads almost as adult or as very late YA for 16 and 17 year olds at the earliest. The talk of sex, abuse, drugs and more that happens in this story made this book read as older for me. Things that I loved about this book was the chemistry between Noah and Evan. They really did seem drawn to each other even when they were fighting. I also appreciated that Noah wasn't the conventional rock star type and nobody, except for his father, is trying to change anything like that about him. Noah has great friends who support him but also call him on his bullshit. The same can be said for Evan his friend is there for him through everything (though really what senior has parents that are never home and just leave you this house?). I loved Evan's siblings and how they were catalysts in this story and not just background players. There were some things that I struggled with in this story. The references to Evan's dominant character were awkward, unexplained, and tried to be used to explain away his controlling nature. I would have liked to see Noah stand up to him a bit and seen some growth with that. Noah and his father's relationship is very fraught and the ending really didn't give me any of the closure that I wanted, Noah just gives in even though in the middle of the story it seems like he really doesn't want to pursue music at the end he just goes with it. The last real problem I had with the story was Noah being SO forgiving. He couldn't hold a grudge at all, which is great as a character trait and allowed for some of the story to move on much more quickly than it would have otherwise but his forgiveness toward Sasha after she betrays him with the fan site (I apologized and she apologized and we had ice cream and coffee seems a little trite) and his constant forgiveness of Evan grated on me just a little. Despite those challenges this was compelling, I didn't want to put it down almost from the first page and I was rooting for Evan and Noah the whole way through. I gave this story 4.5 stars rounded up to 5.

4/5
4 stars
Written by Emillie on 28th Apr 2022

This book was a mix of cuteness, sadness and LGBT representation ! So, I loved it ! First of all, the representation of gay people was nicely written and the characters were very endearing. The story is a bit basic but it really works, a gay man who plays an instrument and the quaterback guy. I found the combination of the two really sweet. Then we have the background of Evan, made me sob a few times, not gonna lie. No spoilers but him blaming himself was so well put it made the story really sad and i just wanted to hug the boy. All in all, the book was a really nice read for me and i put it 4 stars. I really recommend it to anyone who loves a boy/boy romance with angst :)

5/5
5 stars
Written by Annie Woods on 18th Apr 2022

I absolutely loved this book! It was such an adorable and sweet, but also so heart-wrenching and gripping, story with amazing fleshed-out characters with flaws and secrets that completely stole my heart. I read it feverishly in one sitting, hoping for the HEA the main characters so deserved, but fearing that the evil persons in their lives or the characters themselves would cause a train wreck hindering that. (Just be aware of the trigger warnings - parental abuse, violence and grief – before picking it up.) In sixth grade Noah Stone is assigned an anonymous pen pal for a school assignment. Little did he know, when reluctantly writing his first letter, that the anonymous pen pal would become his closest confidant for the next years, nor that the anonymous pen pal would move to his school and find out who Noah was in real life. Neither could he ever suspect that the annoying but intriguing superjock Evan Santiago would be that pen pal, nor that he would be the one encouraging Noah to come out of the closet and make a move on a boy he fancies, even though the thought of Noah with someone else breaks Evan’s heart. Nor could he guess why Evan has all the bruises, why he’s so aggressive or why he’s so protective of his little brothers. Evan keeps a devastating secret that he can’t confide in anyone, believing he doesn’t deserve to be loved, that he deserves the hell he’s living in. His life is full of fear and responsibilities, knowing he has to protect his little brothers from his abusive dad at all costs. The only positive thing going on in his life are his chats with the anonymous pen pal. But when he learns his identity by mistake, he no longer wants to stay trapped in his lie, and when he learns that Noah is interested too, he takes a chance at love, risking everyone he’s tried to protect, including himself. This might seem like a light and funny YA gay romance, but it had such depths and sadness in addition to the sweet and heartwarming parts. Evan’s situation was absolutely devastating and I rooted so much for him. He was such a complex character, with his tough attitude to try to cover his insecurity and vulnerability, and with his loneliness, his compassion and his love for his little brothers. My heart ached for him, even when he made the most stupid choices. But also Noah had demons to struggle with and a father pushing him into things that were not his own choice. They were both such wonderful characters, with depth and flaws, and their chemistry was just amazing! I loved the way Elizabeth Arroyo captured the suppressed feelings, their love and fear, and how she made us readers come along on Evan’s and Noah’s journey to finding themselves and coming to a decision what’s really worth living for. My only minor complaint is that some parts of their relationship felt a bit too toxic. They were fully understandable knowing what Evan had had to deal with, but I still would have preferred if Evan wasn’t as dominant and over protective of Noah all the time and that he hadn’t been so opposed to bottom, that part felt a bit problematic to be honest. But all in all, My NOT So Anonymous Best Friend was such an addictive, emotional, poignant and sweet story about first loves and finding your forever that was both heartbreaking and heartwarming. I can’t recommend this book enough! Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

5/5
5 stars
Written by David Souza on 18th Apr 2022

When Noah , using the handle NOS2321, began messaging his pen pal, known by his handle XES6969, neither realized the would continue messaging for years. Little did they know that fate had so much more in store for them. Through heartbreaks, dad-agers, high school life, budding music careers, sports, and some serious family drama. They share their lives, at least some of it. They stay anonymous, but XES6969, or Evan, has a secret. He knows who NOS2321 is. BEYOND THIS POINT MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS I am mentally freaking out over how much I freaking loved this book!!!! Noah and Evan are both such amazing characters. They have developed backstories and real life stuff that drives or hinders them. I really expected this to be a fluffy rom/com, but what I got was an amazing story that should be up there with Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli. I am so excited for this to be released so that you can all read it. I’m going to go pre-order it now because I need a physical copy!

4/5
4 stars
Written by Brady Rae on 18th Apr 2022

Thanks NetGalley and Evernight Teen for this eARC, these opinions are my own. When I read the description of this book I had to read it! Anonymous pen pals, where one of them knows who the other is, sounds so good especially when you add a possible love connection! Noah and Evan were given a school assignment in eighth grade to write to pen pals, they ended up being long term friends but they decided to stay anonymous! That is until Evan moves to Noah’s town, going to his school, and learns who Noah is. But he decides not to tell Noah, complicated things as the two grow closer! Add in Noah’s growing musical career and Evan’s family complications and it makes for one heck of a ride! There were times in this book where things seemed slightly weird but overall everything came together quite nicely! I enjoyed the build up to Noah and Evan, I liked that there was complications to their relationship and that things weren’t easy! I liked that there wasn’t just one event they had to overcome but rather multiple events! I felt for Evan and the difficulties he was dealing with, there’s some tuff family situations in this book so pay attention to trigger warnings or content warnings before reading! Overall this was a pretty good story and I’ll be excited to read it again when it comes out!