I read this book as part of a book reading challenge where the rules were to read a book in a genre or theme which you would usually avoid. The genre...moreI read this book as part of a book reading challenge where the rules were to read a book in a genre or theme which you would usually avoid. The genre of this book is YA which I usually don't like to read because a) it reminds me of how old I am getting and makes me pine for my lost youth and b) YA books are often set in and around schools and since my school years were not particularly happy, I don't especially want to be reminded of that. The theme of the book is based around a teen who, after coming out to his parents, gets sent to 'Straight to God' which is one of these institutions run by the church to 'deprogramme' troubled teenagers, in the hope that he will emerge newly heterosexual. I hate books which show Christians as hateful homophobes - and yes, I am perfectly aware that many, many Christians are just that, but that doesn't mean I want to read about it.
In retrospect, I think this was probably a really good book for me to choose to read for the challenge because, although it is YA, it is not set in a school and although there are plenty of homophobic Christians in this book there are many more which show a positive Christian attitude to homosexuality, including the main character, Taylor.
There are a couple of things that I particularly liked about this book. The first thing I liked is probably something that would put off a lot of readers, especially those who are not sympathetic to the Christian faith, and that is that this book takes Taylor on a journey of faith. He begins the book very angry at the situation he finds himself in. He blames himself for being so foolish as to come out to his parents - and yet he doesn't blame his parents. He understands that his parents have a very blinkered Christian faith, and that their understanding of God, especially his father's, has led them to believe that gay people are sinners. He also doesn't blame God either for the situation he is in, quite the opposite in fact. Taylor is sure of his faith and sure of God's love for him. He's convinced that God doesn't make mistakes or create sinful people so as God made him gay, then it cannot be wrong. Instead, Taylor's anger stems from a kind of hopelessness - firstly by being separated from his boyfriend, Will, then by having no say in what happens to him and finally he chafes at the rules in the institution. However, as the book progresses Taylor finds a sense of peace in his situation as he begins to recognise why the rules are so strict. The time at 'Straight to God' also enables him to think deeply about his faith in God and begin to structure some convincing and coherent arguments so that when he is released he can try to get others, especially his parents, to see why there is nothing wrong with him being gay. The journey Taylor takes was quite fascinating, but also very biblical as he and a group of like-minded young people discuss theological ideas surrounding homosexuality in some depth. As I said, this may not appeal to all readers but was one of the most compelling parts of the book for me.
The second part of the book I really liked was Taylor's love for Will. This is told to the reader when Taylor deliberately spends time 'remembering' some of the things that have happened in their relationship. As a result, the reader gets told about how they met, their first kiss and a couple of other incidents in their relationship which brings strength to Taylor during his time at 'Straight to God'. Taylor's love for Will shines through these memories and non more so that when Taylor first introduces Will to the reader:
My Will. Brown hair with spiky, bleached ends. And that impish grin, sliding up slowly from the left hand side of his mouth and making me wonder what he's thinking. Leather thong around his neck, another on his wrist. Silver chain draped between front and back pockets of his scuffed black jeans. Golden hairs on his forearms, catching sunlight. Sweet, smooth skin on the undersides of his arms. Sweeter, softer skin on his lips.
Taylor uses his love for Will to give him hope, recalling their times together when he's feeling low and holding on to the knowledge that Will is waiting for him. I found this sweet, fierce love quite charming and moving.
This book isn't perfect by any means. There is a mystery involving the suicide of one of the residents which began well but turned out to be disappointingly clichéd - I can't say too much about that as it would be a huge spoiler. Another part which seemed odd was that every single teen in the book is incredibly intelligent and articulate, running rings around the adults in terms of logic and argument and debating theological ideas in such a clear and coherent manner that they would put scholars to shame. This meant that sometimes it seemed like these teens were just mouthpieces for adult logic and ideals and that was slightly disconcerting.
Overall, I am glad that I took up the challenge and read this book. It had been on my TBR pile for some time and I may have continued to put off reading it for much, much longer. To say that the book was gripping would be an understatement as I read it all in one day - only stopping to eat. I still found parts of it difficult to read, especially the scene where Taylor comes out to his parents and the pages leading up to his placement at 'Straight to God'. However, the book has provided me with a number of good theologically sound and bible based arguments as to why it is the Christian homophobe who is the sinner, not the homosexual - and it would be a fantastic book for a Christian teen who is struggling with his or her sexuality to read. Plus it is a beautiful love story both of a teen's love for God and for his boyfriend. I would recommend Thinking Straight to those who like YA books and who wish to read a sympathetic, liberal look at Christianity in relation to homosexuality. (less)
This YA story, the first book in the Little Boy Lost series, centres around 16 year old Brian who has recently come to the realisation that not only i...moreThis YA story, the first book in the Little Boy Lost series, centres around 16 year old Brian who has recently come to the realisation that not only is he gay but that he's in love with his best friend Jamie. Brian finds this knowledge very disturbing and frightening. Firstly because he lives in the bible belt south of the USA and Jamie's family are strict southern Baptists; secondly, he's a foster child and he's worried that if his foster parents find out that he's gay, they'll toss him out back to social services; and thirdly, Jamie is the only friend he's ever had and he doesn't want to lose that friendship. So immediately we are thrown into what is a very uncomfortable and difficult situation for Brian. He can't help his hormones and his body's response to Jamie, but he fears rejection at every turn. Fortunately for Brian, Jamie also has feelings for him which leads to several beautiful and tender scenes as they feel their way into this new side to their relationship. Unfortunately, it also means that they have to be doubly careful about their friendship so that no-one suspects that they are in love.
In some senses this was quite a bleak book. It deals openly with all the troubles that a young gay man, who is stuck in the closet, has to contend with whilst living in a small Southern town. Thus there are many parts that I found sad and dispiriting. For example, Jamie starts seeing a 'girlfriend' so that people won't be suspicious of his and Brian's relationship which makes Brian upset and jealous. This also has repercussions later in the story. Whilst I understood why Jamie felt the need to do this, I felt sorry for both the girl and for Brian and felt that Jamie, despite his protestations of loving Brian only, enjoyed having both Brian and his girlfriend. I also felt all of Brian's frustration at having to hide his feelings for Jamie, as well as his fear of the repercussions should they be discovered. Because the story is taken from Brian's first person point of view, it's difficult to get a deep understanding of Jamie's feelings for him. I was uneasy at times - mainly because of the girlfriend - that Brian's love for Jamie was stronger than Jamie's love for Brian. This is something I shall look out for with interest as the series continues.
Brian is a very sympathetic narrator. He's a real innocent, whose small town upbringing means that he knows very little about sex, or about being gay - even the internet isn't a big part of his life, leading to an embarrassing scene later in the book. His worries and fears are entirely plausible, his jealous feelings and frustration show his inexperience. He spends much of the book riding a haze of hormonal emotions as he veers between the bright hopefulness of young love and the despair that comes with bruised feelings. He clings optimistically to the knowledge that in just over a year both he and Jamie will be 18 and then they can please themselves, go anywhere and live freely. This optimism was charming, but part of me knew this was just naivety and that life isn't as clear cut as that. Brian's complexity, his range of feelings, was just delightful and by far the best part of this book.
Another aspect which worked quite well in the book was the balance of viewpoints shown. Whilst Jamie's Mum is a strict Christian, his Dad doesn't hold such conservative views. Brian's foster parents are shown to be liberal and sympathetic, but the other teens are vociferous in their hatred of gays. Another thing that interested me, and is something I'd never really considered before, was the way that Brian is looked down on because he is a foster child. That somehow losing his parents and having to be cared for in the system makes him a second class citizen. This social snobbery was prevalent throughout the book and is Brian's main worry about coming out to his foster parents - not just that he will be rejected by them, but also that the small minded townsfolk would reject his foster parents because of their association with him. The social stigma associated with being gay, and the way that it affects all the characters was a compelling theme in the book and made me really think, perhaps for the first time, about that side of being gay.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed this book. The themes are, as I said, a little bleak and I would class this more as a romantic drama, as the ending is nowhere near a HEA or even a HFN. However the beauty and complexity of Brian; the raw emotion; and the sympathetic look at two young men struggling with their sexuality in a town of closed-minded people, made this an engrossing read and one that I won't forget in a hurry. I am greatly looking forward to reading the next book in the series, which I think is due out soon. In the meantime if you like YA books, if you want to read a book which shows the genuine difficulties faced by gay teenagers, I urge you to read this book.(less)
I was attracted to this book because on of the characters is a devout Christian and I wanted to see how that would be handled in an m/m love story. In...moreI was attracted to this book because on of the characters is a devout Christian and I wanted to see how that would be handled in an m/m love story. In the end that aspect was done well, with a balanced view of both sides of the argument from both conservative and liberal Christians, but there were other parts of the book – mainly to do with the structure and the writing – which didn’t work as well for me.
Shawn has been a Christian all his life. He embodies the stereotype of a devout young man in that he is gentle and kind, always seeking the good in others and working hard at school and at church. However, as he gets older Shawn begins to realise that he’s possibly gay and that leads to much confusion and self hatred, especially when coupled with other things that have happened to him in the past. When Shawn meets bad boy Bobby, who is almost the complete opposite of Shawn in the way he lives his life, there’s a powerful attraction between them and nothing is going to stand in the way of their love. Or so they think…
I found whilst reading this book that my feelings towards it would veer from one extreme to the other. In terms of the writing and the way the story was structured, it was very simplistic and lacking in subtlety. For example, the story follows a strict linear pattern beginning when Shawn is 5 and then following alternating viewpoints between Shawn and Bobby as they grow up and become teenagers. More often than not, we are told the story rather than shown. There’s no withholding of information, no leaving the reader in suspense (except by breaking off the viewpoints at a cliffhanger and moving onto the next viewpoint), no use of subtle body language and action. Everything is in words, either the thoughts of the characters, the dialogue between them or the omniscient narrator telling the story of these boys’ lives. In addition to this, the reader is often told the same information over and over again at various points of the book which annoyed me as I don’t need to be retold something I learned earlier in the book. The simplistic structure and style of the book was a little dull, and irritating at times and at several points in the book I found myself getting a bit bored.
Having said that, just as I was getting bored, the author would hit me with what he does best – writing gripping, emotional scenes. There were several points in the book where something dramatic would happen, often involving Shawn, and I would be thoroughly engrossed in the story and what was happening to him. I was, at times, horrified, tearful and overwrought by what was happening on the page, and each time this happened I was amazed at how easily the story played on my emotions and how caught up in the events I had become.
The characters themselves, especially Shawn and Bobby, were very well rounded, especially as we really get to grips with their thoughts and feelings. Shawn is perhaps a little too perfect, and I sometimes found it hard to believe the depth of his self-loathing given that he has so much affirmation in his life. Out of the two heroes I liked Bobby best, and I thought the author did a good job in showing the circumstances that led to the young man that Bobby becomes. I also liked the positive influence that Shawn has on Bobby, and the way they click easily together and become firm friends. The love between them grows quickly, but given their age and personalities I could see that being a realistic turn of events.
This brings me to something which may be off-putting to some readers: The age of the heroes. They are 15, and the book does contain explicit sex, although written quite subtly. It didn’t bother me, because I know full well that 15/16 year olds have consensual sex with those they fall in love with (in fact my best friend at school was having sex with her boyfriend at that age), but I can see how that may not appeal to all readers, so it’s worth mentioning.
So, as you can see, I had mixed feelings about the book. I liked the characters, and even the secondary characters were fully realised, but found the structure of the book clunky. The emotional content was riveting but the repetition and the telling rather than showing, meant that parts of the book were also quite dull at times. If you’re a fan of Jeff Erno’s books then I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in this one, although it’s nowhere near as good as his Puppy Love books, which I would recommend over this one for anyone who wants to try this author.(less)
Why I bought the book: This is a recent purchase and I think I got it because it sounded a cute read. Plus I generally like Chris Owen's books.
Plot: T...moreWhy I bought the book: This is a recent purchase and I think I got it because it sounded a cute read. Plus I generally like Chris Owen's books.
Plot: The story is a gentle meandering tale of three boys who become friends at school. One, Tal, is very definitely straight, one, Silas, very definitely gay and the third, Warren, just not interested in anything other than his studies. The story follows the boys through their years together and finishes during their final year of College. There's romance but it's a very gradual one which takes an unusual angle. Often in m/m books there's attraction, lust and finally love. In Prove It, the love comes first: firstly the love of strongly bonded male friendship and then much more as Silas comes to realise he's in love with Warren and sets out to prove his love. I liked this approach and it made the book one of the more effective friends to lovers stories that I've read.
Characters: Although the romance aspect is strong, especially towards the end, the fun of this story for me is in the relationships between the three friends. They all have very distinct personalities and yet complement each other completely. There's lots of banter and joking around, but also some serious discussions. Another plus for me was in the strong supporting female characters, especially Warren's mother and Tal's girlfriend, Olivia. These women are a real showcase as to how to get a female character right in an m/m book. Both are positive and affirming but also willing to offer advice without every crossing that line into interfering. There's a warm humour which infuses the story, mostly in the characters of Silas and Tal whose quick wit and vivacious personalities bring out the fun in the very serious Warren. I really liked these guys.
Overall: The way that the story is quite slow moving and mostly character based may not appeal to everyone, but I was charmed by the story and the characters. It was one of those books that caught me quickly and I was so engrossed I didn't notice the time passing. There's a realism in the way the characters behave and it's just as much a coming of age story, especially for Warren, as it is a romance. In fact the only niggle I had was that I wished the story had been a little longer. There's a satisfying epilogue, but the romantic relationship between Warren and Silas is only really getting going when the book ends and I wanted more! I get the feeling I'll be reading this book again when I'm in the mood for reading something that makes me smile and which reminds me how good m/m romance can be. (less)
Although Bullied is published by Dreamspinner Press, it's not a conventional romantic anthology. Instead it's a set of seven short stories aimed at ad...moreAlthough Bullied is published by Dreamspinner Press, it's not a conventional romantic anthology. Instead it's a set of seven short stories aimed at adults and YA, which all focus on the high school bullying of gay students. Apart from maybe two of these stories, the rest do not have romantic themes and there is no sex in the book. Instead the focus is on friendship, tolerance or lack of it, the effect of suicide and the reasons for bullying or being bullied.
I had a couple of concerns coming into reading this anthology. Firstly, I was worried that the stories were going to be depressing, or that they would all end up badly and I would be left feeling unhappy. Actually, despite there being some difficult scenes, all the stories are essentially about hope and mostly end well. Even the most difficult story containing suicide has an ending where there is a significant change in attitude and a reason for hope. My second worry was that because of the theme, each story would be too similar. Again, this turned out not to be the case on the whole. The only similarities in the story tended to be the physical characteristics of the victim - usually small, slightly effeminate in voice and mannerisms, and unwilling or unable to stand up for themselves - and the bully, who tended to be athletic, popular and and bit of a jock. However, given that, on the whole, those tend to be the characteristics of a victim of bullying and of the bully in real life, I could forgive that similarity.
What made this anthology very interesting in my view was that each story showed bullying from a different perspective. The first story, Blending In, which actually turned out to be my favourite, was written from the point of view of gay student, Bryan. He is not being bullied because he's quite straight-acting and not out to anyone except his friend. The victim of bullying is the rather flamboyant, Christian, who's over-the-top behaviour and actions makes Bryan cringe. At first he has little sympathy for Christian and genuinely believes that he brings the bullying on himself by not toning down his 'act'. As the story progresses and Bryan gets to know Christian a little better, so his attitude and willing to help Christian changes. I liked that the story highlighted that it's not only straight people who can be complicit in bullying incidents.
In fact this was not the only story to explore the idea that those who stand back and do nothing are just as to blame as those throwing the punches or making the threats and calling names. In what turned out to be the most emotionally painful story, Different, the story takes four separate narratives. The first narrator, Caiden, is gay and the victim of sustained bullying because of his size and lack of athleticism. The second narrator, Rick, is openly gay, but his confidence, athleticism and charm means that he's generally well liked and so doesn't get bullied. The third narrator, Tina, is a tough lesbian who despises weakness in others and uses her strength and sharp tongue to ensure she never gets bullied. The fourth narrator is the mother of a teen suicide who looks back, too late, on how her behaviour and words contributed to the death of her son. It was powerful and moving to see how the actions of all the characters, had they been just slightly different, could have altered the tragedy that occurs.
My second favourite story was the last story in the anthology, Kirby, which tells of Kirby who, as well as being gay, is also fat. His best friend from school betrays him in a humiliating way and Kirby feels lost and alone until he meets Dustin, a new kid in school. I like Kirby a great deal and rejoiced as he slowly gained self-confidence. The scene at the end, left me smiling and was a good way to end an anthology of stories containing what had been a difficult theme to read at times.
As well as having the views of the victims of bullying a couple of the stories are taken from the views of bullies. The first of these stories is taken from the view of a jock who bullies a weaker gay student and the way his girlfriend helps to show a different side to the victim. The second story focuses on a student whose Christian upbringing blinkers him to the fact that his intolerance towards his former best friend is a form of bullying, especially when he turns a blind eye to how others are treating his friend. I was a little concerned at first that this would turn into a 'all Christians are intolerant bigots' story, but that wasn't the case at all and the story was actually very balanced in its handling of the theme.
The theme of bullying means that there are some scenes in these stories which will be painful for some readers. There are descriptions of violence, casual taunts, cyber-bullying and sustained abusive behaviour towards those who have done nothing to deserve the treatment they get. However, as I said earlier, each story contains a thread of hope and many left me feeling happy that things are changing for the victim, mostly because of the actions of a friend and the knowledge that the victim is no longer alone in their struggles. I urge you not to let the more violent parts of the book put you off reading the stories. As well as being about bullying, the stories are also about the struggles that teenagers face in school, in their friendships and in their relationships with adults. It would the ideal book to give to a teenager who is struggling with bullying, as the YA theme is sensitively handled.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this anthology. Yes, it was a difficult theme, but it was also very rewarding and satisfying to read these stories. The quality of the writing was high and the use of the first person narrative was particularly effective in getting into the minds of the victims and the bullies. Even more encouraging is that the author is giving all royalties made in the first year of selling this anthology to an anti-bullying charity and DSP is matching those contributions too. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is! I recommend Bullied. It's a book you should read and recommend to your teenage children or grandchildren.(less)
The story follows Dylan, who is the son of the blue Oligarch. Each Oligarch owns a Loki, a special stone which grants a particular power. Dylan's fath...moreThe story follows Dylan, who is the son of the blue Oligarch. Each Oligarch owns a Loki, a special stone which grants a particular power. Dylan's father controls water with his. Dylan decides to go on an adventure which goes badly wrong when he witnesses the death of another Oligarch, this leads the Dylan, along with his talking cat, on an adventure to prevent more deaths. Along the way he meets Tyjinn, another young man who Dylan finds very attractive.
I pretty much loved this book which combines fantasy and YA fiction. Dylan was such a likeable character and displayed the typical teenage range of emotions, all jumbled up and contradictory. He's brave and plucky, but he's also scared stiff. He's intelligent but easy fooled by those older than him with more experience. He lusts after Tyjinn, but is shy and wary of outing himself to those he holds dear. He's kind and compassionate but struggles with impotent rage. He really is a fantastic, well rounded and interesting individual.
Another plus point was the excellent setting and the world of the Oligarchs. The story follows a sort of 'road trip' storyline with Dylan visiting various different lands, gathering friends and followers as he goes. Each land is different, but still links with the overall setting. The tone is fairly light throughout, as is fitting for a YA theme, with a good mix of humour, serious moments, excitement and reflection. The themes of love, friendship, honour, loyalty and forgiveness are explored and I finished the book - which ends on a terrific finale - feeling that I'd read something special indeed. (less)
I greatly enjoyed the first book in this Loka Legends series, The Cat in the Cradle, and I was keen for more adventures involving Dylan and Tyjinn. Th...moreI greatly enjoyed the first book in this Loka Legends series, The Cat in the Cradle, and I was keen for more adventures involving Dylan and Tyjinn. This story involves these two characters but begins with Cole who lives in the Jagged mountains, ruled by the Black Oligarch. He and his boyfriend, Jonah, return from a camping trip to find tragedy has struck their village and families. Before help can arrive both boys are in danger but Cole is rescued in a most surprising way by the Blacksmith, leaving Cole as the new Black Oligarch. When Dylan's father discovers what has happened he sends Dylan to the Jagged Mountains to bring Cole back with him. All seems to be well until Cole finds himself in danger again and his friends and fellow Oligarchs have to fight to save him from an evil influence.
What has been most interesting for me is to see how the author has developed in his plotting from the previous book to this one. The Cat in the Cradle followed a linear pattern and focused mainly on the romantic pair. Here the story is more complex with the characters gathering at the beginning, splitting into three different groups through accident or design before regrouping again at the end. Each grouping follows its own mini adventure, with Cole getting caught up with the villain Thistle; Dylan, Tyjinn and Kio exploring Kio's past; and Natasha, Jack and Crimson Barry working to rescue Cole. In amongst these separate plots are woven times when character groups merge again; when other characters such as the werewolf, Nikolai, join them briefly; where time is set aside to follow the past of Crimson Barry; and space is given to a greater understanding of the use of the Lokas. I found this complexity in the plot very pleasing. It managed to make the book interesting and put forward a lot of information without being confusing or relying on dumping information.
Another aspect which is different to the first book is that this is a much darker story in terms of theme. It deals with grief, poverty and abuse. The Black Oligarch controls death and in this book it is used in a way that is sometimes a bit creepy and sometimes quite violent, all without crossing that line which will move it out of the realm of the YA book. The theme of death and grief also allows for a great deal of emotion in the characters, Cole especially, who mourns his losses and whose naive actions and trust of Thistle happen only because his grief is manipulated. Cole is similar to Dylan in the previous book, young and sheltered and unsure who or what to trust in the adults that he meets. He chooses a path based on his own needs, not seeing the bigger picture, but still manages to remain a sympathetic character throughout the book. This showed some skill in characterisation, as did the way that Cole grows in maturity as the book progresses.
This wasn't just Cole's story though. As I mentioned earlier, this is an ensemble piece. Dylan and Tyjinn feature quite a lot, but their story takes more of a back seat to Kio, the talking cat. This seemed natural to me as most of their story takes place in the previous book. I was also pleased to see that Natasha, the White Oligarch (along with Crimson Barry), had a prominent part to play in the story. Her actions are vital to the plot, and we learn much about the magic of the White Loka. It was good to see a sympathetic and strong female character in a m/m story, especially because of the way she develops her talents during the adventure.
Finally, I thought that Thistle was also an interesting character. He's more nuanced as a villain than Krale was in the previous book. His conflicting emotions, his love - however misguided - for his brother and the burden he carries because of the damage in his childhood, made him more than just insane or power hungry. At times I even sympathised with him, whilst abhorring his methods and I liked how he brought out that mix in the other characters too.
The book also contains six full page illustrations, drawn by Andreas Bell, the author's husband, which beautifully enhance the story.
A quick note for those who haven't read the first book. It probably is possible to pick up the series here, but I feel you would be missing out on quite a few of the references and intricacies of the setting if you started with this book. I highly recommend The Cat in the Cradle as a great place to start the series.
Overall, this was a complex and tightly written YA fantasy with characters who grabbed me from the first page. The world building continues to develop, with a vivid and memorable setting interwoven with the lives of the characters. As is fitting to a YA story there's no explicit sex in the book, but I didn't miss it or find it even necessary. Instead the romance is sweet with a slightly bitter edge and wholly fitting for the darker theme (it does have a HEA, in case you were wondering). If you like m/m YA and fantasy then this story is an absolute must and I can't recommend it highly enough.(less)
**spoiler alert** I bought this because I had read everything else by this author and I needed to complete my collection:). Whilst I enjoyed it, I did...more**spoiler alert** I bought this because I had read everything else by this author and I needed to complete my collection:). Whilst I enjoyed it, I didn't like it as much as the author's other books, mainly because of the situation between David and his father towards the end of the book. I felt there was an important discussion missing where they needed to talk through his Dad's motivations and come to some peace over what happened. This didn't happen and so I felt David too easily forgave his father's actions. There wasn't even the slightest bit of lingering resentment. This clouded my feelings at the end of the book. It was still a really good read though and I loved David and Connor's relationship.(less)
Just a warning, there will be spoilers for the first three books in the series in this review.
I've been very much looking forward to this fourth and f...moreJust a warning, there will be spoilers for the first three books in the series in this review.
I've been very much looking forward to this fourth and final book in the Seasons series. The other three books took the same story and looked at it from three different characters' point of view and I wondered how this book was going to be structured since there wasn't a fourth character who could take on another narrative. Instead the author has rather cleverly taken a separate character, Jason, and used him to link with the other three characters, taking us from the time just after Jace's first blood clot and into the future with Ben and Tim. Jason is a 15 year old boy who has been bounced around in foster care since he was 7. He never stays in a family for long because he deliberately sabotages his placement. His social worker is Michelle, Jace's sister, and this time he promises Michelle that he will make a good go of the new family he is placed with. It's tough at first, but Jason tries to get along with the new family for one reason, the eldest son of the family, Caesar, who Jason develops a huge crush on. We follow Jason through the next few years as he falls in love and marks out a future for himself with the help of good friends.
Like the other books in this series, this story contains the themes of growing up, falling in love, making mistakes and learning to become an adult. The main story centres around romance, but it's so much more than that. It's also about making choices about who you want to be with and finding a family who will accept you for who you are. Jason isn't perfect and I have to admit at times he is very immature - just like a 15/16 year old boy should be! He is desperate for affection and confused, hurting from the past but fiercely independent. I liked him very much, liked that he was flawed and did stupid things at times, that he took risks because underneath it all he was a good, kind person who just needed a big hug and some stability. As the story develops, Jason changes until by the end he is more mature and happy. He's still independent and stubborn but he has learned how to compromise instead of running away and hiding, and that makes him a better person.
This isn't just Jason's story. It's also an opportunity to see the future for Ben and Tim. They come into the book part way through and we see their relationship through Jason's eyes. Ben is his usual sweet self and Tim is working through some issues and it was nice to see that their relationship is still evolving. There were a couple of poignant conversations between Ben and Jason about Ben's feelings about Jace which helped to sort out some of my feelings about how the first book in the series ended. Tim also has to face his past, as well as resolve some problems with Jace's family. I liked that their relationship wasn't this perfect ideal, but just two guys with a mixed history who love each other but still have the occasional difficulty. Just like real life! The book ends on a high note which was a little sappy but had a huge awwwww factor. It was a fitting end to Ben and Tim's journey and I'm happy to leave them to their HEA now.
I haven't said much about the romantic plot mainly because I don't want to give away spoilers. Let me just say that Jason's love life is not all plain sailing but it definitely has its high points. One thing I love about this author is how much he seems to be able to understand the mind of a teenage boy with all the confusion that comes with hormones. I like that he doesn't shy away from the fact that teenagers have sex, although the descriptions are vague and concentrate on emotion rather than mechanics. If 16 year olds having consensual sex on page offends you, then this probably isn't the book for you. I saw it as a necessary part of Jason's journey and it didn't bother me at all. As for the romantic interest in Jason's life, my lips are sealed :). All I'm going to say is that they weren't as well rounded in terms of characterisation as Jason, but that was more to do with the fact that our focus is mainly of Jason and so the other character is seen through slightly idealised eyes at times. Having said that, the flaws of the other character do come through eventually and so this is only a minor criticism.
On the whole, I love this author's books and his fluid written style. This means I was quite forgiving of some of the books' faults, such as the idealisation of characters as I mentioned above, because I was enjoying myself too much. My main niggle was that the book was a little overindulgent at times with some scenes that didn't really further the plot and so could have been cut from the book. One scene in particular where Jason and another character visit an art gallery was a pleasant enough scene but when it had finished I wondered what the point had been. None, apparently, just another opportunity to see the two characters together. The book is a decent length and cutting one or two scenes would have made the plotting a little tighter.
Having said that, this was still a terrific read. I liked that although this was Jason's book, there was still an ensemble theme with a mix of well loved and new characters. It fleshed out the world away from the fairly tight circle of the previous books. I was also pleased to discover that the author intends to continue writing within this community of characters, not Ben, Tim and Jason, but other secondary characters who need some loving in their lives. I shall look forward to those books. As for this book, if you are following this series then this is a must-read which I would recommend with a grade of 'Excellent'. If you like YA romance and haven't read any of these books then this is probably not the place to start. I would suggest starting with Something Like Summer and working your way through to this book. You're in for a treat! (less)