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The Dangerous Art of Blending In

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Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend Henry has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer.

Tired, isolated, scared—Evan’s only escape is drawing in an abandoned church that feels as lonely as he is. And, yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s his best friend Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible. It’s Henry who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he’s more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse. But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by avoiding attention at all costs.

315 pages, Hardcover

First published January 30, 2018

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About the author

Angelo Surmelis

1 book145 followers
Angelo Surmelis was raised in Greece until he immigrated to Illinois at the age of five. He currently lives in Los Angeles. An award-winning designer, Surmelis has been featured on over fifty television shows, including the Today show and Extra, as well as in magazines such as InStyle, TV Guide, and Entertainment Weekly. He has worked as a host on networks like HGTV and TLC. He can be found online at www.angelohome.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,186 reviews
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
August 7, 2020
I am not giving this review a fair introduction or summary. Two things. One, I'm slightly bothered that Evan’s entire character arc is driven by romance, which is shitty itself in a book about abuse. Two, I'm bothered by the fact that the romance itself is an on fire garbage can.

I want to get into the romance as a character arc thing first, as it’s a good introduction. Evan doesn’t have an arc in this book beyond the messily written one he has because of Henry. And obviously, that’s an annoyance in any book, right? It’s a little boring. But in a book about a suicidal boy trying to recover from abuse, it’s downright bad.

The most important thing in getting out of an abusive environment is a strong support system. A romantic relationship itself isn't bad, but it is never a good cure for abuse.

A relationship is not a truly healthy endeavor until some degree of inner mental recovery is already occurring. Evan is not in a good place to proceed in a serious relationship when his relationship with Henry begins - he is unsure of his sexuality, suicidal, and essentially hanging on to life by a thread. He has not at all begun a recovery process, even an inner one, and the narrative of this book is not, in my opinion, cognizant of the delicacy of his situation with Harry: What a person in his situation needs is a support system of people who want what is best for him and are willing to step away when he needs them to. Henry is not that, nor can any teenager - or any one person - be that. This message is one not of empowerment, but of romance being the cure for an abusive situation. As is touched on in books like Heather Demetrios’ Bad Romance, turning to romance as a cure for abuse can be a really simple transition to further abuse: abuse survivors sometimes lack support systems necessary to leave future bad relationships (true for Evan) or the type of self-esteem they need (also very true for Evan.)

I definitely have a penchant for getting slightly annoyed at the prevalence of cure-romance tropes in books about abuse. But I want to make it really clear I think romances can be done well, and handled respectfully. Obviously Evan, were he a real life person (which he is not), would be in his own situation that might not conform to easy standards of healthiness.

And it’s this fact, above any other, that makes this specific romance so completely disturbing.

why this romance feels toxic: a discussion

Evan is a teenager dealing with severe abuse who is still struggling with his sexuality and most importantly, has no support system beyond Henry.

🌺 Evan has literally no support system beyond Henry – no family members, no caring friends, not one other person who is aware of the abuse. This is not inherently horrible thing; Evan’s situation is difficult and turning to others seems, to him, likely to backfire. If Henry were kind and patient with Evan and allowed him space and a chance to make his own decisions, that might be one thing. But it is my opinion that the dynamic between Evan and Henry in this situation leaves Evan a lack of choice in proceeding with this relationship.

🌸 Henry, who as we’ve mentioned is Evan’s only confidante, gets angry – actually, physically angry – at Evan multiple times during this book for... well, the intention might be Evan's fair-weather friendship, but it reads like Henry is angry at Evan for being unsure about a romantic relationship. Being upset by your friend’s ignorance of friendship is understandable, but Henry’s desire for a romantic relationship with Evan is not an acceptable reason to be angry at Evan.

Though the book is later very clear that Evan has wanted this relationship all along, Henry has no way of knowing that.

🌺 As a result of this problem, Henry’s prioritization of his own feelings over Evan’s is disturbing at best. In one major scene, Henry feels abandoned by Evan. He responds to this by yelling at Evan for leaving him and guilting him into a romantic relationship. Evan is given little agency within the scene.
[approximately page 142.] I stand there silent and in awe of this boy in front of me who is so raw, trusting, open. This one person who has never judged me.
“You have to say something. Don’t leave me out here alone and don’t you dare fucking leave.”
“That’s what you do. You just leave. Don’t do this to me. Not now. I’m fucking putting out so much stuff and if you just pull your shit...”

🌸 The consent issues are... there, and especially noting the previous issues, vaguely disturbed me.
[approximately page 99. ] “I'm staring at the statue and and I shift my body slightly away from Henry. He takes the waistband of my of my sweatshirt in his hand and pulls me in a bit. I put my head down, still turning away. He nudges himself even close and starts to slowly life the shirt over my head. I feel paralyzed, scared, thrilled. I stop him. 'Henry. Please.'
He's close enough that I can smell the mint chip ice cream on his breath. Henry whispers, 'Ev, I want to be the one that helps you feel better.'
Using whatever willpower I can grab on to, I pull away and say 'No. This isn't what you want. What I want.'”

So, okay, in one of the first romantic scenes of the book, Henry tries to take Evan’s shirt off his body and see his scars without any sort of consent even after Evan explicitly says no.

This is not isolated!! Ignoring that the earlier page 142 quote is sort of badly written, it occurs one paragraph before they kiss. Evan does not ever say yes to said kiss, and the way it was written did not feel totally consensual to me. Here's the passage:
[approximately page 143.] “Instead I say, 'I'm scared.'
'Me too, but also not scared.'
He walks over to where I'm standing. He's now right in front of me. My skin feels tingly. He grabs the bottom of my shirt with both hands and pulls me close to him. I stop breathing. He shifts himself even closer and starts putting his hand under my shirt toward my back. I feel paralyzed, scared, thrilled. As if ice water is pumping inside my body. He leans in closer. I can feel his breath on my skin. He whispers, 'Ev, I want to be the one you trust.' ...he leans in and kisses me, full soft, hard, and without any hesitation.”

Okay. So Evan is actually enjoying this moment, and I hate to be a buzzkill, but Henry has no indication that he is enjoying this or wants this. The last thing Evan has said before this first kiss is “I’m scared” - which is in reference to internalized homophobia, but again, Henry doesn't know that. He is clearly paralyzed. He has not actually said that he is attracted to Henry or that he actually wants Henry to kiss him. I am a lesbian and I don't think this is great.

There's another scene, and I would love if someone would send me the quotes because I seem to not have photographed them, in which Henry sticks his hand under Evan’s thigh while Henry’s family is in the car and while they are on the outs, something Evan and I share equal levels of discomfort around. How is sticking your hand under your ex's thigh in a car with your family - when your ex is not even out of the closet- acceptable behavior?

I want to make it clear that if one of these scenes occurred and every other scene had clear consent, I would not be bothered; relationships and consent for stuff like kissing can be complicated. But I don't know, dudes, it feels like there's barely any explicit consent in this relationship. Almost all of their kisses are initiated by Henry, and several romantic interactions are initiated when Evan's only outward expression is "no". As a trend in the book, Henry reads like he has no respect for Evan’s boundaries.

🌺 Another element that feels like it might be a result of bad writing, but is frightening considering the context: Henry has extreme mood swings and his moods and emotions seem to change on the dot. In one scene, he goes from smiling in one paragraph to saying he’d like to hurt Evan’s mom in the next.
[approximately page 143.] He turns to me, smiling. “Where are we going?”
I briefly glance back at him and then I look back at the road. “Patience.” In a moment I say, “I shouldn’t believe in anything. Sometimes I don’t. I used to pray for God to help me and that never happened, but maybe that’s the way it works.”
I know what I want to do would cause more pain and trouble for you.” Henry’s voice sounds dark.

Henry is in fact referring to hurting Evan’s abusive mom, which... okay, but this is a huge mood swing, and making something all about himself.

Henry is also, as I think this paragraph exemplifies to some degree, sort of angry and threatening towards people hurting Evan, due to knowing Evan is in a physically abusive situation. And I want to be careful with this, because like, mood, Henry. But in most cases, telling someone you want to kill their mom... is not an actually good way to handle abuse? Henry says he wants to hurt or kill Evan’s mom multiple times, to a point where Evan feels the need to talk him down, and it feels bad – talking down your partner from anger all the time is not healthy.

🌸 I also just dislike the way Henry frames himself within this relationship.
[approximately page 99.] “Evan,” he whispers. “I want to be the one that makes you feel better.”

[approximately page 143.] “Ev, I want to be the one you trust.”

The repetition of this reads like Henry wants this relationship because he wants to be “the one” who makes Evan feel better. This feels like isolation.

This IS a book by an actual survivor of abuse, and I absolutely respect that he was able to tell this story. And aside from the scenes between Evan and Henry, I don’t think this book was completely horrid. The scene with the priest and Evan is powerful; a few scenes in which Evan's mom is nice to him after weeks of horrifying comments are scarily accurate to experiences I’ve had. Beyond that, it is so valuable to have books about queer and lgbtq abuse survivors in our culture today, and it’s arguably revolutionary we have any. Whether you’re reading this or not, I'd really recommend reading some great books about lgbtq abuse survivors: I’m a fan of Ashley Herring Blake's How to Make a Wish, an #ownvoices book featuring a bi lead and sapphic romance, and Alice Oseman's Radio Silence, by a bisexual author and featuring a gay lead and mlm romance. That our stories even have a chance to be published is amazing. But I just can’t recommend this in good conscience.

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Profile Image for Korrina  (OwlCrate).
193 reviews4,558 followers
February 12, 2018
I spent the entire afternoon reading this and it really broke my heart. This book is brutal and devastating. This book is definitely not for everyone, and you can see that by looking through some of the other reviews, but it spoke to me and made me feel deeply.
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.6k followers
April 25, 2021
"Here's the deal about never being authentically loved by your parents: The most fucked-up gesture or morsel of compassion is like a warm blanket."

I haven't made my mind up completely about this book. One the one hand, it is a truthful and painful novel that makes it hard for you to swallow. On the other hand, it feels like big chunks of characterisation and plot were missing. Let me try to elaborate:
Evan grows up in a strict and religious household. His mother abuses him mentally and physically. She tells him he is ugly and worthless because he is gay. And those are the nice things that come out of her mouth. She beats him, throws objects at him and has done so ever since he was a little child. She says she does those things because she loves him.
Evan's father is loving and dedicated to his family. He tries to protect Evan where he can but he still doesn't do enough.

Here come the spoilers, so stop reading here if you do not want to know more:
A relationship that I do not understand at all is Evan's and Jeremy's friendship. Throughout the book, Jeremy is a dick. What is worse, he becomes an outright bully and traitor. And now I don't get Evan's reaction and thought process about this break of trust, or rather the lack thereof. Jeremy is easily forgiven. This passiveness and apathy bother me about Evan. When he finds out that he told his whole school that he is gay and in love with his best friend - he had a blackout and can't remember this situation but later sees a video of it - he doesn't even give it much thought. Honestly, this would have made me break down and cry and hide for days on end. But Evan hardly gives it a second thought. You could argue that this shows how people react differently to certain situations, but to me, it felt like this and a few other scenes weren't given enough thought.

What also bothers me is that Evan's vicious and violent mother doesn't suffer any consequences for all the harm she did him. I wondered where Evan's anger was about all the death threats and scars he had suffered from her. I wondered how Evan's best friend found out about this abuse but also lacked a reaction that was more forceful than a simple "You know I want to kill her, right?".
Evan was so helpless and alone and what I wished for him - and for the teens that might read this book and relate to him - was a solution. In the end, Evan turned 18 and moved out. But why did no adult ever help him? Why did his best friend not even suggest going to the police? Why were no alternative solutions brought up?

Anyway, I'm glad to add another Own Voices author to my list and want to celebrate that there are more and more queer authors out there who are given an opportunity to have their voices heard. And I'm intrigued to find out what else Angelo Surmelis might be writing in future.

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757 reviews2,346 followers
April 9, 2018
This book was heartbreakingly sad and the authors note just broke me. It's about parental abuse, coming out and finding your voice in a harsh and judgmental world. Also this is a #ownvoices novel!!!

However, I didn't like how Henry kept saying "I'll be the one to help you. I want to be the one you trust." Yikes. I really didn't feel their romance either?? There's a lot of consent issues. Henry kissed Ev without permission when he told Henry THAT HE WAS SCARED AND NOT SURE.

Overall, it's an okay book and I liked it minus the unhealthy romance. Also, those descriptions of the Greek food got me hungry, yum.

3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Tucker  (TuckerTheReader).
908 reviews1,596 followers
May 24, 2020

Many thanks to HarperTeen for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

I both loved and hated this. I think that this type of story needs to be shared so as to stop others like it from happening. That said, it always breaks my heart to see young people, albeit fictional people, being abused and harmed in this way. I just wanted to step in and brutally murder Evan's mom (Justifiable homocide is a thing, right?) and send him off to his own gay palace. All in all, this book broke my heart and then mended it just to break it again.

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Profile Image for BookNightOwl.
977 reviews174 followers
August 17, 2019
This story is heartbreaking and sad. This story deals with some heavy issues such as physical and mental abuse, suicide, and coming out. This coming of age book deals with Evan who comes home from camp confused about his sexuality and what he wants in life. Evan's mother is a strict immigrant greek mother who wants him to be a good christian boy. Evan feels like he has no support from his family or from his friends. This story tugged at my heart and I feel like it should be read by everybody.
Profile Image for Sylwia.
1,138 reviews27 followers
May 5, 2018
Entertainment rating: 5
Reader health rating: 2
Settling for a 3.5 overall?

Content warnings: verbal, mental/emotional, and physical child abuse; on-the-page violent child abuse, homophobia, bullying, assault

I'm a therapist and I work in child welfare, therefore child abuse is a topic I think about 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

I felt very angry while reading this because of the reviews I read from other reviewers. The abusive mother is this novel does not have a mental health diagnosis. Blaming mental illness for child abuse is denial and ignorance. People choose to abuse others. Abuse is not something that your brain chemistry forces you to perform. Can some individuals diagnosed with a mental health disorder also be abusive? Sure. But those parts of them are unrelated. We could argue about personality disorders, but then we'd just be getting technical and we would not focusing on what really matters here: not perpetuating abusive behavior.

Why I Recommend Bumping This DOWN On Your TBR:
Is this kind of reading experience necessary? Is it okay for us to be reading to be entertained by a story of someone being abused? Was this informative enough to excuse using abuse as a plot device? I don't think that this was informative enough. I don't think that this would help an abused child feel validated or know how to reach out for help. This is more of a memoir-turned-into-fiction. I also don't think this should be marketed towards young adults, if only because I don't feel like it would benefit a young reader.

Why You Might Bump This Up On Your TBR:
I should mention that the protagonist is gay and in love and that I enjoyed the writing style very much and couldn't put this work down. This is a believable portrayal of what it's like to grow up being physically abused. It was so believable that it was angering to watch all of the other people observing Evan from the sidelines and not doing anything to help him, including his father and pastor. I appreciated that the author included hotlines and resources at the end. The way that the author slowly moved the story forward kept me in a mental and emotional anguish, and I give the author credit for creating that experience for the reader. While I appreciate that this topic was covered, I don't envision this opening the eyes of a reader who has never learned about child abuse before, and that's what I would have wanted it to do.
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,709 reviews703 followers
December 30, 2017
I desperately wanted to love this book and I’m actually wondering if 3 stars is too high of a rating.

First off: major trigger warnings for physical and mental abuse as well as homophobia.

I couldn’t connect with Evan. He seems like a good guy in a shitty situation, but it felt like I never actually got to know him. I hated Evan’s mom and his dad isn’t any better as he just lets it happen. As much as I wanted to love the romance part of things, it was very dramatic and over the top.

Plot wise, it was a rollercoaster of nothing. I was on edge because I was expecting a horrible beating every time I turned the page. It’s basically a slice of time where nothing happens except abuse. All sorts of people know Evan is getting abused and no one does anything. Literally no one helps.

Lastly, I seriously struggled with the rhythm of the story. Everything was “I did this and then this and then this happened before I did this.” It got old reaaaaalllly quick.

Overall, it had a lot of promise and judging by the high reviews, I’m in the minority. Obviously this book just wasn’t for me.

**Huge thanks to Balzer + Bray for providing the arc free of charge**
Profile Image for Lewis Rimá.
Author 2 books1,118 followers
August 18, 2019
Tiene buen ritmo y me parece un intento valiente para poner sobre la mesa que la homofobia empieza siempre en casa, aunado, muchas veces a la religión. Una historia de autodescubrimiento y valentía.
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,655 reviews5,130 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
January 11, 2018

I really wanted to like this book! It's own-voices, and I'm here for all of the queer contemporaries. Unfortunately, though, I couldn't mesh with the narrative voice at all. The writing feels disjointed and in need of serious refining, and Evan is just not an enjoyable character to look through the perspective of. It's not that he's a bad kid - it's just the writing. I'm also really not fond of the romantic subplot of the book, and when I was told by friends that it only got stronger throughout the story, I decided to let it go. I won't try to discourage anyone else from picking it up, and I'd be willing to try the author's future works, but this wasn't for me.

Thank you to Balzer + Bray for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review!
Profile Image for kayleigh.
1,734 reviews87 followers
April 6, 2018
1 star.

“I've squeezed as many bookcases in this tiny space as possible. Being surrounded by books and magazines makes me feel calm. It makes the room seem wrapped in a layer of protection. As if nothing or no one can get to me.”

I wanted to like The Dangerous Art of Blending In. I really did. But, unfortunately, it's one of the worst books I've read in a long time. The writing was fine, that wasn't the problem. My problem was with Evan and Henry, both as individual characters, and their relationship. The way Angelo Surmelis portrayed these two characters together was incredibly concerning and disrespectful. I don't think I'll go into a full review like I normally would, because a lot of what I'd want to point out has been said before by other reviewers.

The main thing I want to point out is this: Evan is abused and severely depressed. His whole recovery arc is taken over by Henry attempting to "cure" him, to be the one that fixes everything. Which, let me point out, is not healthy. If that even needs to be said. Henry is not a psychologist, he's not trained for this, and to be quite honest, all he does is add on to Evan's abuse and problems. Henry often puts his own feelings above Evan's, and even guilts Evan into having a relationship with him. Their entire relationship is built around manipulation and abuse, and it's painted as normal and healthy.

On another note, Henry couldn't give less of a shit if Evan consents to ANYTHING. There are specific points in the book where Evan tells Henry no, that he's scared and doesn't want to, and Henry doesn't care. It's about what Henry wants, when he wants it, and it doesn't matter what Evan wants. Despite the fact that Surmelis lets the readers know that Evan is enjoying it, Henry has no clue. Before their first kiss, all Henry hears is that Evan's scared. He really couldn't care less, and kisses him anyway. There's many scenes in this book where Henry puts his own wants and needs above Evan's, and does as he pleases without any clear consent.

All in all, I'm exhausted. This book was exhausting. I'm tired of abuse and dubious consent being the new normal, and I'm tired of authors getting away with creating these kind of relationships and stories without any repercussions. It's not okay.
Profile Image for Kiera.
319 reviews117 followers
January 7, 2019
The Dangerous Art of Blending in follows Evan Pano a seventeen year old boy who lives with his dad and strict, abusive mother. Evan is scared of his mother and uses drawing as his escape. Evan feels that he doesn't fit in and he wants to live his own life. When Evan discovers new feelings towards his best friend, Henry. Henry teaches him to look past all the terrible things his mother says and to find his voice and stand up for himself.

I absolutely loved this book. I devoured it and couldn't put it down. I read all afternoon and had to force myself to get up and go to the bathroom.

This book deals with a really tough topic about abuse. Evan'sr, Voula is quite abusive, she is very strict on religion and religious beliefs. She hits and yells at her son and invades his privacy and she forces his son to lie about the scars and bruises on his body from her abuse. Evan's dad is quiet and doesn't really no what to do about his wife. Instead of tackling he issue or talking to his wife he takes Evan out for doughnuts.
Evan's mother made me feel very uncomfortable and mad so if you don't like to read about abuse I wouldn't recommend this book to you. Overall I loved it the message was really good.
4.25 stars.
Profile Image for Faith Simon.
198 reviews162 followers
February 17, 2019
I enjoyed this book well enough and I read through it pretty fast. However, after rating it, I read through a few reviews only to find that most people I follow didn't like this book? Reading through reviews, some questionable content within the book has come to my attention. Of course, like all fictional content, it's up to reader interpretation, however, I am having a bit of a crisis. Do I review this book as a good read that I thought it was, and end up recommending a book with questionable themes to young, impressionable readers? I'm having a hard time here. I also didn't notice the questionable things when I read it either. Am I not as critical a reader with the content I'm consuming as I should be?
One of the things that I haven't seen in the reviews was anything regarding Jeremy. I'm slightly surprised because I had a real big problem with Jeremy. I hated him from the start, and I'll really get into why this is. First of all, his character is a trait I often see portrayed in media, the funny side-character who's portrayed as a poor sad guy who can't seem to get any girl to like him. This book is kind of self-aware and sometimes goes into detail about what a creepy dude he is and thus is why girls can't stand him. However, with this character, most often we see something common with the main character he is friends with. Complacency. This character is going to be super creepy towards girls, and the main character rolls his eyes and goes into detail about how his friends' behaviour is annoying and weird but is he going to actually tell his creepy friend off? No, of course not. The main character is complacent to the situation, aware his friend is really creepy towards girls but doesn't feel the need to do anything about it until it concerns him in some way. This is what happens in this book. I'm just going to leave it with you to think about the obvious misogyny here, and I'm going to talk about Jeremy's redemption. Evan, throughout the story, keeps stating how there's a good part of Jeremey within him somewhere, as some sort of justification and excuse for him being incredibly creepy towards women in the story. This is often an excuse we see men use to defend other men, he'll eventually learn he's being a giant douche, or, this isn't actually him he's a better person in different situations. This, for obvious reasons, disgusted me. Not to mention that Evan didn't care about Jeremy's shitty behaviour until it was directed towards him in the form of homophobia. This made Jeremy even more of a terrible character, but I couldn't respect Evan because of this either.
Aside from that, this book does have a Greek character which is cool, and his abuse made me feel a lot of sad feelings, and I encourage you to view his and Henry's relationship at your own discretion if you choose to read this book.
Honestly, all I heard was good things about this book before I read it, and I'm appalled that nobody bothered to mention the really terrible things about this book as well as the apparent good.
Profile Image for Jason Conrad.
105 reviews13 followers
November 11, 2022
The emotions I felt while reading this book... Evan was truly a main character that I cared about, rooted for, connected with, and wanted the best for. Despite the trauma he has endured, he is still a good person. Seeing his journey of growth made me so proud of him. The way that the book addressed the complex relationship that the LGBTQ community has had with organized religion was brutal, but also (unfortunately), incredibly accurate and honest. The amount of resiliency that Evan displayed was one of my favorite things about him. I loved watching his relationship with Henry grow, and how they overcame the barriers of hatred, self-doubt, and stigma together. The final scene at the end was such a heartwarming moment, and gave me some semblance of hope for their futures. Loved this book. A lot.
Profile Image for Tracey.
642 reviews469 followers
February 26, 2018
Books like this hit me right in the heart, because the stuff that happens in this book happens every day in real life. It might be happening in your own home, or your neighbours home, or your best friends home. Somewhere, someone right at this minute is struggling with their identity, or their sexuality, or acceptance from those who are supposed to love and protect them.

The Dangerous Art of Blending In dealt with such a wide range of topics. All of them intertwined and impacted on the other. But I think this was the first time though that I had read a book that dealt with abuse from a mother. And I found that so hard to read. Your mother is supposed to love you, care for you, protect you. But Evan's mother does none of those things. She is physically abusive and verbally abusive. She is downright horrid! While she puts on a good show to outsiders, and portrays herself as the loving doting mother, behind closed doors things are very different.

Not only was Evan dealing with the abuse of his mother, but also the lack of help from the adults who knew what was happening. How could you turn a blind eye to that? How could you not do everything in your power to offer protection and stop the abuse? My heart broke for him.

While this book dealt with some really tough subject matters, there was also some really great things as well. Henry and his family were the shining light in this book, and I was so happy that Evan had them. They're loving and supportive, and everything that Evan's family isn't.

When you get to the end of this book I highly recommend reading the author's note. It really packs a punch and adds a whole other layer to the story. You'll look at everything you've just finished reading in a whole new light.

Thanks so much to the publisher for sending a copy my way for an honest review.
Profile Image for Suelen.
136 reviews33 followers
January 16, 2023

Si no fuera por mi pésima memoria, no hubiera releído este libro. La verdad es que me costó un montón terminarlo por la personalidad de todos los personajes. La trama está bien, es juvenil pero abarca muchos temas importantes: la sexualidad, la familia problemática, la religión, el pertenecer/identificarse, etc. Sin embargo, nuestro amigo Angelo, falla al darle personalidad y desarrollo a estos personajes. Primero, todos los adultos están hechos de la misma talla: son todos unos tontos incompetentes, y segundo, nos muestra un pantallazo plano e irreal de cómo son los adolescentes. Los podemos etiquetar en base a su función: "el popular", "el marginado", "el bravucón", "la zorra", etc. Acá no hay medias tintas, eh? Acá tenés personajes muy buenos y muy malos, nada mas. ¿Hay un leve desarrollo del protagonista? Eh... sí. Pero siento que su desarrollo es el típico de película de Disney: el universo conspiró a su favor y fin.

Quiero creer que le puse cuatro estrellas porque me lo comí en un día y no analicé absolutamente nada del libro xd

2021: Lo disfruté muchísimo. No me duró ni 24 horas, jajaja.
Profile Image for Emma.
911 reviews869 followers
September 30, 2019
3.75/5 Stars

Trigger warnings for homophobia, abuse, bullying.

I think this was such a well-done debut novel. It was heartbreaking to read, but it's important to tell this kind of stories and these realities that unfortunately many people have to face every day. Evan, the main character, is abused, both mentally and physically, by his mother. His father knows what's going on but he doesn't do anything to really stop it. It was very hard to read their scenes, I'm not gonna lie.
The relationship between the main character and Henry was sweet and tender. It was the ray of hope that Evan needed, his safe harbor, everything that his family couldn't be.
I do believe that things were resolved a little too quickly and easily at the end, but other than that it was a very good read.
Profile Image for Joshua Flores.
25 reviews9 followers
June 28, 2017
Pretty excited to get to post one of the first reviews for this wonderful book! Angelo has written something that is so impactful, heartbreaking and needed in our world (and on YA bookshelves). I cannot recommend this book more highly. It is so damn good.
Profile Image for Brooke.
276 reviews137 followers
March 20, 2018
A stunning debut!

Just to get out of the way: This is not your "happy queer" book. Trigger warnings include child abuse (emotional & physical), homophobia & I'm including my own TW for complacency. Evan's father is aware of what's going on, but sadly, in like many cases of abuse, does nothing to stop it, & IMO actually causes it to escalate.

THE DANGEROUS ART OF BLENDING IN was extremely difficult to read. I have a childhood background somewhat similar to Evan's & I've had my fair share of books dealing with these themes. It doesn't get any easier. But for some reason, this was sharper; the text more vibrant in my eyes. Over the years I've been able to distance myself enough to not get so easily affected by these types of novels (otherwise I wouldn't be reading them), but Evan's voice & perspective broke through that shell. The introspection & characterization of him in terms of his family life [specifically] makes for a powerful MC & one I'm sure many readers will find pieces of themselves in.

It's true that there's not much going on here except for Evan's home life with a subplot of a romance between him & his best friend, Henry. Here's where it gets tricky. Henry is a pure example of a manipulator & this is a pure example of a toxic friendship that turns into a bad romance. Henry takes advantage of Evan, claiming that he is the one who wants to "save him", gets jealous of others who take Evan's attention, demands to put Evan in uncomfortable situations even after his feelings are clear, while of course claiming he loves him. Evan blurs the lines between intimacy & attachment; he has never been loved by anyone before, so when Henry says it to him he naturally believes it. The dynamic between these two is absolutely not okay & I wish it was expounded on because it breaks my heart thinking how many young readers are going to read this book, see the interactions & conclude that this is the only way someone will want you (especially those in Evan's position). Henry is never called out on his behavior & I'll admit, he plays the role so well I probably would have fallen for him, too. (It's here that the advantages of being older than the target audience & still recovering from my own toxic friendships come into play.) I won't go so far to say that it's irresponsible to do this as it coincides with the narrative, but the fact that this is never challenged really rubbed me the wrong way.

Another thing that bothered me was Evan's mother is never corrected on her behavior either. She is given the easy way out & there is no solution. Thinking back to my child/tween years, I vividly recall tearing through my teacher's book bins, desperate to find a book with characters that were going through what I was. ("You have to tell a trusted adult", was all I would hear. But what about after? What about the whole process? Would my other family members be okay? Would I be okay? I wanted to be prepared & I wanted to hear firsthand from someone who actually went through -lived through- this shit.) Unfortunately I found no such book. Perhaps there are ones out there, but it wasn't available to me when I needed it the most. The agony of this makes me think long & hard about whether or not I'd recommend it. For most, it's not easy to just get out because 18 is still eons away. To have a novel this hard-hitting, I wish there would have been another option. I also think because the interactions with his mother are detailed & can be extremely upsetting, I'd be leery to give this to a teen who is currently going through this ordeal. It would be more effective in the aftermath period. On the other hand, I know there aren't enough books that will help these individuals, & it's quite possible this could be the catalyst to change someone's life, so my final advice would be to give with caution.

This book is emotionally draining; you can tell that it's raw & was painful to write. This is an #ownvoices novel & I want to commend the author for sharing his story. Although I had major problems with the items mentioned above, I am still giving this 4 stars because the prose is compelling & the internal thoughts of Evan's guilt & attempting to compartmentalize his life is worth the price of admission alone. I am excited to see what else Surmelis has in store.
*And if you do decide to give this a try, please stay safe. You are loved, no matter how much anyone tries to make you believe different.*
Profile Image for maria.
563 reviews354 followers
June 18, 2018

Actual rating: 4.5 Stars!


Man oh man. This was a hard one to read. It should be said that there are definitely trigger warnings for physical, emotional and verbal abuse found within this novel. The story was a beautiful one and it was an important story that needed to be told, but it was very difficult to get through.

Stay tuned for a review coming soon!
Profile Image for aileen | ✾.
324 reviews201 followers
February 8, 2020
How much damage can a single woman do? Domestic violence is not always committed by men alone, as this book clearly shows. It broke my heart to read how much a mother could despise and hate her own innocent child just because he's gay and not the perfectly religious son she so desperately wants.
Profile Image for Patty .
818 reviews370 followers
January 28, 2018
I have never felt bad about DNFing a book until now -_-

TW: All abuse - Emotional, Verbal, Physical, Mental. Bullying.

The Dangerous Art of Blending In was a book I was really looking forward to reading when HCC Frenzy brought it to my attention. Especially since it's an #ownvoice book. But I've been struggling with this book for weeks and I'm normally a quick reader. I feel so bad having to DNF this book because I feel like it's an important story. I won't be giving this a star rating as I haven't finished it and I don't know if I'll ever pick it back up. This book was really difficult for me to read, I normally don't have a problem reading books with tough topics but this one was just way to much for me. I also found myself not being able to stay motivated to continuing reading, the writing style wasn't bad but seemed jumbled at times. Yet, there were other moments that the writing style was just too real and I had to put the book down. I know I said that I wasn't sure if I'd pick this book back up but the more I write this mini review out the more I want to give this a second chance.

By no means is this book bad / horrible. It was just too much for me emotionally, especially since I know this is something so many people actually go through and it breaks my heart knowing that. I do recommend this book but please make sure you know what you're getting yourself into.

**Thank You HarperCollins CA / HCC Frenzy for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review**
Profile Image for Jay G.
1,230 reviews464 followers
January 15, 2018
Want to see more bookish things from me? Check out my Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfer...

*I was sent a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review*

TW: abuse of all kinds, homophobia

17 year old Evan is the son of very strict Greek immigrants. His father would rather stay quiet then cause conflict between Evan and his mother. He is feeling very lonely, the only solace Evan can find is going to an old abandoned monastery. During the summer, Evan is sent to bible camp and upon returns, realizes his best friend, Henry, has become increasingly more attractive and is showing signs that he may want to be more than friends.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. Knowing that the book was loosely based off of the author's life made it even more heartbreaking. It was painful to read about Evan's mother physically, mentally and verbally abusing him with no one helping him. Evan was a very sweet character, but I wasn't able to connect with him as much as I would have liked to. I felt that the book was so focused on the abuse aspect of the story, it was very hard to get to know Evan as a person. The only major problem with the book is that the romance aspect seemed to be portrayed as a cure for abuse, which I personally do not agree with. As this was an own-voice novel, I tried not to let this affect my overall opinion of the book.

Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 75 books2,515 followers
February 10, 2019
There are two aspects to this book - one is Evan's relationship with his abusive mother, his pathologically passive father, his church and school classmates and job. The other is his developing romance with Henry.

The first of those felt like a pretty real portrait of a teen who has faced both physical and emotional abuse since early childhood. His abuser - his mother - is, like so many, able to put on a happy family, perfect face to everyone outside their home. She's well liked, and considered a lovely person. The way that isolates and paralyzes Evan's ability to speak out about his home life, and the degree to which he has been gaslighted all his life, make his passivity understandable, if frustrating.

This is a real-life issue, where it's hard to understand why someone stays with abuse, until you see the obstacles are not just the practical but the longterm psychological as well. His occasional yearning for the illusion of family and love that he gets in the good moments, and his concerns for his father, mirror the way children of abuse still have deep emotional attachment to their abusers. He's 17 here, but no, he's not "old enough to just tell someone or walk away."

The romance feels a bit like a train wreck, though, and I'm not sure if that was intentional or not. Henry responds to and supports Evan, but also pushes him for more romance than he seems ready for, and doesn't seem to listen to him. His reactions to the realities of Evan's life are realistic for a certain type of teen boy, but are not the ones that seem the most helpful to finding Evan both the strength and safety that he needs.

Henry wants to be Evan's hero, rather than helping him assemble a support system. Granted, Evan demands secrecy, but Henry doesn't seem to make half as much effort toward rescuing Evan, or giving him what he needs, as he does to getting romantically/sexually closer to him. The risk of Evan going from abuse to a demanding romantic relationship aren't acknowledged, though the potential is there.

Evan's relationship with his best friend Jeremy is another demonstration of his passivity. Jeremy is a jerk, and oblivious to everyone else. Evan uses him for cover and distraction, but never can trust him with anything real. It highlights his isolation, and also the total lack of any support system he might reach out for.

Having said that, there's a lot of realism to how the teens interact as well. So if you can accept that Henry is a very flawed and sometimes self-centered plausible teen, and not everything Evan needs him to be, then the story reads as a believable account. There is progress and a positive ending, but all is not resolved. The author notes say the abuse and gay closet parts of this story are somewhat autobiographical, and there are moments that have a very realistic clarity.

Content warnings for physical and psychological abuse,
Profile Image for Janani(ஜனனி)⁷.
593 reviews229 followers
February 16, 2020
my heart reaches out to the author after reading the author's note at the end. can someone hug me. can someone hug the author. i'm not okay.

before getting on with the book i would like to mention the trigger warnings: abuse in all forms, bullying, suicidal thoughts, homophobia

1) being in a strict family isn't easy. sometimes it's sooooo toxic that you wanna get out of there to be healed. Evan's mother is such a filthy whore who does shitty things in the name of god/religion. i just want to hurt her for hurting her son sooo bad. both physically and verbally. i believe doing nothing is also another form of abuse. Evan's dad was trying sooo hard with his son. but you know what? IT ISN'T FUCKING ENOUGH. get the courage to do something about it, will you?

2) bullying. that shit never stops. does it? i don't even want to waste my breath on those filthy rude motherfuckers.

3) i just want to hug the poor kiddo. i want to protect him. i want to make him feel that there is a safe space other than his closeted room😭 come to me, mama will give you all the love you deserve. i've never been more prouder when he stood up for himself.


4) as i said in point 1. doing nothing is also another kind of abuse. that fucking pastor telling that his mother is doing it for his own good. fuck you mister. no god will ever tell to beat the shit out of someone.

5) having a single person who sees you for who you are and what you are. that is such a bliss. i'm so glad that there is someone for evan😭

PS: sorry for my language
Profile Image for Jamie.
977 reviews63 followers
September 11, 2017
I wanted this to be My Book. The one that I can't wait to get into the hands of kids who need to see something different and need to see themselves. This is that book. It's a tough one - it's HARD and there's no easy answer found at the end but it is true. Evan is like so many kids and yet he's singular. The trials he goes through are not simple and not everything gets solved. His story in a lot of ways begins at the end for him. Very very good.
Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 19 books2,393 followers
October 24, 2017
*wipes eyes*
*wipes nose*
*wipes whole face*

cw: child abuse, homophobia
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