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When Love Comes to Town

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  440 ratings  ·  89 reviews
Meet Neil Byrne - try-scorer on the rugby field, prizewinning student, one of the in-crowd at the disco, regular guy, gay. Presenting one face to the world and burying his true feelings in fantasy, Neil tries to keep his secret.
Paperback, 175 pages
Published November 1st 1993 by O'Brien Press
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3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  440 ratings  ·  89 reviews

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Nov 01, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mmr, arc
When I saw the cover of this on Net Galley, I was all ooh two boys in flannel, this looks to be interesting. Then I saw it was set in the 90’s, in Ireland (yummy accents), and a coming of age story. I was sold, so I signed up for it.
You see, I miss 90’s fashion terribly, I think it’s the only time I really was in style. I mean how hard is it to toss on a flannel shirt, ripped jean, and doc martins or combat boots? Yeah, I was suddenly in style in a High School filled with J Crew and Gap girls.
Shirley Frances
This is Neil Byrne's story. A young Irish man who has known he was gay since he was ten years old, he has been keeping his sexual orientation from his friends and family. He acts like the happy-go-lucky guy everyone has come to know when in reality his heart is breaking and his loneliness is eating him up inside.

I truly loved this story. Since the story took place in 1990 I could relate to the music references and the fashion, but it was Neil's sense of helplessness and his tortured soul that re
Lottie Eve
3.5 stars
This is my first Glbt novel so take my opinion with a grain of salt. I didn’t know what to expect from it but I do know that I enjoyed reading it. When Love Comes To Town has depth, meaning, and I found it to be very thought provoking.

When Love Comes To Town is a story about a boy named Neil coming to terms with his sexuality. Neil has known he was gay since he was ten. He has been playing the role of the class clown ever since then. He keeps to himself and has been distancing himself f
Feb 19, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireland, young-adult, lgbt
A free copy of this ebook was provided for me via Netgalley.

My rating for this book is 3.5 out of 5 stars.

This is a Young Adult GLBT romance novel that takes place in Ireland in the 1990's. [Before I start my review, I just want to quickly say how great it is that this book is getting released in the US for the FIRST time even though it was originally published in 1993. We need more diverse YA. It's fine and dandy to read a book about a pretty, white, American heroine, but not ALL the time. It
Oct 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mm, read-2012
Find my full review here

I am neither male, nor gay, but I think this story is powerful enough that transcends the specific subject matter. It is a coming of age / coming out story of one Irish bloke the summer between 6th year and Uni. I won't say it is a story of acceptance because that is not what he receives, necessarily. But it is his journey, no-the-less. He is an average joe with a painful secret that he has kept for many years. He wars with himself for lying and for hiding, but he doesn't
Tyler Martin
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Lennon's "When Love Comes to Town" is creative not as much for its plot and characters as it is the overall subject of the novel. The LGBT community has grown immensely over the past decade, and Lennon's novel touches on many of those extremely time relevant themes. Anyone interested in the life of someone with a non-heterosexual identity would most likely find Neil, the 'closeted' homosexual main character's story quite fascinating. Lennon's character development is also an aspect that adds to ...more
☆ Todd
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Neil was very easy to relate to and root for. You really felt for what he was going through.

Young, naive and a little bit stupid, but hopeful -- until there wasn't a whole lot of hope left. But then there was, which finally made the story for me.

This wasn't the most action-packed book ever, but I'd recommend it for sure, if for no other reason than Neil's little internal chats with Jesus Christ himself. : )
Sean Kennedy
Aug 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Good book, but it suffers from the nineties' mindset of a bit of a doom and gloom ending.
This book is like a slow moving tornado, that kills you over time instead of all at once.

The picture on the book jacket, as well as the book title, are misleading. It had me expecting a happy story of two guys falling in love, but that is not the story the book tells.

It is the story of a boy and his coming out. It has the reactions of the people in his town, and his family to his homosexuality, as well as his inner thoughts.

It's like real life in that things don't happen in quick, ordered plot p
Jennifer Madero (Boricuan Bookworms)
You can find more of my reviews on my co-owned blog Boricuan Bookworms

ARC provided by Publisher via Netgalley

Neil Byrne is a star player of his rugby team at school, easy-going and a clown at times, he’s your regular high school guy. But that’s what you see in the outside, because there is more to him than what the eye shows. He likes guy since he was a ten-year-old. But in 1990’s Ireland a lot of people consider it a disease and rather take the news like someone is going to die instead of wh
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: glbt, young-adult
4 1/2 stars - very quick read, I couldn't put down this story of Neil's life and how he comes to terms with his sexuality. It was nice to see book set in Ireland during the 1990's as this provides a different point of view.

This is a book I wish I had when I was younger as I felt I could relate to Neil and many of his feelings and struggles. At the heart of this novel is loneliness, and the hope for acceptance, as well as trying to determine how friends and family will handle learning the truth
Nicolas Chinardet
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This coming-out story focuses on the sense of alienation experienced by gay kids growing up and coming of age in an heteronormative society. It also denounces the hypocrisy of a majority that demands candour but it not ready to accept it when it gets it. It is short but it packs quite the punch, yet Lennon also infuses it with tenderness for his characters.

It is a rich and rounded emotional rollercoaster filled with laughter and tears. It's well written. My only really issue is the way the relat
Nora Jordan
Dec 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
As I've read a lot of current LGBTQ+ fiction, I was truly interested in reading something that is contemporary to when I was in high school. Thinking back to how we flippantly used the word gay, I can't imagine how difficult it would have been for those closeted students in my school, and for sure there were some. From reading this wonderfully truthful and at times very upsetting story, I can't help but feel deeply for Neil and hope that later in life he is able to find the love and acceptance t ...more
MarBear :D
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
The cover is what caught my attention. I was like "OMG TWO GUYS HOLDING HANDS I HAVE TO READ THIS. This provided a great insight to what life would be like for me, being LGBTQ+, in 1992. It physically hurt (and still does hurt) me that some people absolutely hated him just because Neil liked guys. However, it gave me some hope that some of his friends, like Becky, accepted him. When I picked this up, I was expecting a romance story between two guys, but instead got a lot of inner thinking on Nei ...more
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: young-adult, glbt
It's an older book about a gay teen who loves Sinead O'Connor, coming out to people he trusts and loves. It does not end on an especially upbeat note, which I found discouraging. The preface was helpful in putting into perspective the culture and times when the book was originally written, and maybe has redeeming value as a glbt period piece.
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
i liked it.

the beginning was a little slow for my liking but it finished good. it was a good mix of non- and historical fiction which is both upsetting and good because of the way gays were treated and it teaches.

until next time ...
Rachelia (Bookish Comforts)
I read When Love Comes to Town by Tom Lennon at the same time I was read another book about LGBTQ youth from a male perspective: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (for the read-a-long I’m co-hosting) which led to some interesting comparisons. When Love Comes to Town is set in Ireland during the year 1990 (the year I was born!) and as the new forward points out, it is a different time than the one we live in now. There was no “It Gets Better” campaign, homophobia was eve ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Originally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.

I happened to find When Love Comes to Town by chance when browsing NetGalley. I wasn't looking for books to read for LGBTQ YA Month, but when I saw this listed, I had a look. Not only did it sound awesome, but it's also set in Ireland, which I just love. I was really eager to give it a go. Not only is When Love Comes to Town an awesome book, but more difficult to read than I expected.

Neil is an ordinary teenager; brilliant at rugby, brilliant in his clas
Oct 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
A hot mess in my eyes
With a new introduction by James Klise

First US Edition!
25th Anniversary

Meet Neil Byrne - try-scorer on the rugby field, prizewinning student, one of the in-crowd at the disco, regular guy, gay. Presenting one face to the world and burying his true feelings in fantasy, Neil manages to keep his secret. But when fantasy isn't enough and he becomes caught up in the bizarre subculture of Dublin's gay nightlife, the pretense must end. It is the time for truth. The consequences are both hilarious and p
Sara O'Connor
Originally posted on

THE LOWDOWN: I have to admit this was my first go at a gay love story and I wanted to love it. And I did...for a bit, but eventually the story became trite and bogged down with too many commentaries about how tough the kid (high school closeted male) had it. I understood wholly his plight by the fourth chapter, so after a while, I wanted the story (was there one really?) to move forward. It was supposed to be romance after all...or maybe not, the
Sep 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
They always told him to tell the truth, but now it was clear to him that they didn't want to hear the truth.

This the last line from Tom Lennon's When Love Comes to Town and it sums up the story quite well. The whole time that Neil is suffering, it's becasue he just want to be honest about who he is, but the people who are suppose to except him the most, don't. I think it shows great character development on Neil's part when he can finally be honest with the people around him, and most important
I received an ARC of the reissue of this book from

This was originally published in Ireland in 1993. I like reading about Ireland, and I am trying to read more Irish fiction. I also like reading stories with LGBT characters, and so I thought, Hey! This is perfect!.

Let me reiterate that it was written in 1993.

At the time this was written, I'm sure it was groundbreaking. A teenaged boy must confront his homosexuality, as well as the society he lives in. He struggles, and while the bo
Jan 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog

With a title like this When Love Comes to Town, I was really hoping for a love story. Instead, I received a deep analysis in the very troubled psyche of Neil, a young man who seemed to totally accept himself one minute and be ready to throw in the towel the next.

Who could blame him? He was living in a very close-minded circle of treasured friends and even family who would not accept homosexuals. Neil couldn’t stand the pressure of keeping secrets
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is the twentieth-anniversary edition of WHEN LOVE COMES TO TOWN, first published in Ireland in 1993. It's dated in some ways, particularly in protagonist Neil Byrne's love of Sinead O'Connor. But it's a book and a story that still has a lot to offer.

Neil knows that he's gay. He's afraid of what that means for his future, but he's starting to explore what it means for himself. He tells his best friend, he tells his sister, and he starts to secretly visit a local gay bar. His actions lead to
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is the 20th anniversary edition of When Love Comes To Town. At first I didn’t realize it was a re-issue. But I’m glad for it as I got the chance to experience a time and place as it was back then, not from memory but as it was happening.

The foreword by James Klise provides a stark reminder that this book arrived on the scene before the act of famous people coming out of the closet was common place. That provided an interesting perspective as I read through one of the best and sweetest books
Nov 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Neil Byrne is just about to take his exams and go off to university in the Fall. He has plenty of great friends, has won the prize for English and seems to be just a regular teenage boy. But he's been keeping a secret from his ultra-conservative, Catholic friends and family - Neil is gay. Now with the future looming in front of him uncertainly, Neil spends most of the summer trying to figure out who he is and what it means to accept himself as he is, with no more lies. Can Neil tell his family a ...more
Pamela (slytherpuff)
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of David Levithan and John Green
Recommended to Pamela (slytherpuff) by: Netgalley
See more of my reviews at Bettering Me Up.

I recently re-read my one-star review of a previous coming-out novel. In it, I mentioned that maybe I just didn't "get it" because I am neither gay nor guy. That is clearly not the case here; it's exactly the kind of book I had hoped to read last time.

Though this book was first published twenty years ago--and the stigma surrounding homosexuality has lessened since then--I never felt like I was reading an "old" story. Yeah, it's easier to meet people on-l
Vanessa Gao
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, netgalley, ya
originally from my blog:

3.75 stars


I've never read a gay/lesbian romance before, so honestly, I didn't know what to expect coming into this. Even with no standards, When Love Comes To Town still manages to sweep me off my feet. I am a perfectly straight person, however, Neil's story of his struggles as a gay pe
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