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Young Adult Discussions > Fearless - Chris O'Guinn

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message 1: by Charles (last edited Jun 11, 2013 02:30PM) (new)

Charles (chuck-e) | 306 comments

At fifteen, Justin is already a cynic. He’s experienced too many betrayals, too many disappointments. He doesn’t want to be involved in anything. He doesn’t want to be popular. He doesn’t even want friends anymore, since they only ever let you down. He just wants to get through high school and the best way he can come up with to accomplish that goal is to simply be invisible.

His self-imposed exile from high school life is threatened when Liam, the scary stoner, reaches out to him. What starts out as a strange and unsettling encounter with the unnerving, pot-smoking teenager evolves into the sort of friendship that changes the course of a person’s life.

But as Liam drags the reluctant Justin out of his shell, Liam’s own secret is revealed.

Fearless is the story of the myriad shades of love, how to find one’s courage and the transformative power of friendship.

Someone once said there's nothing new, dramatically, under the sun since Aeschylus. That said, how many people remember Ovid's Pyramus and Thisbe from his Metamorphoses, or Luigi da Porot's Giulietta e Romeo? It took a Shakespeare to make Romeo and Juliet a love story for the ages (and one that's been copied and re-done until the cows not only came home, but eventually died of old age.)

So, also, is that perennial tale of friendship and love redeeming two totally disparate characters. How many After School Specials come to mind to anyone who has ever seen a few? The Odd Couple is a classic example or, in its way, Brian's Story. This is not to say that this sweetly-written story of two apparent losers helping the other toward manhood reaches quite those dramatic heights. Or maybe, within its YA parameters, it does just that, and succeeds totally.

Justin has, by fifteen, realized that the world is shit, and he's been dealt a really shit hand in the game of life. In response, he's boxed everyone he has to deal with, within his world, into roles of either the good, the bad, or the truly ugly. Then he runs across the stoner, and apparent gangsta wannabe, Liam. And his world is rocked; never to be the same, ever.

This is a romance in which the MCs love each other truly and deeply, but in which one is gay and the other straight. Where to go? What to do? The answer is through a total acceptance of one for the other, even as everyone from parents to schoolmates, tell them, in no uncertain terms, that they're heading for the rocks or worse.

I knew, practically from the second chapter, exactly what was going on, and where this story was headed, but I would have had to have been insane to either skim through the novel or, worse, written it off as a DNF. That would have been a truly major loss because, after all the meh-to-ugh reactions I've had to so many deeply-beloved stories in the YA genre, this one finally gives me hope that there really are good ones out there. Ones that don't have to involve earth-shattering storylines or trauma up-the-ass to succeed on an emotionally-lovely level.

This review is written from a totally emotional point of view. I'm sure there may be people out there who will see Fearless as just another cliché coming-of-age story; one which can be skipped in favor of those more histrionic, garment-rending stories that make up so many, particularly m/m, YA stories. If anyone feels that way, I can only say that you're missing one of the best-written, and most emotionally-touching, stories I've come across, in any genre. And I'm truly sorry if you don't give it a chance.

It may be that Chris' works speak, for some reason, particularly to me, and not as much to others. However, I simply cannot let this sweet story of friendship, and what it really means to begin to grow into a man, to pass by. If this were an Amy Lane story, and it easily could have been, for the quality is equivalent, I would probably call the MCs broken. But, like Mrs. Lane's stories, there's that extra something that makes you not just care what happens to the two men in the story, you want it to (please, God!) turn out with a HEA.

To find out just where you're taken in this particular story, you'll have to read it for yourself, or just settle for well-written novels without the sweetness and gut-wrenchng effect of this novel.

Unless you absolutely loathe, hate, and despise YA novels, I can't recommend this story too highly.

And, yes, it made me cry like a little girl.

message 2: by Octobercountry (new)

Octobercountry | 1169 comments Mod
Well, with a review like that, I'll HAVE to put this on my list!

message 3: by Ulysses (new)

Ulysses Dietz | 1541 comments I reviewed this privately for Chris - and loved it. Here, as my comment, are some snippets from that personal spoilers.

What a great title, for starters. Justin is the opposite – almost paralyzed by fear. His defensive attitude has virtually cut him off from every good possibility as well as protecting him. It’s also eliminated his ability to see himself as other than in negative terms. His mom isn’t warm (not unkind, but too tired and too resigned to realize this herself) and his father is both self-centered and absent. He has no one to point out to him what’s good about him (and even if your opinions as parents don’t count, your kids do need to hear you say nice things about them!). Justin thinks he’s got it all figured out – but he’s only dug himself into a hole with no way out and a guarantee of loneliness. Other than tall and thin, we don’t really ever get a sense of what Justin looks like – except, eventually, the sense that he must be attractive – through the eyes of people who care about him. I liked that detail, because it lets the reader plug himself in as Justin, to identify with this boy who has no sense of self-worth.

Then Liam pops in – the scary, skin-head looking boy who smokes weed and gives off all the signs of being parental “bad news.” I loved the little dance they do at first – Justin rejecting his overtures out of fear, then relenting when he sees the hurt he causes Liam. That little moment of trust – of risk, of setting aside fear for the possibility of something else. It was painful to feel Justin’s assumption that he could never have a friend, and then his happiness at the emergence of this friendship. It proves that both Justin and Liam are good guys in very few words. It also demonstrates Liam’s fearlessness and vulnerability, as well as suggests to Justin, for the first time, that his fears may be holding him back, preventing happiness.

The sadness you warned me about is surely all-pervasive. I could never forget the dark shadow hovering over the story, and think that’s a good thing. The reader is kept in a constant state of wondering if it is going to turn out badly or not. It keeps a thread of anxiety in your mind. Liam becomes Justin’s defense system, giving Justin the courage to take risks.
Liam really transformed Justin, and I’ve never quite read a YA book that did that in the way you do in “Fearless.”’

I loved your earlier “Exiled to Iowa,” but its tone, its protagonist, its intention are so different. That showed me a teenage boy who was the way I’d wished I’d been –sassy, smart, amusing (OK, I was a little that way); but “Fearless” really tapped into my primal teenage memories of insecurity, self-doubt, fear. I never had a Liam, but I did have a series of friends who helped me – we really helped each other – discover our own value as we worked our way through boarding school. And of course my friend Sam, both in prep school and as my college roommate, was the one who forced me to come out at 20, finally, because he could see I was going nuts. Then I turned around and helped him – slowly – realize that being gay wasn’t the end of his world either. SO much of “Fearless” resonated through my aging soul.

So, have I convinced you? This is as good as any YA book I’ve read. I am proud of you, and envious of you. Maybe someday I’ll write something this good.

message 4: by James (new)

James Snow (jamie14) | 11 comments "And, yes, it made me cry like a little girl. "

Early Saturday morning, I should have been cutting the grass or doing something around the house. No, I was reading Fearless and crying like a little girl.

After reading your review, anything I write would pale in comparison. But, I'll just say I was starting to get a little burnt-out by gay YA, and this book really renewed my interest. Beautiful story, beautifully written with great characters that I really grew to care about in the two days it took me to read it.

Dare I say that this book is....awesome! :-)

message 5: by Charles (new)

Charles (chuck-e) | 306 comments James wrote: ""And, yes, it made me cry like a little girl. "

Early Saturday morning, I should have been cutting the grass or doing something around the house. No, I was reading Fearless and crying like a litt..."

It's the author who's truly awesome........and you should read his erotica written under the nom de plume of D. River. Try starting with either Wild Horses or (my favorite) Hunting for Sport.

Chris' first YA novel: Exiled to Iowa. Send help. And Couture shows his YA paradigm being set into place (which comes to full fruition in Fearless.) Exiled, because I'm contrary, remains my favorite of Chris' YA far.

message 6: by Mercedes (new)

Mercedes | 373 comments I just bought this so I am excited to start reading it soon!

message 7: by Liz (new)

Liz Winters (lizwinters) | 54 comments I just bought it too, thanks to this discussion! It sounds great. I'm really looking forward to reading it.

message 8: by Charles (new)

Charles (chuck-e) | 306 comments COG,

My 10% comes off the top. ;-)

message 9: by Liz (new)

Liz Winters (lizwinters) | 54 comments Okay, I didn't just cry, I bawled in a most unladylike fashion. Perhaps I haven't read enough books in the YA genre, but this was a beautiful story that, to me, did not really feel at all predictable. In fact, I found it rather refreshing. Also, while some aspects to the story that felt a little too easy, they were not implausible and they did not detract from the sense of realism in the story. The characters felt very genuine and had wonderful voices, especially Justin, the narrator. I just loved his sense of humor and even enjoyed his occasional cluelessness. :)

As usual, I'm bad at explaining why I loved the book, so I'll just conclude by saying I really did love it. One of the best I've read this year. Thanks to Chris for writing and to Chuck for his review here, without which I would have never found it!

message 10: by PaperMoon (new)

PaperMoon | 664 comments Mod
OK - finally got round to reading this book. And I loved it. A great YA coming-of-age tale. Of particular interest of mine was to see how the author outworked his passion for character 'agency' - and yes, it comes through loud and clear (especially in relation to Justin).

Like Chuck, I could plot out most of the key storyline themes from early on in my reading, but the characters were so engaging and endearing that I whizzed through to the end in less than three hours. And what a ride it was, with strong emotional responses elicited by the final chapter (and even when I knew what the outcome would be!).

Thanks guys for the recs and reviews ... and thank you Chris, for a worthy addition to my list of YA titles for recommendation.

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