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PitchLGTitle: Pitch
Author: Will Parkinson
Publisher: Dreamspinner (Harmony Ink)
Length: 53,637 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary YA Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Debut Novel, High School, Unrequited Love, Closeted, Best Friends, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Coming Out, Coming of Age, Art/Artists, Sports, Baseball, Athletes, Abuse, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Evil Teenaged Girls!, Secrets & Lies
Rating: Not Feelin’ It

BLURB

The day Jackson Kern walks into Taylor Andrews’s classroom is a momentous day in Taylor’s life. He’s had crushes before, sure, but as time goes on, this is starting to look a whole lot more serious. Still, Jackson doesn’t return Taylor’s feelings.

Taylor has his own admirers, though. Kevin Richards is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants right now is Taylor, so when Taylor rejects him, Kevin retaliates. At first Taylor’s entourage rallies around him, but then Kevin takes his deception one step further and Taylor sees his support dwindle, teaching him the valuable lesson about who he can truly consider a friend.

REVIEW

I’m always eager to pick up a baseball book and even though I’ve been interested in several and still plan to review a few of them, it has been a while since I’ve picked up a book from DSP’s young adult imprint. From what I gather in the acknowledgements, this is Will Parkinson’s debut novel. Sometimes it’s a gamble picking books to read by a new author or an author I’ve never read, but that’s another part of reviewing that I like. Reviewing gives me the opportunity to read new authors and it feels like I get to enjoy more of the perks, like finding a surprise that’s worth it. Often, it’s different though and while I like some of those books I also don’t like some of them. I’m afraid to say that this book fell into the latter camp for me. While it wasn’t a total disappointment, I just didn’t connect with the book.

Taylor is a gay sophomore in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin high school. His best friend Benny is straight and the only person alive who knows his secret. They’re best friends and always have been and Benny is a rather special guy that is wise beyond his years, intelligent and loyal. Pitch opens on the day that a new student starts at Taylor’s school. Jackson walks into Taylor’s homeroom, looking nervous and totally sexy and Taylor immediately wants to draw him. What follows over the next year is an intense unrequited love that just doesn’t seem to go away, no matter how hard Taylor tries and Benny cautions. No matter how much Taylor is told that Jackson is disgusted by his little boy crush from Jackson’s cheerleader girlfriend, Taylor just can’t seem to stay away.

It isn’t until he and Benny gain some perspective on their problems during the next summer, camp counseling for abused kids, that Taylor starts to grow up. He still has feelings for Jackson, but he’s less likely now to follow him around like a lost puppy. So when a kid from a neighboring school asks him out during their Halloween dance, Taylor decides to take him up on it. He really starts to like Kevin, but he is prey unknowingly walking into Kevin’s trap. It takes some extremely tough decisions and way too much heartbreak and drama to realize that much of what he thought before wasn’t true, about most of the people he knew.

There are two aspects of this novella that I had a difficult time with. The first are the characters. This, especially, is subjective. Part of what oftentimes makes a young adult novel good are the bad choices of the characters. More often than not young adult stories have a moral and it can walk a fine line in the hands of the author between preachy and poignant. The style of this story went a bit over the top and that just wasn’t something that I was really looking for. For high school students, who I freely admit can be some of the cruelest humans on Earth, many of the actions of these characters went beyond immature and foolhardy. I would have appreciated the characters and their decisions (even the bad ones) more if their actions had been more subtle and less ascribed to their particular archetype. Kevin’s actions in particular required me to suspend disbelief a few times.

As I said before, those decisions and your own feelings about them are more subjective than usual. My other problem with this story was in the writing. I applaud this author for writing and writing and sharing their work. But like many new authors I think that there were some fundamental writing problems that this author needs to work on. Mostly it will just take continued writing, so even though this book wasn’t for me, I sincerely hope that this author keeps up with it. Part of the novice prose problems were dialogue and restraint. In a way, the second has quite a bit to do with the first. This book didn’t fall into too bad of a habit of telling rather than showing, but there is importance in letting the characters express themselves in their own ways instead of being a vehicle to express the author’s view. I’m not talking about preaching about issues or anything like that here. I simply mean the difference between the characters’ observations and personality and the author’s. Almost continually there were times while reading this that I stopped and thought that a character wouldn’t say or think that. The dialogue, in a similar way, oftentimes sounded familiar for all the characters and didn’t seem to represent the individual characters. Restraint is important because readers don’t need all the information. It’s a partnership, you know? The readers picks up on the clues the author leaves and pieces them together and in that way one small action tells you more about the character than a whole page of narration.

Ultimately, this book just wasn’t for me because of the more dramatic plot twists. I have seen a couple of 5-star reviews around so I’ll be interested to see if any other readers/reviewers feel the way I do, or if this turns out to be a reader favorite. I’ve been a part of the more unpopular opinion before!


Weight of Silence (Cost of Repairs #3) - AM ArthurTitle: Weight of Silence (Cost of Repairs #3)
Author: AM Arthur
Publisher: Samhain
Length: 51k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Mild & Sexy
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Series, Coming Out, YA Characters, Hurt/Comfort, Sisters, Family Drama, Abuse, Deadbeat Dad, College, HFN, Past Couples’ Cameos, Thanksgiving, Christmas
Rating: Pretty Good

Reviewed by Sadonna

BLURB

The wrong secret can poison everything–even if it’s kept with the best of intentions.

Gavin Perez knows he’s a living cliché. He works a dead-end job, shares a trailer with his waitress mom, has an abusive, absentee sperm donor, and he’s poor. So color him shocked when middle-class, white-bread Jace Ramsey agrees to hang out with him.

Granted, Gavin is trying to make up for dumping a bowl of cranberry sauce on Jace at Thanksgiving. And boy, is Gavin forgiven, over and over again…until Jace goes back to college for finals and stops returning Gavin’s calls.

Back home from the semester from hell, Jace doesn’t want to do anything but sleep through the holidays. It’s easier than coming out to his family—or facing Gavin’s hurt. But Gavin’s ready forgiveness draws them back together, and Jace won’t be able to stay in the closet much longer.

Nor will he be able to keep hiding his pain. He trusts Gavin with his body, maybe even with his heart. But can he trust that a devastating secret that’s eating him up inside won’t destroy everything—and everyone—he loves?

Product Warnings
This book contains one slightly hyperactive hero from the wrong side of town, a frustrated college student looking for a little life experience, and an unexpected romance amid dark secrets that just won’t stay buried. Also contains references to physical abuse some readers may find disturbing.

REVIEW

This is the third book in the Cost of Repairs series. While this story takes place in the same town as the first two novels, there isn’t a lot of crossover and it can be read as a standalone story. The couples from the previous two stories briefly appear in this book, but it’s not really necessary to have read them before this one.

Every year for Thanksgiving, Dixie, who owns the local diner, Dixie’s Cup, throws a large Thanksgiving potluck dinner that is attended by a lot of folks in town. All of her employees and a number of her friends as well as her nephew and his partner also are invited. This year Gavin and his mom (who works at Dixie’s) are also there along with the Ramseys. Keith Ramsey is one of the local police officers and he keeps an eye on Dixie’s and of course has been friends with her for years. Gavin and Jace have a small accident with some cranberry relish that results in them talking really for the first time. Gavin has been out since he was 14 and he’s pretty sure Jace is gay but he doesn’t seem to be out. Surprisingly though he agrees to go to a party with Gavin over the Thanksgiving weekend.

While Jace has some misgivings about the location of the party, he ends up having a decent time and then he and Gavin go out to the lake to park. He’s never really done anything with a guy before – beyond some awkward groping and kissing – and boy does he want to with Gavin. Gavin recognizes the deer in the headlights look about Jace though and he takes things slow. Jace is in his sophomore year at Temple [University] and Gavin is about 4 years older, so he lets Jace take the lead and set the pace.

Several weeks later Jace is home for Christmas break and he’s not at all acting like himself. He’s not eating, he’s moody, and he’s uncommunicative with his family and just generally stressed out. When his mom forces him to make an appearance at their annual Christmas party, he comes face to face with Gavin. He’s shocked that Gavin even speaks to him since he had ignored all communication from him since Thanksgiving break. Jace feels guilty and explains it away that he had finals and then he had to change his number because of harassing texts and calls. Gavin amazingly accepts these excuses and they start to hang out again. Jace is not happy to be home, he’s not happy at college and he’s pretty much avoiding his family. Regardless, Gavin is happy to be spending so much time with Jace. He and Jace hang out at Gavin’s trailer quite a bit since Gavin’s mom is working and Jace isn’t out to his family. Although Gavin recognizes that Jace is tense, he chalks it up to his worry about grades and his unhappiness and being forced to go to college when he doesn’t really want to be there.

As the break continues, Jace’s family and particularly his twin sister Rachel become more concerned about his behavior. He’s not eating and as a consequence has lost a noticeable amount of weight and seems to be getting weaker. When he does try to eat, he seems to get sick quite a lot. Things come to a head with his family and Gavin really helps out. There are things that no one knows that have happened at school and Jace feels guilty and betrayed and is dealing with an incredible amount of stress and self-loathing. While Jace meant well and made a decision out of the desire to protect someone he loves, he has suffered some pretty awful consequences. Without being spoilery, luckily for Jace, Gavin is a great guy and steps up when he needs to.

I am a fan of this author and really liked the previous two books in this series. For me, this story is not quite as strong as the first two in the series. I think that the ages of the guys and the things they were dealing with were not quite as compelling as the first two. This book is also not as long as the previous two installments. Or maybe it’s just that I’m old 😉 I really, really liked Gavin especially. His personality I thought really was conveyed especially well in this story. Jace grows a lot in this story and learns a great deal about himself, his family and what he wants out of life. I enjoyed seeing Rey and Samuel from the first book in a small supporting role and also Dixie and company from the diner. This is a well-written series and I would happen to revisit Stratton, PA in the future should the opportunity arise.