Thank you so much Cole for having me on the Armchair Reader! Today I am going to be talking about my new short novella Your Happy End.
So I’ve been trying to keep the subjects I talk about on this blog tour fairly light. This is a serious subject thought that does have a large baring on the book I am promoting, Your Happy End, and so I want to take it seriously.
Bullying is a huge problem that affects people in many different walks of life and for many different reasons. Bullying of LGBTQA people, especially in school setting has become one of the most high profile issues facing the queer community in the United States. It is an issue because a large number of LBGTQA children will be bullied in school often to an extreme level.
“Bullying” is a term we give to what I see as a combination of different kinds of abuse and harassment. Bullying combines elements of harassment, physical abuse or assault, emotional or physiological abuse, and sexual abuse or assault. It can happen anywhere, in work places, at home but it seems to be most troubling to the general public when it happens in schools between minors. Bullying in schools is common and always has been, getting beat up by bullies is such a common image American media with regards to the experience of childhood and school that most of us take it for granted. We don’t think about it as abuse and assault, although that is what it is. Unfortunately bullying can lead to real, serious trauma for the victims. Suicide attempts are not uncommon for people who have been victimized in this way over long periods of time and in some cases these attempts do end in death.
As we become more aware of the cost of bullying on the lives and well-being of its victims we have begun to shine more a spotlight on the problem with, I think, mixed results. Here I want to concentrate primarily on childhood bullying of minors by minors and specifically the bullying of LGBTQA youth.
In Your Happy End one of the main characters, Cooper’s, academic career was fought with almost constant bullying. During his high school years, he was harassed, intimated, threatened and assaulted for having a Southern accent in a private Northern prep school, for being a computer geek, for being slightly overweight and non-athletic, and for being gay. Cooper was also threatened and coerced into having a non-consensual sexual relationship with one of his victimizers – he was sexually assaulted.
Cooper has spent most of his twenties in therapy receiving the professional help he needs to move past the abuse. Even though he is at a point in his life when he is ready to have a healthy, committed relationship with someone, his experience still deeply affects the way he thinks. Throughout the book Cooper’s past impacts his understanding of his self-worth and of himself as a sexual being. Even though what Cooper experienced is not the only thing which defines him or even the most important part of him it still has a major affect on who he is.
I wish I could say Cooper’s experience is completely fictional but it isn’t. What Cooper experienced, the kinds of abuse he was subjected to by his classmates are slightly fictionalized accounts of things which have happened or where said to really LGBTQA people that I know. The way he views himself, the issues he still carries from the abuse, and the way it affects his and Jun’s relationship is also based on real life experience.
One of the things I wanted to be careful of when writing about Cooper’s experience was to take what he went through seriously and not try to excuse those who victimized and sexually assaulted him because of their age. Cooper’s frustration with the fact that there are so very little consequences for those who perpetuate this form of abuse, I think is everyone’s frustration, or should be.
Despite the growing media attention bullying is too often not considered “real harassment”, “real assault” or “real abuse.” Too often people dismiss bullying, especially among minors, as ‘boys being boys’ or a ‘mean girl’ syndrome even as it causes other children to drink bleach, or hang themselves.
Too often as well the perpetrators of childhood bullying when they get older are portrayed as ‘really nice people’ who just made unfortunate mistakes when they were younger, or got swept up in the moment. A long running trope both in the romance genre and in popular culture in generally is in fact for the victim of childhood bullying to fall for one of the perpetuators of it when they have both grown up. The message of course being that bullying is not a serious crime as much as a youthful mistake, easily forgiven by the victim and with no real baring on how the perpetuator will turn out later in life.
Related to this is the belief that when it comes to the bullying of LGBTQ people, the perpetuators of the abuse is often, if not always, queer themselves. This again is a common trope in the way the issue of bullying is dealt with both in fiction and in the media. The underlying message of this belief is that heteronormative society is not to blame for the abused and the death that abuse too often causes, since the bullying is essentially gay on gay violence.
The truth is bullying boils down to people feeling safe, justified and even empowered to victimize those they deem different from the group, the outsiders, the Others. Bullying happens because we live in a world what teaches us it is okay to abuse those not like ourselves. Specifically bullying of LGBTQA people happens because we still live in a world where being LGBTQA automatically makes you an outsider and thus deserving of abuse, harassment and assault. Bullying of LGBTQA youth is not the beginning and end of the problem, it does not exist in a vacuum. It is a symptom of a society in which there is only one right way to be when it comes to sexuality and gender that this is cisgender and straight.
Unfortunately Cooper bares the brunt of living in such a society, fortunately for him he doesn’t have to do it alone.
Read more about his and Jun’s story in Your Happy End.
By day Jun is co-owner of a comic book shop. By night, he provides the high tech gear used by superhero team Ghost Hawk and The Spider. Cooper is the computer genius and information specialist behind the vigilante known as The Shadow Avenger.
Attraction and a love of graphic novels make for a good start, but if they want to last Jun and Cooper will have to overcome secrets, danger, Cooper’s past and Jun’s firm belief that people in the superhero business don’t get happy endings.
Give-Away: if you are interested in participating in a give-away to win a copy of Your Happy End, visit my blog http://thisjourneywithoutamap.blogspot.com/2013/08/give-away-you-happy-end.html and leave a comment! The give-away closes on August 17th.
Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: JMS Books
Length: 76,977 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal YA Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Homophobia, Coming of Age, Self-Discovery Focus, Single Moms, Awesome Moms!, Bullying, HEA, Alternate Reality/Otherworlds, Ghosts/Spirits, Ghouls, Zombies, Vampires, First Times (Kisses Only), Magic, Mystery, Magical Realism, Nerds/Geeks
Rating: Pretty Good
All fifteen-year-old Noah Hipwell wants is to go through high school in peace. Yet he finds himself suspended after a bully pushes him too far, and Noah’s forced to defend himself. His mother, fed up with the school’s indifference to his plight, pulls him out completely and leaves Noah uncertain of his future while they look for a good and safe school for him.
All Dorothy “Dot” Hipwell wants is to go through single motherhood in peace. Yet she and her son are harassed by weekly phone calls from her evangelical family hell-bent on guilt-tripping them both back into the fold. Then Noah’s grandparents ask strange questions about their old van after dropping cryptic references to a group called The Soul Warriors. Fed up, Dot takes Noah away for a much-needed getaway, only to find themselves suddenly transported to an alternate world, where a town called Helleville awaits them and all other condemned souls.
Along with warm-blooded, living human beings, the Hipwells rub shoulders with zombies, vampires, house ghosts, and occasional “green vomit piles” while picking up the pieces and sorting out what could very well be an eternity in a bizarre, fanciful, and humorous world of ghouls and banned books.
When residents suddenly disappear one by one with no trace and for no logical reason, however, doubts being “housed” in an alternate world for their sins are raised, and time suddenly becomes of the essence as Noah and the rest of Helleville’s condemned race to find answers to what’s quickly turning into a dangerous puzzle.
It’s been a while since I read a Hayden Thorne novel and now I remember exactly why I always want to read them! She has a particular quirky brain that makes her books unique in a way that always pulls me in. This wasn’t my favorite of her books, but it might be hard to top the Masks books anyway. Still, by the end of this book, I liked it and I really liked Noah.
Noah is fifteen and out of school. After a bad situation at his last public school, where some kids bullied him and he fought back, getting suspended, his super awesome single mom Dot went ape-shit on the administration for their blatant disregard of the bullying in their school and pulled Noah out. Since then, he’s been staying at home while his mother works two jobs and looks for a new, more inclusive school. Noah and his mom are pretty close, they’re their only family and they stick together. Well, Noah does have grandparents (Dot’s parents), but they really aren’t considered family — more like righteous stalkers. The calendar by the phone with bloody X’s mark the days that they call to harass them about their wicked ways (which include that Noah is gay and that Dot had him out of wedlock). It isn’t until his grandmother threatens to set The Soul Warriors on them that they get a little more worried.
When Noah and his mother decide to take a weekend road trip to a B&B to get away from all the phone calls, they find themselves transported to a strange alternate world that seems to be a ridiculous mockery of Hell — a town called Helleville filled with residents with similar experiences as them, full of banned books like Harry Potter and science textbooks that teach evolution, and weird and strange creatures like ghosts, vampires, zombies and ghouls. The strange thing is that though no one there can really figure out where they are and why they’re there (other than the fact that The Soul Warriors are behind everything), it isn’t the classic representation of hell that you’d expect. They’re well cared for with all the food they want for no money, the kids don’t have to take school (although they can sit in a class with Satan as a teacher if they want), and they’re surrounded by pristine nature with no need for jobs. The people there have formed a community of sorts with a mayor and everything, but they all have time to relax and enjoy the things that they didn’t have time for in life. Dot decides to take up crocheting.
They are, however, haunted by one serious problem. Every so often someone disappears. Soon after Noah and his mother arrive in Helleville, the fourth resident goes missing and no one can ever find them, no matter how many times they organize search parties and a night watch to try to catch anything abnormal. It isn’t until Noah makes a friend named John who loves to take pictures that they start to piece together the strange occurrences and what could be behind it all. But before Noah can get too attached to his new hobby of playing Sherlock Holmes he meets Alex, a boy his own age who seems to like him. Alex invites him to hang out with a few of the other teenagers in Helleville and finds that he’s not the only one with a crush on the nerdy teen. Matt, a cool seventeen, muscular and gorgeous, highly intelligent and the most popular kid involved in the community has a thing for Alex and he doesn’t intend for Noah, who he looks at like a bug under his shoe, to get in his way.
Before all of you m/m romance readers out there get excited, the romance in this story is kept on the back burner. Instead, this story is really Noah’s coming of age tale and his road to self-discovery. Helleville and the alternate reality they’ve been sent to acts as a catalyst to force Noah to grow. Before he was sent there, a lot of his own exploration of himself as a teenager had been stunted because of the bullying he experienced at school. He calls himself an introvert, but he’s really afraid to get back out into the world and try again, making friends and even meeting a guy he likes and taking a change. He has a lot of latent social anxiety and Helleville acts as a skewed kind of microcosm of the real world to get him to open up again. In Helleville, Noah can be someone new. He can meet and go on dates with a boy like Alex, he learns that he can have friends. And most importantly he learns that people can rely on him, that he has worth. Alex acts as part of that self-discovery, of course, and their relationship also is a somewhat significant part of the story, but it never progresses very far on page.
The pace and plot mimic Noah’s journey in a way. The POV is strictly Noah’s, so the first half of the book is quite sedate. I even read one reader’s review on Goodreads before I started reading that said that this book was boring. I wouldn’t say that, I quite enjoyed it. But there were a few times in the first half of the book that I set it down, read some other things and then picked it up later. I think that as long as you don’t go into this book expecting it to focus on Noah’s romantic life and that the story will be more about action than reflection, you’ll enjoy it. Also, if you haven’t read much of Hayden Thorne’s work by now you might not realize that most of her work is cerebral. This book is a reflection of Noah’s life, in almost an allegorical way. If you’d rather just read for fun and not want to focus on the meaning of it all, then you might find this story a bit slow … in the first half anyway, the second half was much more exciting.
So I definitely recommend this one. I really like Hayden’s work and I’ll always pick up her books when a new one is out. She always has a really great point of view coming from gay teenagers that it’s so easy to connect with. That, and sometimes this book just makes you go — What the FUCK?
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 76-100k, Authors S-U, Contemporary, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, YA Tags: Alternate Worlds, Awesome Moms!, Bullies/Bullying, Coming of Age, First Times, Ghosts/Spirits, Ghouls, Hayden Thorne, HEA, Homophobia, JMS Books, Magic, magical realism, Mystery, Nerds/Geeks, Otherworlds, Self-Discovery Focus, Single Moms, Vampire, Zombies!
Title: Cold Hands (College Fun & Gays #6)
Author: Erica Pike
Publisher: Self Published (Ice Cave)
Length: 13,900 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Sequel, Series, Short Story, Enemies to Lovers, Ex-Bullies/Bullying, College, Past Abuse, Hurt/Comfort, Second Chances, Grovel you Bastard!, Public Sex, Carnivals
Rating: Really Liked It
“Hot-Hands” and Casper have been dating for a month, but their relationship is about as smooth as shattered glass. It doesn’t help that Hot-Hands is racked with guilt over his high school bullying of Casper, or that Casper darts away whenever his boyfriend gets a little too frisky.
Desperate to hang onto Casper, Hot-Hands tries to earn back the trust he destroyed years ago, so they can face their disastrous past and have a chance at a happy future.
Note: Cold Hands focuses on high school bullying for being gay. This is the sequel to Hot Hands and contains big spoilers if read first. Hot Hands is free of charge here.
Hot Hands was by far my favorite story in Erica Pike’s College Fun and Gay series, so you can imagine my excitement when she said that she was writing a sequel. Cold Hands is almost as much of an antithesis to that first story as it’s title. Hot Hands introduces us to Casper — a college student who was brutally bullied, more like abused, in high school for being gay — and his ex-bully and middle school crush Jaime. Casper shows up to college and is surprised and devastated to learn that one of the ring leaders of the guys who tormented him is not only there but also in some of his classes. He does everything he can to avoid Jaime, but doesn’t know that a lot of Jaime’s bullying stemmed from his own awakening homosexual feelings towards Cass. His physical and emotional abuse for most of his teen years have really impacted him. He’s shy and doesn’t understand why he’s still attracted to one of the men who abused him, which also messes with his head. His attachments soon turn to another man, however, a man he starts to call “Hot-Hands” because of the way the man’s hands draw him out and make him feel sexy and interesting whenever he’s accosted by this same hard-breathing man in the dark. It’s a serious case of having a secret admirer, but Casper has his suspicions and soon finds them proven wrong. All that time, Casper had inadvertently been giving himself up to the man who caused him so much pain and now he’s more confused than ever.
Cold Hands resumes this story from Jaime’s point of view, which is a serious change in how we understand the story. Cass is a thinker who constantly analyzes his feelings and thoughts, but because of their unique relationship he knows very little about what Jaime really thinks and Jaime’s motives. The change in point of view starts this sequel off on a different foot. We immediately see that Jaime has real regret about the way he treated Cass in the past and that his feelings now are genuine, and also that he’s a different man now. He understands himself and has grow up in the two years they spend apart. Now, he’s out of the closet and over the shame that he grew up with from a conservative family and town. Still, Cass doesn’t know that. He’s still confused about Jaime’s motives and his own. How can he trust himself and his feelings if he’s seriously considering having a relationship with his abuser?
The real difference between the first story and the second isn’t the point of view, but in the focus of their relationship. If you look at these stories together as one, then this story is the payoff. The first was the setup, the background and the premise — the meetings in the dark with Casper’s “secret admirer” and the subsequent reveal of his real identity — but, Cold Hands is the meat and bones of their relationship. This story carries on to peel back the layers and find out if these guys have a solid base to build any relationship upon and how they go about doing that. The change in point of view facilitates that because by nature of their relationship as abuser/victim, Jaime automatically sees the bigger picture than Cass. Casper is still mired in confusion about his feelings and dealing with understanding Jaime and his actions and in evidence of how that abuse affected him, he’s battling his own self-esteem.
I’m so glad that Erica decided to continue their story because I think that it is only in retrospect that this story feels as if it completed the first. Cold Hands makes the whole story better by giving us a chance to see them work through the consequences of their actions in the first story, and that in turn gives them the HEA they deserve. This also shows in the sex in both stories. So much of the first story takes place while Casper thinks “Hot-Hands” is someone else entirely that a lot of those scenes were exploratory, sexy and hot in a situational way, playing on the mysterious suitor with a dirty and exhibitionist twist. I read that story as a really good piece of erotica with an engaging plot. This story moves their physical relationship into a place of intimacy, so much so that it’s often too difficult for Casper to really handle.
I definitely recommend these stories to all of you, though you absolutely have to read Hot Hands first. Well done Erica and thank you for writing this story so I could spend more time with Cass and Jaime!
Posted by Cole in 5 Really Like It, Authors P-R, Contemporary, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex, up to 15k Tags: Bullies/Bullying, Carnival, College, Enemies to Lovers, Erica Pike, Ex-Bullies, Grovel you Bastard!, Hurt/Comfort, Past Abuse, Public Sex, Second Chances, Self Published, Sequel, Series, Short Story
Title: Wouldn’t It Be Good
Author: Logan Zachary
Publisher: MLR Press
Length: 6,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: MLR Mixtapes, Short Story, Bullies, Closeted, College, Coming Out (ish), Emotionally Damaged, HEA, Jocks/Nerds, Physical Injury/Trauma, Sports, Yearning
Rating: So So
Reviewed by Nikyta
Wouldn’t it be good to have music bridge the gap between two men?
Jason is the football god on campus, and Jeff is not. After an incident in gym class, Jeff leaves school embarrassed and bruised. Jason tries to help, but all he can do is leave a tape of mixed songs for Jeff hoping to help him feel better. Music can calm the savage beast, but can it bridge the gap between Mr. Perfect and Mr. Wrong? One song speaks volumes to Jeff, and his defenses begin to crumble as the men become closer and closer. Wouldn’t it be good to have a friend?
The first thing I need to say is that the blurb needs major editing. For those reading this book, please be aware that the main character’s name is Scott and not Jeff. In fact, Jeff is the bully who causes the ‘incident’ while Scott leaves school embarrassed and bruised. Between the time of writing this review and now, MLR has since updated their site to include the correct main character, Scott, in the blurb.
With that said, I don’t think I need to reiterate the blurb because it does a good enough job of describing the story. It’s a cute, easy read that goes by far too quickly. Scott is just about done with being bullied. He’s had a rough life and things are just getting worse for him. He’s a loner, though, and doesn’t fit in with others. Jason is the complete opposite: popular, well liked and good at sports. Jason’s sweet and charming and concerned about Scott when he gets hurt by Jeff. I felt really bad for Scott and I just wanted to give him a hug. I loved that these two connected over a mixed tape that Jason leaves for Scott. These two were adorable and I loved that Jason was so nice while Scott was so charmed by him.
This story started off really good. I was enjoying it and really liking the direction it was going in because it was heartbreaking but sweet. Unfortunately, pretty soon it started to focus on the purely physical part of their relationship and my enjoyment dimmed. I just couldn’t connect with them from there because I didn’t feel like they knew each other at all, even with going to the same school together for years. Then there’s the conflict, which felt incomplete and very rushed. It had me questioning why someone like Jeff would just walk away from tormenting Scott just because Jason claimed him as his boyfriend when Jeff never backed off from Jason’s protests in the past. It felt inconsistent with the rest of the story. More than that, their dialogue felt stunted and awkward.
Overall, it’s not a bad story. It could have been fleshed out further, characters could have been better developed and the conflict could have been tied up better but I still enjoyed the story. I would have liked to see Jason and Scott get to know each other deeper but as it is, this was a cute, quick story with a lot of potential.
Posted by Nikyta in 3 So So, Authors V-Z, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex, up to 15k Tags: Bullies/Bullying, Closeted, College, Coming Out, Emotionally/Physically Damaged, HEA, Jocks/Nerds, Logan Zachary, MLR Mixtapes, MLR Press, Physical Injury/Trauma, Short Story, Sports, Yearning
Title: Welcome, Brother (College Fun and Gays #5)
Author: Erica Pike
Publisher: No Boundaries Press
Length: 15,600 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Short Story, College, Bullying, Frats, Best Friends
Rating: So So
When arts student Kyler Morris applies for membership to The Nova Britannia Brotherhood, he’s immediately floored by their intimidating leader, Hunter Kingsley. Fellow arts student Hunter, however, isn’t the bad-ass he’s made out to be and takes Kyler under his wing.
While Kyler struggles to keep his crush under control and his sexuality hidden from the Brothers, Hunter battles daemons of his own in the form of two Brothers who aren’t playing by the rules.
The first thing you need to know about this story is just how different it is from the other stories in the series. They’ve all been heavy on sex and kink but with enough plot not to be fluff. Welcome, Brother has hardly any sex at all and deals with some heavier issues than the others, namely bullying.
I read this story right when it came out a few weeks ago and I have to admit that I didn’t write a review for it right away because I wasn’t quite sure what to say. Not only was it not what i was expecting, I couldn’t quite decide how much I liked it. On the one hand, some of the writing is beautiful and heartfelt. On the other hand, I wasn’t quite sure that I’d call this a romance. Maybe an unconventional one, at best. While there is definitely a love story, the story is more about Kyler and his journey to it than about the relationship itself, which develops later in the story. But, it depends up on you as a reader whether that’s something you like or don’t. I think that I would have liked this a little better if I felt there was more interaction between Kyler and Hunter. Still, I’m not quite sure. It happens pretty rarely 😉 but this is just one of those stories that I finished and had no idea how I felt about it, and really, that I felt had a strange tone. I haven’t read any of the other reviews, but I’d be interested to see how this is received. It’s definitely not my favorite of the College Fun & Sex stories from Erica Pike, but all her stories in this series have been a bit unconventional. It’s possible that I just wasn’t in the right mood or frame of mind to really get this story and what it was trying to do when I read it.
A bit about the plot and characters:
Kyler Morris (who, incidentally, in my head I kept picturing as Kyler Moss, the twinkalicious porn star!) wants to become a member of The Nova Britannia Brotherhood. It’s more than a fraternity, both in the fact that unlike regular fraternities, The Brotherhood is more respectable and less about getting bombed every weekend, and the fact that the brothers are incredibly tight, and entrance into the select group of men means a lifetime family and a leg up in life from other members. But, most daunting is Hunter Kingsley, the President of The Brotherhood and an icon at their school. He’s beautiful, perfect and has unbelievable feats to his name, almost to the point of legend.
Kyler is intimidated by the in depth interview, which includes Hunter as one on the panel. But, he’s shortlisted and soon becomes a new recruit. Among the brothers, he meets Liu, a straight guy, brother ahead of Kyler, who is dealing with some bullying from other brothers. In some ways, this dose of reality (that all isn’t perfect among the brothers), I think, temper’s Kyler’s already guarded thoughts about coming out, or whether his being gay will hurt his application into the fraternity. Liu, however, is a quick friend, and having a friend who went through what Kyler is right now help him. As Kyler becomes a brother and his friendship grows with Liu, he’s forced to face some of the ugliness behind The Brotherhood, and in all this becomes closer to Hunter Kingsley.
Like I said before, it’s something I can’t really name but something in this story felt like it was missing. I can’t even really tell you why I only liked it So So, other than the fact that I felt like I would have liked to see more progression in Kyler and Hunter’s relationship.
I would recommend this to fans of the series (with the known caveat that it’s quite different than those) and fans of Erica Pike. It’s too bad, however, that this is the last of the College stories Erica is writing 😦 It’s a shame and I’ve enjoyed them all as they each came out over the last year or so!
Posted by Cole in 3 So So, Authors P-R, Contemporary, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, up to 15k Tags: Best Friends, Bullies/Bullying, College, College Fun & Gays, Erica Pike, Frat Boys, No Boundaries Press, Series, Short Story
Title: Surviving Elite High (Surviving Elite High #1)
Author: John H Ames
Publisher: Budding Moon Press (an imprint of Storm Moon Press)
Length: 53k words
Genre: m/m Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Keywords/Tags: Series, High School, Nerd/Jock, Nerds/Geeks, Poor/Rich, School Shooting, Bullying, Bisexual
Rating: Didn’t Like It
John Henry Ames is a sixteen-year-old boy from a small New Jersey town. John is humble, shy, and studious. He lives as an outcast in the shadows of an elite high school where he is tormented by two psychopathic bullies.
On the verge of dropping out of school due to overdue payments, a teacher enrolls him in a tutoring program where he meets the school’s star quarterback and hero, Nick Anthony Hawking. Since he was doing poorly in several subjects, Nick needs John’s help to pass and graduate high school. As John becomes closer to the jock, he develops a strong affection towards him even though Nick has a strong reputation of sleeping around with a lot of women. Nick becomes his friend and protector in school. Their sincere friendship helps to bring out the best in each of them, even as several tragedies, like a school shooting, threaten to change their young lives forever.
I am sorry to say that I had to force myself to finish this. And I definitely won’t be reading the rest of the series. I originally picked this up because I was in the mood for a high school young adult romance at the time, and I quite like reading the nerd/jock trope. I thought I was lucky, actually, that the book had been released prior in another edition and goodreads had so many reviews. And even luckier that there were so many good reviews — no, great reviews! I should have read further. If I had, I would have found all the one star reviews, and though I might have taken the gamble on which camp I’d fall into, I might not have, in which case I wouldn’t have had to force myself to finish for the review.
I suppose it could be said that it is personal taste how some people love this book and others hate it, and to some extent I’m sure that’s true. After all, the prose is highly melodramatic and that’s something I look out for in young adult books because I’m not a bit fan. I prefer less angst and less melodrama in my young adult books. For the most part, however, I just couldn’t understand how so many people loved this book. I couldn’t connect with the writing at all, which I found at times really, really awkward, with strange word choices. Even more, I just did not understand or like any of the characters. The two leads, John Henry Ames (same name as the author, which made me wonder if this was autobiographical) and Nick, the popular and rich quarterback whose like a breeding stallion on meth with a horse sized cock that, and yes this was mentioned, is so big is breaks women so that they can’t walk after they sleep with him. And I don’t really feel that I’m being that biased here by my overall feelings after reading the book. This was why I couldn’t get into the story, everything was so over the top that I felt like it undermined the real emotions at play. From page one John is obsessed with Nick and Nick doesn’t really treat him that well either. But that’s who Nick is, which John already knows.
Honestly, I just found the whole book a bit strange and surreal. Sure, it wasn’t to my taste, but I just don’t understand how so many people liked it so much. I almost feel like I’m missing something.
I don’t want to rag on this book anymore. I know that you understand how I feel perfectly by now so there’s no reason for me to go on and on. And really, you shouldn’t take just my feelings into account. Even though I don’t understand it, I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of reading a book they might really like. And so many people seem to really like this book. So, even more than usual, I encourage you to read a wide range of reviews on this one if you’re considering buying.
Posted by Cole in 1 Didn't Like It, 41-75k, Authors A-C, Contemporary, Romance, YA Tags: Bisexual, Budding Moon Press, Bullies/Bullying, High School, Jocks/Nerds, John H Ames, Nerds/Geeks, Rich/Poor, School Shooting, Series, Surviving Elite High