5 so very unexpected Stars!
Let me explain something. I am not a fan of NA books. Most of them annoy or ittitate me, because the MCs either act as though they're 3 or 33. And if they do act according to their age, I still get irritated with a lot of them - because the Angst! Teenage angst is an emotion I have a hard time with in books. Not because I'm not sympathetic, or because I don't understand, but because I do. I really, really do. And most of the time I don't want to think about my teens too much. Let's just say it was NOT a good time for me. So I pass most of theYA/ NA stories I see, because I know in the end, I won't enjoy them. A blurb has to really draw me in to change my mind. Some books did that effortlessly, like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Gives Light (Gives Light, #1)] or Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.
This blurb drew me in from the start, but it was that kind of book, so I was somewhat hestitant to pick it up. But I liked the blurb so much, and came back again and again, reading it, so in the end I thought "What the hell." and bought it. Boy, am I glad I did!
Here we have Bradley, 18 years old and not-so-freshly out of the closet. But he has a very unique predicament. He came out, and then... he was out. Or was he? He didn't have dates, he didn't have queer friends, and never in a million years would he talk to his friends about his thoughts and feelings towards other guys. Not that there would be much to tell, or that his friends didn't accept his outing. His mother was very suppportive, too. And yet... Right from the start I could feel the loneliness coming off of him in waves. Everything he did, how he acted and how he suppressed himself with all his might, really broke my heart.
His freak-out when cutie TJ tries to flirt with him - literally in front of God and everyone - didn't exactly come as a huge surprise. What did surprise me, was the fact that these two guys actually managed to go on this road trip together. I was almost sure one of them would mess it all up before it even started. Thank God, they didn't! I enjoyed their journey so much! One reason was the project these two were doing. Meeting different people, with different stories, relationship statuses and dreams, was fascinating to read about. Some of the stories broke my heart so much, it was painful in all the right places.
The other part was their inner journey - especially Bradley's. He struggled so much. Every "gay" thought, every "gay" action was analyzed to death, thought over a million times, and in the end, more often than not, he was still terrified of the possibilities. But he learned. He tried so hard, every day. He understood some important things over time, let go of preconceived notions and found himself along the way. At least as much as you can find and define yourself at 18.
TJ was a whole different ball game. At one point I had a serious problem with him, because while I suspected that there was more to his story, the actual twist took me completely by surprise. At the same time it made him look like a hypocrite with a mile wide chip on his shoulder. Not my favorite, to say the least. But it all worked out in the end, and in a way I came to love. A lot. I absolutely rooted for these two.
A little rant on sexual content.
There is none. Not really, and most definitely nothing explicit. And I saw a lot of readers complain about that. One main argument: "When I was 18 and would have been alone with my crush in hotel rooms for days - I would not just have kissed him a few times and be satisfied with it. Because 18 = raging hormones = a lot of first times in a short time." And you know what? That just pisses me the hell off! Because most of the people complaining like that are adult straight women.
Did it ever occur to you that despite us all being worth the same, there are some actual differences between young adults with different sexual orientations?! It's so great that you were confident and (hopefully) safe enough to have your first sexual expieriences with 15. Guess what, I had my first "First" with a boyfriends at 14. But sure as hell not with a woman! I didn't even begin to accept that side of myself, let alone act on it at that point in time! And no matter who I ask - my former roommate, my best friends, the undecided young boys and girls I had in classes - they all say the same: It is completely DIFFERENT if you're queer. Sure, some boys and girls do have their first experiences with the same sex at a very young age. And that's fine. But the ones struggling with it, fighting it, hating it and hating themselves? They most certainly do not fall into bed the minute they are alone with a crush! Coming out and accepting your sexuality is a very complex process, and it is about more than sex, or crushes, or telling your family.
And if you ask me, everyone who complains about the lack of sex happening here, didn't understand Bradley and his story. He was going through MASSIVE changes, finally starting to actually accept his sexuality, to stop being ashamed of being gay, and people are annoyed that he is not fucking another guy the minute they shared their first kiss?! WTF: Makes me super, super ragey! *Rant over
So, as I was saying, I loved the lack of explicit sexual content. Yes, you heard it right. I'm not saying that I don't like to read it. Or that there are books where I'm not disappointed when sex only happens off-page, or not at all. But with this story? It worked perfectly! Most of all, because it was less romance, but way more coming-of-age, and coming-out story.
I absolutely loved this one, from top to bottom. Definitely one of my favorite YA/NA reads in a long time.