Review written for and first viewed at JoyfullyJay as a part of Boys Masturbating Through Walls Day:
Rating: 3.25 stars
Harley Santos, newly arrived from small town, Maryland, is trying to adapt to his new life as a college freshman in Philadelphia. While he had his fears about city living and life on campus before he left home, Harley has found he likes his roommate and college seems pretty cool. In his first week in his dorm room he listen through the thin wall to a student masturbating on the other side. When this becomes a regular occurrence, Harley starts masturbating along with his unseen neighbor. Shared moans become whispered words between walls and a strange relationship developes between Harley and the unknown boy next door.
After Harley and his roommate, Ryan, have a chance meeting with the two hot guys, Devon Marx and Tasha Novokov, rooming next to them, Harley thinks he knows which of them is his nightly “companion”. But that guy, Devon, asks Ryan out instead of Harley, and Harley is heartbroken believing that Ryan has been mistaken for him. The other roommate, Tasha, is dark, handsome, straight and seems intent on befriending Harley. What’s a gay boy to do when everyone he is attracted to is not attracted to him?
This is a short story whose main attraction is the prickly little porcupine known as Harley Santos. I found his character to be snarky, pissy, and quite adorable. And totally not deserving of the predictable plot he has found himself in. Harley comes from a large close knit Portuguese family in a small town in Maryland. He’s tortured himself with scary images of the dark side of city life and the what if’s of college gone bad. He’s slight in stature, slender in physique so I can see his behavior as a shield he erects against slights and injury, real or perceived. So does it seem realistic that he falls “in love” with the guy next door just because they are masturbating together? It doesn’t to me. Lust yes, love to the point of his heart breaking when Devon picks his roommate? Ummm, no.
Harley then transfers his affections to Tasha while maintaining that he loves Devon who loves Ryan who is understandably confused about the whole thing because no one is talking to each other. Got that? Instead letting Harley get his snark on, Erica Pike turns him into avoidance guy, and then has him sobbing his heart out so traumatized that he is stuttering again (we didn’t know he stuttered to begin with). To use the current lingo, Harley so doesn’t deserve this.
By the end of The Walls Have Ears, I was beginning to wish that This Reader Didn’t Have Eyes because the ending had me blinking in disbelief. Erica Pike can write realistic characters AND put them into realistic situations, at the same time. Just don’t look for it here.
Publisher: No Boundaries Press