Rating: 5 stars
It’s Paul Auster’s 30th birthday and he’s spending it pretty much like he does every night, waiting for his best friend, Helena Handbasket the drag queen to go on stage and perform. Sure he could be down in the crowd of gorgeous gay boys but he knows that he is just not their type or anyone’s type. Paul looks at the mirror and sees a slightly pudgy, totally gay, shy, boring guy. Certainly not the type to turn heads or break hearts. He lives in Tuscon where he has a house, his best friend Sandy aka Helena Handbasket, a two legged dog named Wheels, and his two devoted and slightly insane parents. His grandmother loves him, her homophobic parrot, Johnny Depp doesn’t. That’s pretty much it and then it all changed in one night just as it did for his parents.
His name is Vince Taylor and he is everything every good gay boy dreams will someday come and drag him off to Happily Ever Afterland. He’s tall, gorgeous, sex on two legs and everyone is trying to date him, have sex with him or just stand next to him. And for some reason Vince wants to go out with Paul. Paul just doesn’t get it, and keeps saying no in every way possible even though his heart, best friend and certain appendages tell him he’s crazy. Then Paul puts Vince in the hospital after his car and Vince’s bike have their own run in of sorts and he must take Vince home to watch over him after he is released from the hospital. Just getting to know Vince better brings them closer and hope starts to spring up inside Paul that maybe, just this once, love just like his parents and others have can be theirs, that just once it’s all real.
Ok first let’s start with a Public Service Announcement:
If you suffer from chronic COPD, Asthma, or any other pulmonary thingy that makes you pass out when you heave with laughter, make sure you have your inhalers and a close friend handy before you start the first chapter . And then keep them beside you and for every chapter after that until the book is finished. Better yet, have a BFF read it aloud for you. That way when you pass out, help in available to revive you so you can continue on. Or they can explain the circumstances to the EMTs. I am just saying.
End Public Service Announcement.
Now to the review. From “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” or perhaps “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” , these opening sentences will forever stay in your hearts and memories, evoking the books that made them famous. Add to that list (ok maybe way down on the list) the following sentence:
“JUST so you know, I don’t have a gargantuan penis.”
And immediately you know you are in the presence of a unique, and definitely off kilter mind. That mind happens to belong to Paul Auster, the outrageous, unforgettable, and wholly vulnerable character created by T.J. Klune for Tell Me It’s Real. I will tell you right now I don’t ever remember laughing so much or so hard ever when reading a book and I have read a ton of books. Paul Auster is just such an amazing character but he needs to come with warnings.
Warning One. Paul’s inner voice, and ok , his outer voice too. It is a constant stream of thoughts strung together in an order that nature might not approve of. One subject is started on and then Paul’s inner voice hijacks that subject, twists it, turns it, making balloon animals out of it and somehow you end up somewhere totally unexpected and ahem, lively. This will take some getting use to. Please gather your patience, or whatever you need to and stay with it until his unique narrative winds its way into your heart. It will get there. It took me a couple of chapters even while laughing away to really get into his mind and heart but once there, I was hooked and stayed hooked.
Paul Auster is an endearing man. I love him. I want everyone else to love him too. T.J. Klune has done a marvelous job with this book because he gifts us not only with Paul Auster but with his entire family, his best friend Sandy, aka the fabulous and fierce Helena Handbasket, his dog Wheels (and can I say that dog almost wheeled away with his parts of the story), his parents, grandmother, well everybody. And then there is Vince Taylor. I won’t go into Vince’s characteristics, I think that would almost spoil the joy of meeting him in the story. From his own offbeat look at life to his generous heart, Vince will stay with you on the same deep level that connects you to Paul. Each person you will meet within these pages has such a distinctive and down right idiosyncratic voice that you never lose track of any individual or their part in this story. You can’t, they are all unforgettable and human. What a magnificent job the author has done in creating this cast of characters.
Warning Two, an endearing storyline you won’t want to end except when you want to throttle Paul. Is there a plot amongst all these denizens of Tuscon’s quirky underbelly? Sure boy meets boy, boy doesn’t believe he is good enough but the other boy does, boys get together eventually and live happily ever after. T. J. Klune takes this simple storyline we have read before and elevates it with humor, compassion, and love, all the while making us giddy because we are oxygen deprived from the laugher or sometimes its tears. This story is full of heart as it addresses the challenges that come from meeting all life can throw at you and still be standing looking forward to the future, and if you are lucky someone is standing there with you.
Warning Three. You will start spending time texting things like sex face >_< or blow job face *o* or making up your own. Maybe blowjob face for varying sizes, you know *o*, *O*. Really, it’s exasperating because you can’t stop.
Warning Four. See Public Service Announcement. No, seriously, I thought I was going to need oxygen. Early on there’s this part where Paul starts to choke on a piece of lettuce…..nope I will let you read that one for your self. In fact, hardly any of this book can be safely quoted in a family friendly media or Amazon, well I am sure you are getting the picture.
Are there real Paul Austers out there? I believe so and T.J. Klune has so beautifully given them a voice here. For every gym queen there are those happily in love with their Prius, their carbs and their lower key lifestyle. But then T. J. Klune thinks it’s ok to be a gym bunny too because when it comes down to it, it is still the inside of a person, their true nature that counts. Tell Me It’s Real should speak to everyone who reads it because it speaks to our vulnerabilities, to our ability to connect with others, including that one person who just might be the love of your life if only you give them the chance.
Pick up this book, give Paul Auster a chance to work his titled, off center magic on you. You won’t be sorry. And just in case, get the phone, friend and oxygen handy. You will need them. More please, Mr. Klune.
Cover art by Reese Dante is absolute perfection. I love it, love the story, they are just irresistible in every way.