Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Pride that depends on the approval of others is a false pride, layered on from outside yourself like gold leaf. When the leaf begins to flake and chip, you see the base material beneath it. When you see the base material, the shiny deception exists no more. What are you left with?
Soul-crushing disillusionment. A sorrow that seems absolute.
There’s something about youth that is so wonderful and yet so sad. This is displayed perfectly in the story of five young boys who attend Ben Raphael Academy, a boarding school, together. They’re more than friends, they’re family, but in the midst of a chaotic world filled with typical teenage drama, they’re virtually invisible.
When one of them comes up with a plan to change that, to make them become noticed and to highlight their “mystique” as virgins who aren’t trying to chase tail, a rare breed among boys their age, the rest go along. What starts out as a simple act to try and make a quiet, forgotten group noticed and desired winds its way into a far darker journey of discovery, loss, and love.
I forced myself to look at the sky. The stars wheeled thickly overhead. This night, they seemed like a gateway to infinite possibilities, not a glittering veil over a dark, suctioning void.
I went into this thinking it was going to be a fun, cute Young Adult story. I’m not typically one for that genre, but this sounded interesting.
Well, I can say for certain that cute and light were not quite what I got out of this. It speaks volumes about the thought process of youth and how they seek to be seen, but more than that seek acceptance. It was all a very sad reality to me. And while there is an element of romance in this between Rider and Jake, I feel the heart of the story lies more in the group of boys themselves.
Reading the blurb again, I think it sounds a bit cheesy toward the end in regards to an unspeakable tragedy, and when I read what this tragedy was, it may have at first seemed over-dramatic and far-fetched, but the more I thought about it, the more realistic it actually was – and that thought made me incredibly sad.
*POTENTIAL SPOILER REGARDING POSSIBLY TRIGGERING TOPIC: I was also surprised at the heaviness of a certain topic in this. I will say that if anyone has a hard boundary line when it comes to relationships between minors and adults of the more manipulative nature, you should steer clear of this. For some reason, I didn’t expect it to happen. Granted, this isn’t a long book, but it still surprised me when the initial idea was hinted at and then fleshed out.
I do think that the tragedy aspect of it, as well as the taboo relationship part, would’ve been more impactful in a book of novel length. With this being 134 pages, everything was quick, and the brief glimpses we got of this issues being dug into were quite nice, but just not enough given the weight of them.
In general a good story, but certainly not something I’d suggest if you want a quick, light read. Quick, yes, but light, not so much.And although I’m not an expert regarding the classification of a young adult story, this does depict teenage boys going through life. While there are several references to sexual activities, and times when we see what leads up to it and the aftermath, there are no explicit sexual details. As such, I’d say it does fall pretty well into the Young Adult category.
Cover Artist: Maria Fanning provided a simple cover that at first seems quite basic in regards to the type of story. Boys in a boarding school – thus a boy with a uniform on the cover. Yet, when you get into the story, the backdrop of the cover comes to have a great meaning, and really highlight a beautiful element of the story.
Sales Links: Harmony Ink eBook All Romance (ARe) Amazon Ben Raphael’s All Star Virgins
ebook, 134 pages
Published September 25th 2014 by Harmony Ink Press