Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
First, a disclaimer: as the blurb says, this book is the first in a series. The beginning of the story of Peter is completed, as he goes through his senior year in high school, falls in love for the first time, and learns painful truths about himself and about the world around him. The book ends, not quite on a cliffhanger, but Peter’s future is unclear and the reader is left wanting to know more.
Peter is an only child, son of parents who are kind, but distant, oblivious, and mostly uninvolved. He was bullied in public school, so for his senior year transfers to a local private school, determined to keep his head down and avoid notice. At orientation he meets Adam and his twin sister Sarah. They are truly parentless, shipped off to live with their older brother while their mother and father stay in Jordan. The twins are beautiful, worldly, charismatic, and Sarah is determined to join the popular clique, so when Adam befriends Peter, Sarah takes him along for the ride as well. Peter is helplessly attracted to Adam, and when that attraction becomes mutual, the friendship becomes sexual – Adam has been with both women and men in the past, but Peter is a virgin, and lets Adam take the lead in all things.
I admit I am a sucker for stories about this time in a person’s life. That transition from child to adult, when you start to define both who you are, and who you want to be. Peter is an amazing character, mature in some ways, but painfully naïve in others. He’s a photographer, an artist, and Ms. Blake truly captured the intense way that teenagers feel about everything. The story was so believable, and throughout the first half I was alternately devouring the book and looking away because I was both attracted and repulsed by the train wreck I saw coming. I knew it would end in tears.
I wanted to be angry at Adam, at Sarah, and at Peter’s parents for all the secrets they kept. For the way they let past injuries make them afraid of facing the truth, or owning it. But these characters also were written very sympathetically, and I could understand what made them cruel, what made them twist themselves in knots to justify the actions that in retrospect were bound to cause pain.
In the second half of the book, once some of the underlying motives were revealed, the pace slowed down. At that point, it was mostly about Peter’s internal struggle to come to terms with who he’d let himself become, and to try to find his path forward and do the right thing. Several secondary characters were introduced, their personalities and actions defined just the right amount for their involvement in the story. Renee/Robert, the drag queen that gives Peter a job; Leslie and Susan, the high school friends; Dr. Landry, the perceptive and encouraging English teacher, and even Peter’s father who becomes more engaged in Peter’s life. I also appreciated the way that sex was introduced into Peter’s and Adam’s relationship, the initial intensity – despite Peter’s inexperience and embarrassment – and the fact that Adam held out for months before he topped Peter, even though Peter begged him for it. Points to the author for describing that first time as painful, messy, and admittedly done more to prove a point than for physical pleasure. Not typical for this genre, where bottoming for the first time is usually amazing and the best sex ever. Um, not.
It’s hard to say more without giving major spoilers, but I can say that the book ends on a mostly positive note, even though there is no HEA, and not much of an HFN either. Things got messy and stayed that way, because in real life, problems don’t get resolved that easily either.
Fans of Jay Bell’s Seasons series will enjoy this book. I loved it, and will be waiting anxiously for the sequel. Highly recommended!
Cover art is amazing, poignant and perfect.
ebook, 316 pages
Published September 19th 2016 by Leta Blake Books
Series’90s Coming of Age #1