Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I can’t remember the last time I was this emotionally connected to a book. I read this through in one sitting, and I kept wanting to reach in and shake Peter, or warn him, or give him a hug, or something!! And I’m now so invested I can’t wait for the last installment!
The book picks up immediately after Pictures of You ends – the summer between high school and college. Peter’s boyfriend and first love, Adam, is in Italy to stay with his parents until college starts in the fall, while Peter remains at home, working to save money to go to University of Tennessee. He’s still feeling that uncomfortable mix of guilt and want that was with him all through senior year, missing Adam, and wondering what really will happen when Adam gets back.
But the summer turns into a series of revelations for Peter. All his high school friends? Actually more of Adam’s friends, and Peter doesn’t have much in common with them anymore now that Adam is gone. His parents, who had been distant and uninvolved his entire life, turn over a new leaf and become both supportive and intrusive. Peter starts spending more time with Robert (his drag queen boss) and her boyfriend, and they both encourage him to get to know other gay people. He had his first taste of being open and honest when he came out to his parents, and now he is exploring what it means to be gay, and thinking about coming out to the world at large. His boss Robert takes it upon himself to introduce Peter to the gay community of Knoxville, primarily through the club where he performs as a drag queen. I was reminded at this point that Peter is still only 19 years old, with teenage judgement and teenage hormones – kudos to the author for making sure the reader never loses sight of this as he goes through all these difficult situations! When he is exposed to the world of alcohol, drugs, anonymous sex and promiscuity, he gets conflicting advice from his friends, from “party hard” to “be safe”, and meanwhile he is still trying to decide how he is going to handle Adam when he comes back home.
To complicate things further, Daniel – who was introduced in the first book when Peter met him at Robert’s house – is back in the picture. The initial attraction that Peter felt for him is still there, and perhaps even stronger now that Adam is only a voice on the phone or in a letter. Daniel is everything that Adam is not: he is completely out, mature, responsible, looking out for Peter and trying to keep him out of trouble, and completely honest with everybody. Always. Daniel wants Peter, everyone knows it, but he will not pursue Peter as long as Peter wants to stay faithful to Adam.
Peter’s choice: stay with his closeted boyfriend whom he still loves and who says he needs him, or break it off and pursue what he knows would be a healthier relationship. It should be an easy choice, but Adam still exercises a fascination that Peter has trouble resisting, and since Peter is basically loyal and generous, he can’t let Adam go.
That’s the kind of choice that makes a person really examine their values and their past decisions, knowing that the choice they make now will have a permanent influence on who they become. Heavy stuff! But sympathetically written, engaging, and once again ending at just the right spot when Peter makes that choice.
Finally, I really appreciated how the hysteria surrounding HIV/AIDS in the early 90s was presented. The ways different gay men approached safe (or not) sex, testing, and those who were HIV positive. 25 years later, HIV is now a manageable chronic illness, and the general public is no longer so fearful of touching or even being around HIV positive people. But I remember those days, remember doing HIV awareness programs in high schools – in the bible belt where we were forbidden to talk about condoms or safe sex! – and how bigots hoped that the “gay plague” would wipe out homosexuals. Even though we have a long way to go for equality, we have come really far!
Cover is gorgeous and perfect for the story and series.
ebook, 328 pages
Published November 29th 2016 by Leta Blake Books
Series’90s Coming of Age #2