Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Matthew Metzger is always a bit of a hit or miss author for me, but when he’s good, he’s very, very good! As I was reading this book, I was thinking of how affirming it would be for a questioning (especially in regards to gender identity) teen, because there were some amazing role models in here. It’s not a YA book, but I am going to recommend it to the non-binary people I know, and see what they think of it. I expect they’ll be impressed as well…
Jim was a guy who always had a bit of a chip on his shoulder. From his childhood growing up poor with a sister and a single mother, through some stupid teenage pranks that landed him in jail, to the predicament he found himself in at the beginning of the book – out of a job, deep in debt, and evicted from his apartment. At rock bottom, he called his sister, who reluctantly took him in to her house. With her much older, reverend husband and 3 young children. Sarah told him he had to be on his best behavior, and that meant NO MEN.
Jim hated it. Hated his sanctimonious 62 year old brother-in-law, who he described as a “posh upper-class twassock…[whose] hobbies included fishing. Not going fishing but watching it. On the TV. For hours on end.” Heh, I don’t think I could stand him either. Jim told himself he could do this, stay with Sarah and her family, only as long as it took to get a good job. And then he was out of there.
But then he met the music teacher, and was instantly infatuated. Fran might play the proper, straight-laced teacher, but “he was definitely the innocence-defiled sort”. What started out as a hookup turned into something real for both of them, but in order to make it work, Jim needed to learn what being on his best behavior really meant.
The character development was excellent in this book. Jim initially was petty, childish, and seemed to spend more time trying to annoy his sister than he did trying to get a job and grow up. I almost wanted her to kick him out. Getting into a relationship with Fran brought out a different side of him – and it became clear that his reaction to his situation was exactly what had gotten him into trouble when he was younger and immature, and he already had learned to do better. Fran had been through his own struggles, especially in regards to his orientation and gender identity, and I had to admire the easy way the author introduced those and made them such natural and surprisingly low angst revelations. There were so many examples of Jim understanding what respect and consent truly were, and that is when I started feeling differently about him. When one of Sarah’s children came out as queer to Jim, he was the one to help her understand that what she felt was okay, normal, and not deserving of the shock and anger she saw from her parents. All of that is what made me feel that this book would be so helpful and comforting for any person who is doing their own soul searching about their identity.
In addition to the wonderful message of the book, I also thoroughly enjoyed the writing. Mr. Metzger was poetic without resorting to purple prose when describing how Jim felt about Fran, and there was a lot of humor in the book as well – both Jim and Fran are pretty snarky, and the dialogue was excellent. The way Jim saw Sarah’s kids in particular had that dry British humor that really balanced out the intensity of the other more difficult parts of his life.
I found the cover art by Erin Dameron-Hill to be eye-catching, but by the time I finished the book I felt the text “He’s not known for obeying orders” to distract from what I thought were the best parts of the book
ebook, 222 pages
Published February 12th 2019 by Pride Publishing
Edition Language English