Review: Training Complex by Leta Blake

Other Reviewers: Goodreads


For full disclosure this book was given to me for an honest review by the author.

Basic Plot:

Book two of the series sees Matty Marcus (former ice skater, now coach), struggling to find work and his identity as he works on building his relationship with his partner, Rob.  But as his stress mounts, so does his personal issues as it affects his personal and professional life.  Can Matty find a safe space to accept himself or will he burn out?

Review:

This is a book two in a series called Training Season, as it follows Matty’s career and life.  My original review of book one is here, in which I gave it a 5 star review.  I found the BDSM realistic, intense, and Matty’s character was honestly flawed which is unusual to see is what we call “romance” today.

I have loved every book that Leta Blake has written, but I admit that this is the first time that I could not finish her book.  I think that I was just not the target audience for this continuation.  Matty’s character was just too dark and too troubled for me to enjoy his story.  Each chapter that I read (about 30%) just was one more illness, one more problem, and unlike the first book, there was no “new relationship” to break up the depression.

Conclusion:

From reading Goodreads reviews, I am in the minority here, most folks loved this book!  So, I think that if you loved the first one, then give this one a try.  Just keep in mind that this book is more complex and darker than the first and most other male/male romances out there.

 

Bea

Review: A Way Home — by Keira Andrews

A_Way_HomeOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

This is book three in the Gay Amish Romance series by Keira Andrews.  It is highly recommended that you read the first two books first, otherwise you will be completely lost.  My previous reviews are here: Book 1 and Book 2.

Basic Plot:

David and Issac have made it out of their Amish background and are adjusting somewhat successfully with their new English way of life.  However, now there is a medical emergency back home that pulls Issac (and David) back to Minnesota. Will their love be strong enough to keep them to their dreams or will family and religion bring them back into the fold?

David & Issac:

This book review will not go into detail regarding David and Issac’s character development.  We continue to see their struggles individually with adhering to the new English world.  For David, his panic attacks and self medicating drinking has brought a wedge between Issac and himself.  Issac has been so focused on making new friends and reconnecting with Aaron that he lets David deal with his problems alone.  In A Way Home, we see them reconnect back and learn to communicate.

Theme Summary:

I feel in many ways, David’s friend June represents the reader.  In discussing her relationship with her deceased husband, June talks about how marriage is compromise:

Isaac stuck the rubber toe of his sneaker into the mud.  “I always thought once you loved someone, the rest just fell into place.”

June’s laughter echoed across the field.  “Wouldn’t that be nice?  Love counts for a lot, but you need a heck of a lot of patience and grit too.  Sometimes Conrad would frustrate me to no end.  I did the same to him.  But we’d talk it through.  Compromise.  But you and David can’t do that if you’re  not being honest with each other.”

These two men have been through so much throughout all three of these books, and most of the tension within the novels has been because of miscommunication.  They could not live in the life style of their Amish heritage, but at the same time living in the city is not an exact fit.  What they need to do is find a compromise where they can still honor their roots of heritage but still live successfully with each other and be honest to who they are.

Strong Points:

Andrews has the ability to draw the reader into the Amish culture and give the feel of suffocation of “properness” of the Amish to David and Issac.  I am not certain of the accuracy as I am not Amish, but I felt the isolation and how painful that was as Issac and David tried to hide who they were and their dreams.  I felt their pain so fully that I had a hard time reading through.

What could be better?

I like a little angst, but if there is so much angst I feel the urge to put the book into the freezer ala Joey I hesitate.  Toward the end, when we were dealing with the parents, I will be honest — I skimmed.  I was so afraid that they were going to be pulled back into the Amish world.  I felt a bit like I was watching a horror film and I was yelling at the book, “don’t go in there!”

I just had a week of my Mother-in-Law in my house, so in many ways I can relate to David and Issac.  I have come to realize that I will never be accepted by them because of religious reasons, and trying to be myself only seems to bring stilted conversation.  So I completely can relate to how David and Issac must feel:  wanting to fit back in but knowing that they would never be accepted in that world if they showed their true self.

Conclusions:

I am glad that we finally get a happy ending for David and Issac.  In the end, they find compromise and are still true to themselves.  I think that is something that we can all strive for in our lives.  I think that if you loved the first two books you will be satisfied with the conclusion.

Bea

Quickie: A Wizard’s Touch Series by Amber Kell

 

Jaynell's Wolf by Amber Kell

Jaynell’s Wolf by Amber Kell

Kevin's Alpha by Amber Kell

Kevin’s Alpha by Amber Kell

Farren's Wizard by Amber Kell

Farren’s Wizard by Amber Kell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

Page count: 90 to 116 pages

I normally do not review a series in one blog post, but rather than have several reviews, I figured I could do one blog post.  This series was given to me by the publisher for an honest review.  For my previous thoughts on book four of the series, Elijah’s Ghost, go here.

Basic Plot:

  • Jaynell’s Wolf:  Jay’s father’s dying wish was for Jay to become a wizard.  But once he gets to the Wizard Academy, he feels out of place and alone.  His powers are just so unusual, he feels as if he would be better somewhere else.  However, he meets werewolf Thomas Sparks who suspects that Jay is his mate.  While they begin their bonding, external forces begin to pull them apart.  Can they survive or is Jay destined to be alone?
  • Kevin’s Alpha:  Kevin is a wizard and James Sparks is the Alpha of the local werewolf pack.  There is instant chemistry, but Kevin is afraid of commitment.  Danger enters by the kidnapping of his friend Jay, and Kevin and cast go to help battle the enemy.
  • Farren’s Wizard:  Farren’s djinn’s blood has always put him in danger.  Now that he is at Wizard Academy, the danger is even more potent.  Farren meets fellow wizard Dan Stewartson and there is instant chemistry, however their timing always seems to be off.  Now that they have finally started going out, can their relationship survive Farren’s past?

Relationship:

  •  Jay and Thomas:  Jay has been lonely his entire life and the sacrifice of his parents has filled him with survivor’s guilt.  Thomas has always been powerful, perhaps even more powerful than his Alpha, but he has no intention to lead.  However, his attraction and devotion to Jay is something that Jay has desperately needed.
  • Kevin and James:  Kevin has always felt second best because of his family.  His powers never seemed that strong compared to them and he never wants to compromise like his mother did.  James has always been the powerful Alpha, can he convince Kevin to risk his freedom for love?
  • Farren and Dan:  Farren is a djinn, which is a powerful and unstable creature.  As he hides his heritage, danger makes him turn to Dan.  Dan has always liked Farren, but was too shy to try a relationship.

Summary:

These books are very short as compared to other series, so there is very  little room for character development.  The books are short and exciting, the focus always on external factors.  The first two books, Jaynell’s Wolf and Kevin’s Alpha are almost like one book, following the danger around Jay.  The strength of the series is the world building that we get throughout each of the novels.  Because they build on each other, we get strong secondary characters that eventually become main characters in the next book.  My only negative point on this series is that there is not much depth in the characters, so don’t expect any profound inner thoughts of our characters.   While they do build on each other, you can get the gist of the other books without spoiling the endings.  Although, I would recommend reading them in order.

I recommend this series if you want a fast read that you can read on a Sunday afternoon.  I plan on keeping an eye out for the next installment and see what other adventures in the Wizard Academy.

StarStarStar

Review: A Forbidden Rumspringa — by Keira Andrews

a_forbidden_rumspringaOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

This is my first read of Keira Andrews’.  Finding a new author is one of the most exciting opportunities for a book blogger.  Opening the book might bring hours of fun, tears, and angst — OR hours that you wish you could get back.  At first I was hesitant to agree to read this book, after all, Amish?  Really?  I was ready to roll my eyes and prepare for the worst.

However, I was pleasantly surprised and I can now put Keira Andrews on my Goodreads Favorite Author list.

Basic Plot:

Issac Byler and his family have moved from Red Hills to Zebulon, Minnesota, a much more conservative Amish community.  Issac has not joined the church yet, but the time approaches, his first step is to work as an apprentice for woodworker David Lantz.  David is under a tremendous amount of pressure to provide for his family now that his father has passed away.  While David and Issac become friends, will they discover something about themselves and can they afford to seek it?

Background:

As I said, Amish story sounds rather hokey at first, a trope that could be taken into an overly dramatic manner.  Keira Andrews must have conducted some serious research on the Amish community, because how we see David and Issac struggle with the community appears realistic.  It is interesting to consider that just calling someone “Amish” can mean many things and each community set up their own rules and orders (Ordnung).  We don’t have to be Amish to understand how it feels to be trapped in a life we do not want and have no hope to ever escape.

Issac Byler:

This book is from his perspective.  He is 18 and realizes that he is attracted to men.  He struggles with the urge to explore this and the fear of leaving his family and life behind.  Where would he go?  What would he do?  This community does not allow a Rumspringa, so there is no opportunity for him to explore his sexuality.  We certainly feel how trapped he is, some of the strongest scenes are his with his family, as we see he can not question his Father and he is not given any questions.  I liked how they talk about his older brother who left, yet we do not know a lot about Aaron.

Excesses.  In Zebulon — as was the Swartzentruber way — they never uttered the word rumspringa, and the  younger children had no concept of it.  Thoughts of Aaron flickered through Isaac’s mind, unbidden.

I loved the scenes that Issac had with his younger brother.  I hope we see more of him in later books.

David Lantz:

We only see David through Issac’s eyes:  David is older, more worldly than Issac.  However, he is closer to having to join the church and marrying; he has more to loose than Issac.  His family depends on him, so he feels like he has no choice but to sacrifice his happiness for the greater good.

“I’m sorry if you regret going tonight.”  David’s words were bitten out.

“David, I don’t.  At least, I don’t think I do.”  Isaac’s heart skipped.  “Are you angry with me?”

Head down, David laughed, but it was razor sharp.  “No, Isaac.  Only with myself.”

“Why?” Isaac touched the sleeve of David’s coat.  “I wanted to come. I’m glad you trusted me.”

When he looked up, David’s eyes shone with unshed tears.  “I was selfish to bring you here.  Please forgive me.”

I loved how Andrews showed us the difference in the characters.  They might still be gay, but that does not mean that both are equally ready to accept their sexuality and needs.

Theme Summary:

On some level, a theme could be, “be true to yourself.” Yet, these men are not even really able to understand that concept because of their restrictive upbringing.  So for me, this novel is about the inevitability of curiosity and personal growth.  We see through many characters of the younger generation as they struggle with finding tech, going to the movies, drinking, and smoking.  Because they are forbidden any of these (including the rumspringa), they still find a way:

“We’re all curious.  We’re all tempted.  The tighter they try to lock us away from the world, the more we wonder.  They try to prevent rumspringa, but they can’t stop it.  Most of the time I feel like I’m drowning in sinful thoughts.  A zipper and a movie aren’t so bad, really.”

I imagine that the next book’s theme will focus more on they exploring their relationship and how to integrate themselves into the English society.

Strong Points:

The background research of the community made me appreciate the group, but not feel so overwhelmed with details.  We get the feeling of how restrictive it is and how our protagonist want out without spending hours talking about how they farm and make quilts.  With a simple interaction with a tourist, we get insight of the community:

Darren tilted his head, still smiling easily.  “So Michelle and I are what you’d call English, right?  Why English and not American?  Or Canadian as the case may be.”

“I asked once when I was a boy, and Father said it’s just our way.  He says that a lot.”

And this quote pretty much sums up why Issac and David struggle within Zebulon:  Don’t question, just follow the rules.  Which reminds me of a time I was in a Bible studies group one Sunday.  The Bible study was going through the lesson and we were having a group discussion.  I asked a question (using the scripture) to make a point that was not the point he was making.  After the session I was basically told not bring up things like that, that we were following the lesson as is.

So, we eventually left the church because we were not allowed to question.  In A Forbidden Rumspringa, Issac and David face this type of of problem, but magnified.  We could leave the church, imagine if you had to leave your brothers and sisters behind, never to be able to contact them again?

What could be better?

Not sure if I would call it “better”, but I am certain that Amish people might not like how they are portrayed here.  There are a few of the Lantz girls who seem to be “modern”, but most of the older generations seem very black and white.  They weren’t portrayed as “evil”, but there was no scene where we got to see how some folks were trying to make change from within.

That being said, they are very insular community and we do get a few side descriptions of the “liberal” community they left behind. I just wanted to see a more mix environment.

Conclusions:

Overall, I enjoyed the book.  I could have liked to see a less black and white view of the Amish and see some more development of the secondary characters.  However, if the author wanted to portray the feeling of isolation; Andrews was very successful.  I look forward to reading the second book next year!

Bea

Review: Trouble and the Wallflower– by Kade Boehme

TroubleandtheWallflowerOther Reviewers: Goodreads

I have been on a roll lately with finding books that I loved enough to write a post.  I trolled through my Goodreads feed and found another one to try, Kade Boehme’s Trouble and the Wallflower.  The only other prior novel of Boehme’s I had read was Wide Awake, which was a freebie I found on Amazon.  It was a great read.

Basic Plot:

Davy Cooper is alone, mostly by choice but also because of his social anxiety.  But while working at Bart’s Soda Shop Gavin Walker and his rowdy band of brothers show up.  Gavin continues to drop his phone number and flirting with Davy, but Davy is not sure that Gavin should be taken serious.  As the friendship grows, can Davy afford to let Gavin have his body and possibly his heart?

Gavin Walker:

At first glance, we think that Gavin is a bit of a player, more of a user than anything else.  But what we find out is that there are reasons why Gavin behaves how he does with relationships.  I would tell you more, but this provides a bit of the conflicts within the plot and will develop as the book continues.

In Gavin, we find someone who has learned to play the role of Don Juan, but like that character there is more than just seduction.

“I meant it.  I’ve never had anyone in here.  Ever.  I’m not going to apologize for my past, but I hope you know I’m not using you like that.  You’re not jut another hookup. I’d never have brought you here, never introduced you to Ray.”

We see that Gavin has hurt his chances with Davy because of his playboy background.

Davy Cooper:

I could completely relate to Davy.  His mother suffered from  agoraphobia, and for most of his life he was trapped within his own home.  Only his uncle Drew helped him to get out, thus Davy has a successful job at Bart’s Soda Shop.  We see his panic attacks and awkwardness early on:

He concentrated on the work at hand, breathing in and out.  If only Gavin understood.  He’d give anything to be normal enough to just take his number one of the million times he’d offered.  He’d love to go have that coffee with him.  But Davy wasn’t normal.  He was struggling past a panic attack now.  The only thing stopping him from freaking out totally was the familiar actions.

But there is so much more to Davy than just this.  He is incredibly strong-willed, fighting through his fear, through his childhood to become a successful person.  What Davy struggles with now is finding someone who understands Davy’s strengths and weaknesses.

Theme Summary:

Everyone thinks that their own pain is unique.  And maybe the causes of your life’s pain are distinctive, but in the end, pain and hurt all feel the same.  In Trouble and the Wallflower, we see two men who have been hurt by their childhood, forming them, good or bad into the men they are now.  But what happens now is that rather than just being life lessons, the pain has become a crutch, keeping them from risking everything for happiness.

Davy wrapped Gavin up in a hug.  When everyone else saw the two of them, they saw Gavin who was nothing but trouble and Davy who was a wallflower, but in Gavin’s estimation, if you looked inside you’d see that Gavin was jut a scared little boy and Davy was his hero.

So we have two men who don’t think they are good enough for each other, but really they are exactly what they need to heal.

Strong Points:

One of the best things about this book is the writing.  There were many times that I was laughing at a description or crying over an emotional moment.  I loved Davy’s humor, how despite his problems, he still could see the humor in life:

He was tempted to see if throwing a shiny thing would make her run off in the other direction.

I also loved how Boehme hooked us in at the beginning, hinting about Gavin’s background letting us understand that something was going to come with it.  He did not hit us on the head with it, but subtly kept us worrying.

What could be better?

This was almost a perfect read for me, I felt the passion of the writing, the conflicts were realistic and had just the amount of angst I needed.  However, toward the end I felt overwhelmed with the sex scenes; and while they were hot I got a little bored.  It really only detracted the rating by a single star; for others it might not be a bad thing.

I struggle with social anxiety myself.  I know how it feels like your heart will pound out of your chest; the fear that everyone can hear how fast your heart is beating and they are silently laughing at your weakness.  So it was easy for me to relate to Davy.  While I think that Boehme did a good job of portraying this anxiety, it did not seem consistently severe throughout the book.  Yes, there were hints throughout the book, but the attack he had at the beginning and then at the end were the only time we really saw that. I would have liked to have seen a little more of that and a little less of the sex.

Conclusions:

I sped through this book, racing to the end.  I could relate to both characters and their conflicts were realistic, although the ending did seem to be rather nicely tied up.  I think that if you like a book with a bit of character development and lots of  hot sex, then this book is for you.

Review: My Brother’s Keeper: The First Three Rules — by Adrienne Wilder

My_Brothers_KeeperOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my reviews, these are my own opinions.

Recently I have been in a slump for reading.  Real life has been extremely hectic, so my “reading for fun” has been very limited.  When I got the opportunity to read and review Adrienne Wilder’s series, My Brother’s Keeper (three books) I thought the plot line intriguing enough to fit into my life.

Basic Plot:

John Foster is a retired Marshall, and not by choice.  Now he is living with his life decisions and PTSD, wondering if life is even worth it.  A happenstance contact with Ellis brings color back into his life.  Can it make him yearn for something with this intriguing man?

Ellis Harper is a man who had to give his life up when his Mother died and left his mentally challenged brother, Rudy to take care.  He has given up on ever having a career or a relationship, after all, it takes all of his being just to keep Rudy out of trouble.

Yet, with this meeting comes both strife and a chance for both men to heal.  But will the forces around them allow it to happen?

Background:

The first thing to keep in mind with this book is that it is book one in a three book series.  The entire series is out, so never fear, you can read straight through.  Right now, I have only read the first book, so this review will only cover that portion.

I have already reviewed a book by Adrienne Wilder, 7, and really enjoyed it.  It was more of a sci-fi fiction and this one, to me has more of a serious, character driven storyline.

John Foster:

This is actually one of the view books when I have found both main characters someone in which I could identify.  Normally, there is an Alpha character that I really can’t identify with, but find attractive.  With John, yes, he is an Alpha warrior, but he is driven down by life experience and is left a hollow shell of himself.  We find him in the beginning of the story minutes from ending his life and it sets the tone (at least the beginning of the novel):

“Please.”  Guilt made the gun in Jon’s pocket heavier.  What if Rudy had walked up on him a minute later?  What if he’d been the one to discover Jon with the top of his head blown off?  Was that why he offered?  Was he trying to make amends for possibly scarring Ellis’s brother for life with the image of a dead man?  If it was, ice cream was a piss poor way to do it, but it was all Jon had.

Which, in John’s situation, you get the impression that his will to live has been trying to counter his need to be punished by death.  He is a complex character and by the end of the first book, there are still mysteries of him to be unfolded.

Ellis Harper:

We can relate to Ellis easily.  He has never had a serious relationship, because he has had to take care of his brother, and he has had dreams that will never come true.  We can all relate to the yearning for something better, but still driven to do the right thing by his brother.  We can also relate to the constant fear he lives with including gay and handicap bashing, threats, and fear that someone will take Rudy away from him.  Ellis is barely surviving.

He tugged the sheet up and held it to his nose.  Rich, almost spicy, Jon’s scent was enough to make Ellis hard.

If only.  There were always so many ‘if onlys’.

Day after day life slipped through his fingers, taking every opportunity with it.

Nothing changed for Ellis.  Today would be the same as tomorrow, next week, and next year.  While he wished for a different life, the concept terrified him.

We respect Ellis for his sacrifices and we yearn for him and Jon to make a relationship work.  What I love about Ellis’s reactions to Jon’s sexual advances is his own innocence as he lacks experience.  It is refreshing to watch the sexual tension unfold, not in the typical romance fashion.

Theme Summary:

 Ellis caught Jon watching Rudy and smiling.  Then he met Ellis’s gaze and Ellis smiled too.

Jon nodded at Rudy.  “You should bottle that and make yourself rich.”

“I’m afraid people might OD,” Ellis said.

“Not sure if you can OD on happiness.  I mean, Rudy seems to do fine.”

He did do fine and when Rudy was sad he recovered quickly.  It seemed only a few bad memories lingered in his simple mind.

Both Ellis and Jon struggle with their pasts and their present; neither finding joy in life to barely keep their sanity.  They need to understand the simple joy in life that Rudy has.  Live in the moment, don’t focus on things you can’t change.

Strong Points:

There are some very serious topics found within this book:  PTSD, attempted suicide, intellectual disability, gay bashing, and violence to name a few.  And yet, this book is filled with hope.  Hope that even with all of these challenges, there is hope and joy to be found in the living.

One point I would like to make is the brilliance of how Wilder writes Rudy’s interactions.  We get to see how exhausting it is living with someone who is intellectually disabled, yet joy can be found in the childlike vision that Rudy sees in life.

“The buggy is for the microwave and the groceries.”

“Don’t forget the oatmeal.”

“I won’t.”

“Can we get cereal?”

“I’ll think about it.”

“I like the cereal with the colored marshmallows.”

They headed to household goods.  “If we get cereal, it won’t be the ones with marshmallows.”

“Why not? I’m not allergic.”

A lady pushing a buggy frowned at Rudy.  Ellis pretended he didn’t notice.  “You know why.”

Rudy laughed.  “I remember now.”

“Shhh–lower your–”

“We can’t buy cereal with marshmallows because it makes my poop blue.”

We can see how tiring it is to have to constantly be vigilant with someone who has the mind of a 6-year-old but the physical body of a 35-year-old.  I really felt bad and admired how strong Ellis was.  He could still loved and nurtured Rudy even when he was frustrated.

What could be better?

There were times when the pacing was slow, and the head hopping between Ellis, Jon, and Rudy can be jarring.  We are left at the ending with a cliffhanger, so be prepared for that.  Another thing that annoyed me, while not the author’s fault, was the misleading length of the book.  It is a good percentage of the book at the end that are samples of other books.  So you are left thinking that you have more of the book to go than it truly is.

Conclusions:

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I loved how the author got us into the minds of all three characters and made us feel their challenges, hopes, and fears.  We are left wanting more and luckily there are two books after this to complete the story.

 

Bea

Review: Pray the Gay Away — by Sara York

Pray_gayOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for a honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

This is the second book that I have read by Sara York, the first one being a co-author romance with L.E. Franks called Prodigal Wolf.  My interest in reading Pray The Gay Away, was the “coming of age” aspect of the story and hearing Sara York’s voice alone in writing style.

Basic Plot:

Jack Miller is the son of a Southern conservative preacher.  Jack is a senior in high school, star football player hiding a huge secret:  he’s gay.  Knowing what would happen if his family and friends found out, he hides who he is from everyone.  Enter Andrew Collins.  Andrew’s family pulls him out of his Atlanta school because he was caught kissing a boy; the theory being that there are no gays in rural conservative towns like Sweet, Georgia.

Little does anyone know, that Jack and Andrew are attracted to each other.  But can their love be enough to get them through this last year of high school?

Background:

It is hard for me to give a score for this book.  Part of me says that if the author thinks that all Christians and Southerners act and feel this way, then I am greatly offended.  On the other hand, if York is using this as a parable to demonstrate a point, then she is brilliant.  You will have to continue reading to find out what I finally determined.

Jack Miller:

Jack Miller is someone we all wish we could have been in high school: smart, popular, and a talented football star.  He walks down the hallways at school and people scream encouragements to him and praise like he is some sort of rock star.  So we should be happy to be him, right?  But what we find out is that he is trapped.  Trapped in a life where he hides his dreams, his yearnings, and his inner self.  This is not  case of  just the loss of friends, but his family and his future.  If his family finds out about his homosexuality, not only would he be kicked out, his younger brother might suffer, and his college football career extinguished.

Early one we find out that his little brother, Billy, is obviously gay.  Billy is only 7 years old.  This quote demonstrates how Jack’s home environment is:

I know, buddy.  It’s wrong and if Daddy could just laugh about it, everything would be fine, but he’s not going to laugh.  He’s going to tan your backside, taking his anger out on you and there isn’t a damn thing any of us can do to change that.  So Billy, please, from now on, try to be good.”

With this quote, we begin to see that things are not what they seem on the surface of this perfect family and perfect little town.

Andrew Collins:

Now Andrew is someone that we can all relate.  Not popular in school, his social pariahness(as an obviously gay teenager), we can understand his fears and his  yearning to just leave and begin his life with honesty to self.  However, he is trapped living in a house with his parents where they have tried to starve the gay away, and now they are going to pray the gay away.  Andrew’s home-life is something out of  Harry Potter’s Muggle family:

You’ve chosen a path of death.  Your mother and I are here to make sure you make a different decision.  We’ll pray that gay away if it takes a lifetime.  You understand?

So we have family that is so F’d up, it is amazing that Andrew has survived up to this point.  Think about this.  If you had to suffer the things that Andrew does, would you be able to survive?  Would you have run away, committed suicide, or just accepted the brain washing to make the pain stop?

Theme Summary:

Reading the book, I found the theme fairly early in the book.  The author hinted at it in her forward.

After lunch he had astronomy and English literature.  They were reading The Life of Pi.  Growth through adversity was the central theme.  It was his life, but he didn’t feel like he was growing.

I think that we are told growing up, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,”  and while that might be true, we are not living in Sparta.  This book makes the point that “Praying the gay away” or “adversity will make you stronger” might not get the desired result and certainly will not end in the way you think it will.

Strong Points:

When I started reading male/male romances, it opened my eyes to the challenges out there for gay relationships.  I am a white married straight woman, so the idea of me being discriminated for walking down the street holding hands with my white husband is 0%.  It began to make me understand the horror and injustice for those who are in a gay/lesbian relationship.  Can you imagine being denied simple human contact?  This quote from Pray the Gay Away demonstrates this emotional and essential need:

There were days he wondered if he could sneak just one little touch.  Just a little brush of his hand against another guy’s bare chest and not while there were nine other guys on the court playing basketball, watching his every move or on the field, where the entire town had their eyes on him.  He wasn’t asking for much, not even a kiss, but he knew his desire was a bigger request than anyone, even God, could deliver from him at this time in his life.

Consider this, how visceral this description is and I dare you not to feel something.

What could be better?

As I read the book, more and more angst moments happened.  Over dramatic, soap opera emotions and characters popped out of the pages.  I started to wonder if the author was serious in her portrayal of these characters?  I could believe in Andrew and Jacks and other characters, but both set of parents?  No, those characters are simply too violent and black-and-white to be true.  But then I sat down and thought of Westboro Church and preachers like Fred Phelps.  Yes, clearly this is a small church with crazy ideas, but they do exist.  So, I can give the author a break in portraying the parents like this.

And I honestly believe the author is moved to write this book as a warning and parable about bullying of gay children/teens.  Her forward is clear:

This story is from my heart, and hits close to home.  I find it disturbing that all too often kids are tossed aside or discounted when their parents realize they are gay.  For far too many young teens the bullying and lack of parental support is too much and they think they have nothing to live for.  There are far too many kids in the world who face pressure because they are told they can pray the gay away if they try hard enough.

So, I believe that this is more than just a coming of age story about two gay teens.  This is a wake-up call to all of us, Christians or not, that there are children out there that need our help and our support.  If you see teenagers out there who are suffering for just being who they were meant to be, help them.  Support them.

Now, there were a few things that took this from being a perfect book for me.  There was a lot of angst, and while it helped to prove a point, I did get bored in sections.  Yes, they are being emotionally and physically abused, but move on.  I think if you have no problem with an agsty book, then you will be fine.  I also did not like the abrupt ending; I hate cliff hangers!  But, this is my issue, not the author’s.

Conclusions:

This is only book one in a three book series, so be prepared to wait until the end of the series for a conclusion.  I plan on reading all three books and will do a review on the last one as more of a “series review”.  I think I will be able to have a well rounded review for that.

I do encourage everyone who is a LGBTQQ supporter to read this book.   You need to understand what many (not just southern christian) gay children and teenagers go through.  For some, suicide or running away is the only answer.  This book makes you understand how they feel and should motivate you to do something.  So go out there, donate time or money to homeless shelters, youth camps, or other LGBTQQ based programs.

You are blessed with support from your friends and families (blood or bond created).  You survived your teenage years, but for some, they do not have the support to get through those years.  Pray the Gay Away is a book that should open your eyes to this issue and motivate you to do something, even if it is just a little.  Well worth the read.

Bea