I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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Tru(man) Cobbler is a teenager entering a new school, again, in this wonderful YA novel. He hasn't had an easy life, with a bullying, drunken stepfather, who (thankfully) met his demise at the front end of a semi truck, but things might be looking up. But Tru is gay, and not into sports, and he just knows that the kids at his new school are not going to like him.
Except nobody gave Javi Castillo that memo, and while he might be a jock, admired by most kids in the school, what with playing for the football team, he doesn't let anyone dictate with whom he can be friends. He meets Tru, and the two strike up an immediate friendship.
Tru thinks it's all too good to be, well, true, but as the plot progresses, and Javi's status in the school extends to Tru, the two boys fall in love. But being gay is one thing - being gay and out in high school, in St. Antonio, TX, is quite another. Especially with Javi needing that football scholarship to go to college, they can't be open about their relationship.
What I really liked about this novel were the nuanced, honest and mostly realistic characterizations of the two main characters. It's rare that a novel pairs a white character with a Hispanic one, and I appreciated that it was done here. And done well.
Neither Tru nor Javi come from affluent backgrounds, and I liked that too. Not everyone is rich and beautiful, and I'd rather have average, relatable characters in YA novels.
I did like Javi's parents quite a bit - they were supportive of their own son, knowing this preference for the same gender, and extended their welcome to Tru, making him feel like part of the family. I also liked that both of them had chores, that not everything was done for them.
Tru's mother too was supportive, though she and Javi's parents had some rather strict rules for the two of them - no sexual contact until they graduate high school. So while the language within is explicit, and the boys partake in a lot of snogging and cuddling and touching, nothing is happening below the waist except for, well, what teenage boys do when alone. I thought that the rule was perhaps a little too harsh, though I must credit the author for creating characters for whom it made sense that they would obey their parents. The loving relationship they had with Javi's parents, and Tru's mother, went a long way to explaining why they would listen to that rule, despite their raging teenage hormones.
There is conflict, too, and there was a heart-stopping moment toward the end that had me on edge, but throughout the book, it's made clear time again that the lesson is believing in yourself and being true to yourself. Standing up for what you believe in, even if that opinion isn't popular. Standing up for others, standing up against bullies, and first and foremost standing up for yourself.
The writing flows well, easy, and with good pacing. Sweet moments at home are happening as much as situations at school, and while there were some tears on my end, there were also plenty of heartwarming moments that kept the novel form becoming too angsty.
A lovely, lovely coming-of-age story, and highly recommended!
** I received a free copy of the book from the publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **