I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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I have no idea how this book escaped my notice for so long, but holy moly, folks, if you love YA, if you love realistic, meaningful YA books that deal with realistic issues and contain fully formed characters, this is a book for you.
Ridge is attending a summer basketball camp, in an effort by his mother to get him out of his what I would call depression and overall melancholy after the death of his father. The camp is held near/on an Indian reservation, and while there, Ridge meets Micah, a boy his age from the tribe, who runs the carousel in the mall owned by his family.
Micah is gay, and Ridge isn't. But Micah is the first person who really "gets" Ridge, which is possibly because they both have similar loss of parental figures in their lives.
The entire book is told from Ridge's first person POV, so we don't get a whole lot of insight into Micah's inner workings, other than through Ridge's eyes.
All too often, YA are too overdone, too dramatic, too full of teenage angst. There's some here too, but it's done in a way that feel real, that feels organic and utterly believable. Most of it has a melancholy undertone, something that fits the plot and the characters, and it shows the struggles Micah had to overcome, struggles similar to what Ridge is still experiencing.
It shows that a devastating loss such as Ridge losing his father can be debilitating, that it can seem as if the world has ended, that things you previously enjoyed no longer seem fun, and that the memories associated with those things prevent you from enjoying them in the now. Anyone who's had such a loss in their life, especially at a young age, can surely see parts of themselves in Ridge. It's not overdone - it's real. I cried a few tears (okay, a lot of tears), whenever Ridge thought of his father. The stages of grief, while not explicitly explained here, are all there. We see Ridge move from denial to a sort of acceptance, as his trust in Micah grows, as he realizes slowly that Micah doesn't push him any more than he can take.
Yes, there's some drama too - what with Ridge having a girlfriend, and not being gay (or so he thinks), and Micah not being entirely honest as we find out toward the end - but it's easily overpowered by the relationship between these two young men, something that blossoms so simply and so organically that it often took my breath away.
Someone more cynical might say that it's unrealistic for these two boys to not get hot and heavy between the sheets - I'd disagree. I think that considering Ridge having a girlfriend for most of this book, and not thinking of himself as gay is a strong factor in the two of them not falling into bed. There is kissing and hand-holding, and the general excitement of first dates and such, but not even a mention of erections - not that I missed it. I think that it actually speaks more to the quality of this book to not portray them as only sexual beings, but focus more on their minds and their connection.
Someone more cynical might say that the pain of losing a parent can't be wiped out by finding a friend, a boyfriend, and I'd agree, but that's not what this book portrays. At the end, Ridge is still mourning his father. But Micah, unlike the other people in Ridge's life, is not telling him to get over it, nor does he react with discomfort or awkwardness when Ridge cries - he just accepts it, offers his shoulder, and gives comfort. Sometimes all that's needed is a good cry and a shoulder to cry on, arms to hold you.
This is an author to watch, for sure. I am SO glad I read this book. If you like YA novels, please give this a try.