I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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This book, y'all!!
There are three primary characters within - Dane, Seth, and Truman. Of the three, I loved Truman most, though I fell for all three of them within minutes of starting to read this book.
First, there's Dane - married with two children, well-liked at the high school where he works as a teacher, carrying the heavy burden of living a lie, a part of himself he has buried deep within himself. You see, Dane is gay, but he grew up believing that gay was wrong, and that he had to throttle that part of him. Unhappy in his marriage, he still carries on day by day until a tragic accident claims the life of Dane's wife and mother of his children.
Cue the tears.
Not only are we experiencing the grieving family, but Rick R. Reed also pulls no punches when he lets us see inside Dane's guilt and self-blame. He knows nothing will ever be the same.
At this point, Seth enters the book as a new teacher at the school, having himself just started over after a bad break-up with a boyfriend, needing to get away from those memories. Upon spotting Dane, Seth falls hard and fast for the hunky teacher. He realizes quickly who Dane is, and realizes that while the man may be gay, he's certainly not out.
Except the attraction burns brightly, and the more time these two spend together, the closer they get. As their romance begins to bloom, Dane comes out to his kids, with mixed results. Their reactions fit their ages and characters quite well and certainly felt realistic.
And then there's Truman, a freshman with a penchant for graphic t-shirts, gay when gay is still not cool in high school in small town Ohio, but with a supportive, single mother. Truman struggles in school, bullied and without friends. Desperate and seeing no other way to end his pain, Truman - well, read this for yourself and find out.
I liked how the author showed all three of his main characters with their unique set of struggles that all converge within the plot. He created multi-dimensional characters not only for the three main ones, but also gave his supporting cast (Dane's kids Clarissa and Joey, Truman's mother Patsy) realistic and believable characteristics that all worked well within the story line.
There were some edge of my seat moments, there were tears, and there were cheers for the characters throughout this book. It's beautifully written, well-paced, and delves deeply into various points - internalized homophobia, being true to yourself, finding your own way, grieving your losses, and standing tall in the face of adversity.
Throughout it all, it's Truman, the youngest of the three main characters, who stood out the most for me. He emerges as the strongest of the three, walking his own path. While Seth, as the most experienced in all things gay of them, tries to help both Dane and Truman find their way, it is Truman, brave and sweet Truman, who shines most brightly in this story. I absolutely adored him, and his mother, and I was touched deeply by the inner strength this young man possessed. He emerges from the despair and is true to himself, forging his own path.
The overall theme, as you might have guessed from the title, is love. And there's a lot of love in this book - from Dane loving his wife and kids to Dane's falling in love with Seth, to Seth learning to love again, and Truman finding his first love, as well as the love of a mother for her child.
And above all, there's the message that you have to love yourself first and foremost, that you cannot love honestly and truly unless you are true to yourself and love the person you are.
Thank you, Rick, for this book.
** I received a copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **