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Skinny Dipping Into Books

I like the rain. I want to have a spring bookworming rain party full out with wellies—but not those Hunter Boots; absolutely not—, with yummy airy things like puffed pastries, meringues, mini fluffy cheese cakes, mousse dessert, macaroon, biscuits, crepe, and Earl Grey tea, definitely Earl Grey tea.  and Tillandsia. We'd have lots of "air plants". Lots! And We'd read, but not anything structured. We'd bring books, trade books, read out-loud, pass books around between sentences and paragraphs. We'd leave with books we hadn't discovered.


I like books like I like my Jazz; euphoric, dangerous, occasionally a bit manic, sorrowful, bleak, raging, mood-incongruent, mournful, unforgivingly ragged, symbolic in a quiet way, warm apple pie for the soul. Give me a Plath style. Yōko Ogawa, M. Roach,

Criteria: Not rated on likability of characters. Not objective. I like Moxie Soda; chances are you don't.

time spent in that before bed reading slot:

5-until blurry eye 4-Later than I intended, but I still kept to my extended, extended reading time 3-I really should have been to bed an hour ago  2-customary 30 minutes. 1-book. side table. eyes closed.

How are common themes handled?

5-With an aesthetic that repurposes everyday themes into something fresh. Think of Hole Celebrity Skin covered by Cat Power  4-there is a comfortable air of familiarly.
3-Deja Vu 2. No deviation from its mates  1. Devastatingly trite, redundant, and stale.

Where would you keep it post-reading?

5-Next to my bed.  4-it's the center piece of my favorite bookshelf 3. On my other favorite bookshelf, but it's a bit dusty over their 2-Great cheap bookends 1-It never made it out of the box marked 'moving'.

Emotional response-

5- Where is my teddy bear? Emotional-hangover 4- If I wasn't so emotionally stunted I'd cry.
3. Did James Cameron co-wrote this? Artfully contrived. 
2- calculative emotional manipulation. This was literally written by James Cameron.1- I…feel…..nothing.

Mechanics (plot structure, voice, presentation, word choice, sentence structure, characters, writing style, pacing, and consistency):

5-Chanel 4-Prada 3-J-Crew 2-Gap 1-Old Navy

Currently reading

The Complete Stories
Flannery O'Connor
I am No One You Know
Joyce Carol Oates
Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls
Alissa Nutting, Alissa Nutting

a book that mixes up all the parts and it actually works....

Dangerous Boys - Abigail Haas

This book was all Fight Club like, written in a style reminiscent of All the Birds, Singing and Rachel Joyce’s Perfect. We all gather in anticipation, all small and nervous, looking towards the unknown like Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Starting with a scene filled with blood, screams, and begging it’s up to the reader to continue reading to figure out the mystery behind the stabbing.

It reveals itself, perhaps a bit too slowly, by way of chapter splitting trickery. We start at The End, well not THE END, we find out later it is somewhere nestles between the beginning of the end and the last pas de chat(that’s right, right?) of Ethan, Oliver, and Chloe’s twisted ballet. We jostle precariously, most of the time dragging our feet, from chapter to chapter that flips between ‘The End’, ‘Now’, and ‘Then’. So in other words you have the beginning, middle, end all stirred up in an clear attempt to confuse the reader. While it avoids the shock porn genre, it steers so far in the opposite direction that it misses a bit of oomph. But you have to be thankful, because the shocking twist thing championed by Flynn is so trite.

Chloë meets the confident, adorable, handsome Ethan while doing all the mundane things that happen when working a diner. She falls in love (sorta, kinda) with overly obsessive, seemingly unaware of the concept of 'me versus us Ethan'.

All is well and good, and Chloë can continue on her personal denial and charade of happiness until Mr. Conduit of Evil, Oliver seduces her with all things sinister and against traditional moral code. He eases her into this world, and quickly. The concept is all fine and good, but did minimum wage, boredom, an eagerness to move away from home, and a car that continued to stalled really conceal a psychopath?? There needed to be some nuggets of insanity for me to really accept this without any reservations.

As Chloë remains mesmerized by Oliver’s dangerous behavior, like a magnified glass to an ant, Ethan basically gets stupider and stupider. Seriously, I am not the most perceptive lad, but I can figure out which of my friends is fucking by that thing called nonverbal cues. Of course right when Ethan is going to stumble on Chloë and Oliver’s breach of personal space, Ethan misses it by a split second. At other times Ethan seems to straddle hit-on-the-head-with-cast-iron-pan syndrome, literally misinterpret these situations as bonding. Playing tongue wrestling? Ah look at that bonding—that didn’t really happen, but Ethan would probably think of it that way.

At about halfway through you think you figured it out. But, it must be a complicated, wowing ending that led up to the fire that took up the first five pages. You think… IT MUST, you simple assumptions can’t be what really happened. Alas, it really isn’t complicated, and the last chapter is about as boring as randomly sorting through a dictionary and reading whatever word you stumble upon, or going to a paper mill on a class trip—never been, so maybe that is all fun and entertainment, but still.

The parts do coalesce at the end, and Chloë does make a choice between the devil (Oliver) and the angel (Ethan). It’s just a molasses, subdued boring ending. I wanted to be like “wholly fucking mind-fuckery”, but I was more like “I knew there was a reason it took over a week for me to finish this”. Absent was the emotional content that could have acted as scaffolding, and even with a weak storyline (it wasn't that weak, I mean I did read it) would have helped it stay buoyant.

In the end I was less than impressed, but it did avoid the cliché methodical mold of ‘shock porn’. It is a nice spacer, a cleanser between novels, and there is a population, a younger demographic, that will be all over this thing. It is worth picking up. You really won’t be regretting reading it. It just isn’t that special.

book previews !!!

Buzz Books 2014: Fall/Winter: Exclusive Excerpts From Over 30 Top New Titles -


It saves me the time of searching for fall offerings, going to amazon, reading the first chapter online, and deciding to read it or not. In an act of pure brilliance, and a way to indulge my absolute laziness I count on Buzz Books to do all the work for me. As usual it doesn't let me down. This collection contains a brilliant array of fall-to-be books. Discoveries abound, like did you know Neil Patrick Harris has a book coming out? Part Two, my most favorite part of all provides numerous previews of debut fiction. This preview of all previews is free! so head over to netgalley and find out  what is coming out as you prepare for a fire and hot cider as the chill of fall sets in.


Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex - Mary Roach

Disclaimer: This review is highly male oriented


this book has everything


sex in every form... every cringe worthy, OMG, terrified, and enlightening aspect of such a wonderful experience (uuuuu....sually....)




(fertility statue)


from what makes people tick sexually (hormones, positions, and implications on sexual function and arousal, etc)



To the anatomy—muscles, structure, non-typical reactions, biology, spinal cord injuries and their impact on sexual relations—.



An assortment of horrifyingly stunning—scope, findings and WTF moments—, and fascinating procedures. Procedures explored within are a unique balance of the dated and archaic and more modern ones.



the starting revelations and findings arising from the use of old technology, as well as advanced modern approaches (mri machines and ultrasounds)


  An assortment of complications pertaining to sex, involving an endless array of constellations and configurations



The exploration of psychology and sex




Together these themes culminate into the typical approach Mary takes in writing her odd little gems. Frustrations abound for the less ADHD crowd. It skips around the main theme, providing related evidence, historical context, as well as not so relevant information that in the end somehow fits. For example, she will be undergoing a procedure about female arousal and anxiety disorders and will detour this subjective experience to additions related material, then sweep back to the exam. This isn't difficult for someone who is used to this sort of puzzled pieces approach.


Also, this book, as well as all of her other works is heavy in research. This book does not mess around with the trivial, mundane, or lighter side of science. It explores the less known, cringe worthy, and darker parts of science in a classic Roach style.



Pretty much summaries my personal, subjective response to Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex


It's ultimately is all about its sex.... all things about sex... some things you may not know and some things you never wanted to know. The chapters on the penis demonstrate this. The chapter that circles around the quote "'I better get home or the ducks—I still have trouble walking next to ponds—will have something to eat.” caused a fair amount of anxiety and discontent and had me covering my junk throughout (I KID YOU NOT, AND FOR THE MOST PART THIS WAS A AUTOMATIC, UNCONTROLLABLE REACTION). I'll leave you to find out the meaning of this quote, but if you have a willy you will surely be doing the same thing.



In the end the chapter titled The Taiwanese Fix and the Penile Pricking Ring: Creative approaches to impotence had no subjective relevance prior to reading, but may be a temporary side effect from reading this book. I fear the consequences of this book and on 'Clark Kent' (give me a break i was young when it got its name). Thankfully this hasn't been the case YET, but I will admit that I have at times, particularly shortly after finishing this, quietly critiqued and examined 'things'. There have been a number of times when my thoughts have quietly expressed disbelieve and awe at what is happening during the... task.. event.... experience. Hopefully my mind and body don't drift too much in opposite directions, because honestly the tests of a males' member and arousal throughout this book seems way to painful to endure. Thankfully 'Clark Kent' seems to have enough stamina and association with the ID to overrule my analytical mind. But it may prove too much for poor 'Clark Kent'.


Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers - Mary Roach






"The human body has two ends on it: one to create with and one to sit on. Sometimes people get their ends reversed. When this happens they need a kick in the seat of the pants." Theodore Roosevelt


Why does one read this sort of book? Cocktail parties and any sort of social interaction, that’s why! I’ve always wanted to have a fake identity as a mortician. “Yah, I’m a mortician, but it isn’t as glamorous as you think”. And now I will get invited to less and less parties.



It’s morbid, educational, and sometimes down right gross. Ok, it’s probably 100 percent always gross, but I LOVED IT! The author provides a fact, goes off on a non-linear analysis, then often distracts with funny lines that are suppose to lighten up the stuff you read previous. It often works. I laughed constantly, even over the parts about human decomposition. Sometimes it doesn't work. But most of the time is does. Most of the time it is fucking hilariousness.


This book is not suppose to be heavily research-based, nor is it light reading for a beach (Unless you want to get parents making wide loops around your towel, covering their child(rens) faces, and giving you looks of disapproval. This is something I would do. This is why Mary Roach and I would easily slip into a comfortable companionship over Buds [read Gulp……..now]). But this is not a research article. It isn't a quaint, relaxed, read in bed sort of experience, but I did, if only to freak out the BF. I took physiology and biology in college, and I can tell you with certainty that I learned far more from this little book than I did spending 4 grand per class and sitting in class at 8am next to my overly zealous lab partner; I still hate you for having to endure your high pitched voice on hangover days. Simply put, this is highly educational without a snooze factor.


The footnotes drag on, and I'll admit I skipped most of them. I read this initially on kindle, so the small screen really didn’t encourage me to focus on them. A second read strictly focused on the footnotes was rewarding, and offered a more in depth understanding of what I previously read.


It is a fast read and thestyle of writing goes along quickly. She is often frenetic (So am I, so this was a perfect pairing), almost distracted (so am I… seriously, we would make great Bud drinking friends), as if she got up for coffee, a trip to the loo, or maybe she is making lunch, like me right now. Regardless, she leaps around between related (sometimes not related) topics back-to-back or even in the same paragraph. This works 80 percent of the time, but the other 20 I found myself a bit annoyed, but I managed and so will you.

In the end, yes I have used a large majority of this book at social gatherings, and I like the wide-eyed expressions on people’s faces, the fact they step back away, and the unique way it tends to end conversations you never wanted to have in the first place. I am going to make it a point to carry this with me at the most inappropriate times. A great way to avoid people on trains, buses, planes. I am also impressed that I have retained so much information. I have even continued research on topics that interested me, like what to do with my handsome bod once I stop ticking. People think I’m kidding when I say I’d put in my will that I want to be fertilizer in a relatives yard.



“It is astounding to me, and achingly sad, that with eighty thousand people on the waiting list for donated hearts and livers and kidneys, with sixteen a day dying there on that list, that more then half of the people in the position H's family was in will say no, will choose to burn those organs or let them rot. We abide the surgeon's scalpel to save our own lives, out loved ones' lives, but not to save a stranger's life. H has no heart, but heartless is the last thing you'd call her.”


“The human head is of the same approximate size and weight as a roaster chicken. I have never before had occasion to make the comparison, for never before today have I seen a head in a roasting pan.”


“Here is the secret to surviving one of these [airplane] crashes: Be male. In a 1970 Civil Aeromedical institute study of three crashes involving emergency evacuations, the most prominent factor influencing survival was gender (followed closely by proximity to exit). Adult males were by far the most likely to get out alive. Why? Presumably because they pushed everyone else out of the way.”

Exceptionally dark, sinister, and all bits of entertainment

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

This book is childhood. It is adulthood. It is everything between. It is holding onto the magic of youth, even as you wrinkle and your thoughts aren't as clear. You can still do that, you know, hold onto that lovely magical, fantastical world of youth; a world full of out-door excursions, ghost-busters and pretending to be Egon and even getting your haircut with that swirl/colic, being scared of the dark, tents that when your mom said to take it down broke your little heart, pretending to be a pirate full of roar and courage, idealizing your older cousins. How brilliant your imagination was then, and how brilliantly this book recalls that little place in your heart, still regarded as a place to go when scared or reminiscing. I still think I'm superman on occasion…the superman briefs help. You will need all that—possibly sans briefs—, because without your imagination and curiosity, you will undermine its essence.

It is an linear olfactory-scape of sawdust, black and white motif, candy apple, popcorn, toffee, leather, oak, and something animalistic.

It takes place in the late 19th century/early 20th within all corners, from New York to Paris. The Cirque des Rêves is a charming, wondrous place that sets its tent poles as abruptly as it lets them collapse. Marco and Celia will grow up under the black and white swirls of canvas, watching contortionists, flame eaters, and all sorts of yummy, awe striking things. They are groomed to perform the most magical and surreal expressions of their craft, but under what pretense?

Something or someone sinner lurks, and it build up over the pages. The author slowly develops the plot, and like a witch at a caldron making a complicated stew for Hansel and Gretel, we find ourselves in the grasp of an artisan. Morgenstern takes charge of her craft as she slowly weaves together the inception of Cirque des Rêve and the twisted motives for Celia's early refuge within the circus tents.

I think I'll stop there, because even though this story is long in page numbers, the actual plot is a simple thing and once stripped of its magic its pretty mundane. It is an old love story, with its pulp reconfigured in a very unique, never-seen-before, niche way. It would be irresponsible for me to extrapolate the real meaning between Marco and Celia's cohabitation and to put it raw within this review for everyone to read about. I know I am not giving you a lot here, but I can say the book focuses on characters' discovering themselves, stomps through the muckishness of love, and families of all sorts and configurations. Concepts that are already difficult are further knotted by a dark and twisted game.

This book is all about style, from quick flips between past and present, and a lush, highly detailed writing style. This may put off people that don't fall in love with highly plot driven novels, or for those who get caught up in books that shift from here and there, in both time and location, but its beautiful, so give it a shot, ey?

I felt like Hansel, trying to find the familiarity of bread crumbs, but forced to navigate something new and terrifying.

I spent how many hours on THAT!?

Every Time I Think of You - Jim Provenzano


Bathed in contrivances, an awkward, obsessive focus on sexual activity and written in a forced and belabored style, Every Time I Think of You tells the story of Everett and Reid. These two star-struck lovers meet in one of the most absurd book introductions in history. Reid, succumbed to teenage hormones, escapes to his favorite masturbation vacation spot; the woods. Of course he stumbles across someone who is masturbating at the same exact time at the same exact place. It’s winter. There is snow. This pretty much establishes the lengths to which this novel is devoid of reality.

Reid and Everett are from different socio-economic backgrounds. Reid the poor-isher, and Everett the privileged one. Of course with the variations in social makeup comes with the obligatory liberal, easy going, accepting family and the republican, hard-arsed, critical family. The classic characterizations of these two groups, and the clash between the two is presented as expected.

Reid and Everett’s budding relationship, cemented in the flexing of their right hands, travels the typical trajectory of a love story, that is it starts off good, and to be jaded and cynical we have to endure some sort of devastation. Reid musters up his one-dimensional whining personality and becomes overly reliant on Everett. Everett confidence and his rebellious attitude doesn’t jive well for the inexperienced Reid, and rather than grow within the love, they both remain stagnant…. for about 100 pages. It is very cute, fluffy, warm, and all cookies and milk, but barely much else.  

The pages turn and Everett continues to roll on with a seductive dance with his own dares—because we haven’t read the young, white son rebelling against his rich family… like ever—and Reid whines about the sand papery relationship. What results, at least on Reid’s end is this ‘he loves me he loves me not flower peddle pulling’ repetitive inner-dialog. Without his own construct of love, Reid struggles with understanding Everett’s need for lets say, just for example, blowjobs on a golf course. He of course never questions the fact that he and Everett first met when he stumbled across him ‘walking the dog’ in the middle of snowy forestness. There is intimacy here, but it’s poorly developed and lacks depth.

Boom… shocking plot device… The already labored, but reasonably comfortable relationship must have its misery. No love is safe. Everett has an accident and Reid is forced to navigate his own hesitations, anger, sense of loss, sadness, and also Everett’s loss of personal integrity and personhood. Rather than explore this delicate and difficult terrain, we are assaulted by a precarious combination of libido, family dynamics, friendship, betrayal condoned by he who is betrayed, and depression. Nothing is really developed thoroughly, other than the reoccurring theme of sex. This isn’t to say that the remainder of the book focused exclusively on sex, but the ratio was a bit lopsided towards ‘can we still have sex and how has this changed’. The over-arching theme here, as with the rest of the book, is a study on how sex can clot a hemorrhaging relationship. Even when apart, and communicating through letters—which, seriously goes on for ever and ever and I screamed at the thought of having to read more of Reid’s whiny little attempts to sustain the relationship. Pulling at straws—, every other piece of correspondence referenced something sexual.

We encounter a simplistic, vague, and otherwise vapid overhaul of a relationship torn asunder by an unusual, and downright ugly life event. The knitting of two lives, the before the accident and after, failed to solidify into anything other than something superficial and grossly overrated. The plot focused seldom on the contrast of the before and after, and the loss of abandoning the relationship or pulling forward, and more on the language of physical touch between ‘able-bodied’ and ‘non-abled bodied’ people. There were scant periods of introspection, personal strife, observations on resiliency, and only a few squints at empathy. The problem here is that the relationship between Everett and Reid was ill conceived from the onset, so when things broke away from sexual rendezvouses, and rough explorations into family, self, and the essentials of love, it was a little difficult to truly immerse myself in the notion of ‘we love one another beyond thrashes between the sheets’.

The travesty is that this book escaped the really gritty shit of disabilities and the way sudden life changes annihilate lives. Every Time I Think of You did venture into a unique and novel territory, but it did so with poor execution and a writing style that was perfectly suited as a replacement for sleeping pills.

Unfortunately, there exists only a minimal amount of offerings from this sub-genre of gay lit, thus increasing the competition. The novel Two Boys Kissing, with its keen observation on gender issues and suicide, and The Hours with its raw examination of HIV and suicide, dwarf Every Time I Think of You under their much larger, impressive shadows.

And my rant….

Gay themed health related literature is a slender departure from those offered by the larger gay genre. This leaves a wide landscape of creativity and ingenuity, and permits a space to explore territory beyond the sadness, jealousy, and fractured relationships that typifies and stains the larger gay romance genre. Why then do we find the same dreaded over sexualized, emotionally strained relationships observed in this book? The status quo, even with the novelty of the dynamics between able bodied and non-abled bodied, is becoming excessively redundant.

So… stop that.

Visual representation is…

Snow and Shadow - Dorothy Tse

Received a copy via DeBartlo & Co.

The PR wheel has spun this collection as an example of a writing style akin to Murakami. The problem with this is two fold. Firstly, his work perfectly straddles reality and dreamscape. Secondly, because of item one, there is a consistency to his work, which lends to ease of reading and a clear(er...ish) understanding of the content. In this collection not so much.

The author of Snow and Shadow presented us with human experiences, cultural references, and personal reflection through the lens of heavy abstract writing. One of the more constant themes was this dark, edgy, and achingly beautiful discussion of loss and transitions.

Abstraction and surrealism are tricky buggers. This is where my interest was steadily squeezed. Rather than drift between two anchors of a continuum, reality and abstraction—a place where my Dearest Bender thrives—, the author remained cemented in the deep waters of abstraction and surrealism. While reading my brain was hit with a barrage of melting clocks and weirdly distorted faces tied like hot air balloons to desert landscapes(get this reference. Win a star). It recalled my initial confusion over Mulholland Drive, except in this case I doubt a reread would provide a deeper understanding.

But the words are something yummy!

“The morning sun was so warm that its rays leapt down into people’s collars like lively fleas.”

“Some sounds are lost forever. He will never hear his wife tapping on the computer again”

“People squeezed breathlessly through cracks in the city, eager to find a Christmas tree in the shopping mall, though it was only August”

And this. Have you ever heard rain described like this...!!!!!!!! “People looked up and the tight-shut overcast sky opened its toothless mouth, splattering their faces with rain. He opened his umbrella and the raindrops pelted down on it like deafening bullets”

Story after story is fanned with delicious literary delights. These are surgically placed with ease suggestive of a mature writer. They offer the brightness of bergamot, and the tenacity of an underdog. Weaved throughout is an air of leathery stiff dread and fear. These lines divorce themselves from the overall convoluted writing style and return the reader back to a place of familiarity. I fear that the power of these moments is a reflection of a book drowned by a disorienting style. Rather than contrast and balance the writing, they simply relieve the reader and give him/her a lifeboat; it has a hole in the bottom, and your 8-ounce cup will do nothing to prevent your inevitable drowning.

I did enjoy a few of these stories.

Woman Fish- This is an exploration of rifts between two lovers. Your boyfriend/girlfriend may not transform into a fish—Though maybe he/she will. It happened on South Park—but change does happen, and sometimes the strain is just too much.

The Love Between Leaf and Knife was a startling illustration of a lengthy marriage, the loss of intimacy, and the two lovers endless rush to prove their love. As they continue attempts to outdo one another, you get the unsettling sense that the loss they are attempting to escape will never recede.

Head is an interesting look at family roles. ‘Tree’ (IE Son) looses his head and ‘Wood’ (IE Dad) offers his own. ‘Tree’ struggles with the internal conflict of his former self, and his new external appearance. We later discover ‘Wood’s’ role in the frankenstein-esque exercise in role reversal, and question if this is an examination of a father passing on his legacy to an apprehensive son. Getting old sucks.

Blessed Bodies was another look at loss, and an examination of how far someone will go to seek pleasure and companionship, and the lengths someone will go to provide those things. It is also an analysis in the consequences of this recursive exchange.

‘The Mute Door” and “The Traveling Family” really encapsulate the saying, “Don't you know you can't go home again?”

In "The Mute Door" we start our descent into abstract concepts. Familiarity is something we yearn for, but life is earmarked with transitions, some we willingly engaged, and others are approached with uncertainty. This is a fierce and commanding exploration into balancing the two, and may explore the loss of culture, and/or the loss of love; I am still trying to figure that out.

"The Traveling Family" was a lovely, heartbreaking portrayal of change. Son, Sis, Dad, Mom and Grandmother embark on a trip. One by one each departs and finds his/her own purpose, a path of refuge and comfort, leaving Son totally and absolutely confused. He must establish his own trajectory in life, and forgo the urge to remain stagnant among the familiar. Is this an exploration of Son’s perception that the members of his micro-environment no longer complement his future self? Or the pressure others exact onto him to leave and flourish on his own? This is all retrospective too, so we get the sense that he has already established a sense of self, but what constitutes that self is as elusive as a half completed canvas and we don’t really get a sense of where all these events lead ‘Son’.

So, in the end I can appreciate the brilliant combination of a simple and complex writing style during those moments I was able to liberate myself from this Murakami on speed writing style, but those moments were so scarce that I was left feeling empty and uninspired. Dorothy Tse is clearly a writer worthy of attention, and anyone with the patience to wade into her stories will surely find himself or herself rewarded.

“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn't stop for anybody.”

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

This book has been compared to The Catch and the Rye. These two books are only similar in the way a paper bag and a plastic bag are used to carry groceries. Yes they both have a teenage protagonist. Yes they deal with all the commonly glorified themes of teenage life. And… that’s it. Interestingly, Perks has a portion of dialog discussion the ways art, in this case music, loses individuality:

“Problem with things is that everyone is always comparing everyone with everyone and because of that, it discredits people…”

So, you know, lets stop that.

There is an overt agenda on behalf of the author to make Charlie the modern day Holden. This is no more apparent then in the adoption of a familiar writing style, and the numerous references to The Catcher and The Rye, specifically with Charlie and Bill’s endless admiration for the book…. Again…. Just stop. You are confusing people.

Lastly, reviewers please stop using the label autism unless you are both a counselor/social worker and in a clinical setting. It is an incredibly lazy analysis, and to a large extent disrespectful to persons of non-typical development. In general stop using clinical diagnoses.

In a style that is disjointed, rather fragmented, and often erratic/frenetic, 15 y/o Charlie gives us an intimate portrait of his first year of high school through letters to himself (yah you heard me. Will explain later).

Confined to his social awkwardness, Charlie is not bullied directly—well, ok lie. He is sometimes bulled but it isn’t a centerpiece—, but is subjected to the vast emptiness of isolation. We don’t really get a clear understand as to why he is in this predicament, other than the fact that he is emotionally vulnerable, and recently lost a friend to suicide.

It becomes quickly apparent that Charlie is not only constricted by his social environment, but by some lingering mental health issues. The roaring underbelly of past trauma is woven throughout the novel. The echoes of the trauma are demonstrated during periods of tearfulness, aggression, and heightened startle response. The book is also particularly successful in highlighting one of the key components of trauma, numbness. Early on we witness his difficulty with attachment, which is tied directly to childhood trauma. This is his baseboards… trauma.

I had two problems with how mental health issues were conceived. Firstly, the endless and randomness of his crying did become a bit whiny and annoying over time. Secondly, I had a hard time with the way the author chose to integrate and explore the ‘why’ part of Charlie’s behaviors.

Charlie wasn’t wholly closed off emotionally or socially, and had numerous instances where he tried to rekindle old friendships or initiate new ones; all but one was successful. Charlie meets Sam and Patrick, which, to Charlie is the equivalent of a teenager’s trip to Willie Wanka’s Chocolate Factor (see what I did there? Charlie and Charlie?). He is thrown abruptly into a word vastly different from his solo lunch days.

He meets the gravitational center of the island of misfit teenagers and at its core the edgy Mary Elizabeth and the pothead Bob. It is a welcoming contrast from Susan, the nice girl with braces in middle school, now turned bitch without braces in high school, closet-case Brad, a host of bullies that crowd the school’s hallways, and a lot of conformists. This is also the beginning of the struggle of recognizing that he is noticed, and that his perception of self is his own. He wants to be that person, but he really isn’t ready; it’s all very Mr. Jones.

Bill, Charlie’s English teacher also enters into the story around this time. Bill is fundamentally important to Charlie’s gains in self-respect, integrity, and self-esteem. Bill steadies himself between the role of a teacher and friend. Academically, he supports a student he perceives as struggling with writing skills by assigning additional work. He takes this opportunity to strengthen Charlie’s writing skills while also emphasizing his assets. He also perceived him, and rightfully so, as struggling psychologically as well as socially. Consequently, he creates a strong teacher-student bond, which ultimately benefits Charlie.  

Meanwhile, Charlie fiendishly thrives on his new life, and for a moment almost avoids his previous self. He exudes a peculiar adorable combination of innocents, confidence, and awkwardness. He fits well among his new friends, and this becomes his new home of sorts. His past, along with the novelty of friendship does present some problems, but for the most part his new friends are remarkably supportive.

However, the past is not easily suppressed, nor is a brain mangled by the weight of psychological fragility. His relationship with his friends is scattered with emotional disregulation and the weight of self-doubt. His emotional underpinnings are vastly different than those of his cohort, and the contrast is a formidable hurdle, and one that inevitably breaks past his shield. He is unable comprehend the consequences that that follow his actions.  Drama ensues. Yet again his friends rally around him and are even more supportive after one particularly harrowing scene.

Eventually Charlie must use the foundation established by his friendships and integrate them into further exploration of his past, as well as present challenges. As Dr. Seuss said, “Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak. Oh! The places you'll go!” Charlie may be ready for this, he may stand steady yet a little weary, and he may even falter, but he will always cherish that freshman year, and he is lucky, because freshman year sucks. It is really sad stuff around this part.

The whole experience is shockingly realistic, and if it weren’t for the childish narration the entire book would meet the expectations of a MTV’s publication. Rather than a reflection of MTV’s deft understanding of teenagers, especially in the case of My So Called Life, it settles somewhere between MSCL and One Tree Hill. Charlie’s character was just incredibly juvenile and under-developed (?. still on the fence with this one). The emotional punch was diminished because I was personally unable to relate Charlie to the characteristics that typify adolescence. His language and cognitive abilities were similar to a ten y/o rather than a 15 y/o. There was something about him wavering between having only a surface registry of human behavior and then compassion towards others, for example, during his sister’s health related issue and Patrick’s rocky relationship with Brad. But Sam did speak frankly of his inability to express his individuality, as well as his emotions. And maybe there is something to be said about him struggling with English composition, which would result in a younger voice.  If this were the case, I would have expected significant gains in his English skills as he and Bill continue their work together. Likewise, it was particularly distracting that Charlie’s emotional intelligence developed substantially, while his mental intelligence remained stagnant. But, then again, when was the last time I read a 15 y/o’s mail… like ever?

The epilogue is also successful—and you ALL KNOW I HATE EPILOGUES—, if viewed through the lens of Charlie finally participating in his own life. The whole idea of this study of self, the quest to discover and heal via writing letters was to find his own footing in his life. The space between the second to last and final letter maintains the consistency of the rest of the book.

I do have to applaud the author for including topics of incest, abortion, abuse, homosexuality and its partner in crime confusion, family dynamics, bullying, and concepts of normality in a manner that was neither derivative or contrived. These concepts were large in scale, and with the exception of a few areas of faulty execution, were rather successful.

I will forfeit some of my criticism, given that I am reading this from an adult’s orientation. I do think that the trend of adults reading young adult literature somewhat diminishes the genre’s credibility when we find ourselves terminally unable to dismiss our inclinations to analyze from an older point of view.

Finally, I can understand its utility for a younger audience, and would champion it as a valuable asset for younger teenagers, perhaps with the caveat that they may not be able to identify directly with Charlie, but with his experiences. So, as Bill said, “Try to be a filter, not a sponge”.

So, the big mystery of the ‘who is Charlie reallllyyyyy writing to?’ It’s rather important stuff. You need to remember that he is an unreliable character and can do whatever he darn pleases with the storyline.

I believe a psychiatrist using DBT/CBT/and-or mindfulness urged Charlie to start writing letters to himself. It seems akin to a retrospective analysis of past events, a notion reinforced by the common thread of ‘participating in ones life’, as well as Charlie mentioning why writing letters is better than journaling. The use of fake names would have relevance to this POV too, with that whole confidentiality thing.

Furthermore, quotes like, “So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be.” And “ When I write letters, I spend the next two days thinking about what I figured out in my letters. I do not know if this is good or bad”, as well as others, suggest that this is a post-trauma therapeutic exercise.

Another quote helps piece together that Charlie is writing to himself:

 “And I saw a girl in class, who didn't notice me, and she talked all about you to a friend of hers. And even though I didn't know you, I felt like I did because you sounded like such a good person.”

Lets take it apart…

If this is retrospective in nature we don’t actually know when he overheard this statement. For all we know it could have occurred mid or end stage of Charlie’s experiences when his visibility and popularity had increased. It could literally be a stranger, talking about him as Charlie’s social world expanded and thus his exposure to the broader school community widened. Again, he is an unreliable character after all.

The excerpt “even though I didn't know you, I felt like I did” almost introduces the idea of splitting regarding two different perceptions of self—note, I am not using this in any clinical sense. Charlie’s later statement during the same period that the ‘friend’ deserves “a very nice life, because I really think you deserve it”, only serve to reiterate the image of splitting. It is almost like he is speaking to himself as people saw him, from the vantage point of the way he saw himself. This further reverberates the overlapping theme of Charlie attempting to merge ‘traumatized Charlie’ with ‘Healthy Charlie’. There is also a really raw feeling of intimacy that I think only could derive from a relationship with oneself, or a significant other.

The beginning quote, “I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have”, is the synthesis of events from his own life and the conversation he overheard. Referring to oneself in the positive is a hallmark of the writing exercise I believe Charlie was engaging. Therefore, it is a logical starting point to begin his story as other people viewed him. It also cements the assumption that Charlie is re-examining past experiences. Either he overheard the conversation in 8th grade and is mailing the letters to someone in his own grade, which would be far too risky given the level of detail they contain, or he overheard it during the course of his first year of high school, and is utilizing it in the way I suggested.

The statement above is rather indicative of when he started to build self-love—and if you remember he started after he built his relationship with others, endured the trials and tribulations of friendship, and listened to his friends talk about him in a positive way. Rocky Horry shines through here too—, and without that tiny glimmer of hope, he wouldn’t be able to make these statements, write some profound and insightful letters, or show emotional development as the letters continued. Therefore, I believe this quote, situated at the end of the novel, amplifies that he is writing to himself. I also believe if he didn’t frame it with a positive statement about himself at the onset of writing, that he would, at least to some degree, rebound.


Dear, Friend,

“I said hey listen to me. Stay sane inside insanity….”

I wish you well,


one of the most brilliantly conceived gay YA books that transcended the genre

Something Like Spring - Jay Bell




Ben and Tim withdrawal…



Many reviewers subjected Tim to a rigorous examination pertaining to relatability. These all start with [insert any negative adjective here] and end with [I just couldn’t relate/connect Tim]. This is the laziest type of analysis. No one is asking you to share a Bud on the back porch, so lets get real with reviewing, k?


The ‘this is unbelievable’, fist on table—no I’m not calling you a drunken sailor—statements are misleading. I’d recon that a substantial number of gays battled similar issues. I’d also slap down a fiver and wager that the majority of dissent derives from the options of heterosexuals.


This is unquestionably my favorite tetralogy, which, because 4 consecutive novels seldom happen in literature, doesn’t really say much. Something like Summer has inherited a spot as one of my top 5….ish favorite books. To reinforce the prestige—I jest, because I know full well that this list will stir up some raised eyebrows and a “whattt”?—of this membership, Something Like Summer straddles—pun…. Maybe…— up with Two Boys Kissing, Lover’s Dictionary, Me Before You, Call Me By Your Name/the Hours.


The ‘Something like…’ series was a unique departure from the standard mainstream gay literature, a genre that more often than not is an expansion of a GLADD “Find Yourself: Coming Out 101” “Smile You’re Gay. Be Proud” “It gets better”, etc. pamphlet that has become this festering mantra of the genre, and is frankly bullshit.


Spring wasn’t without its flaws, however.




It contained far too many love triangles, three by my count, and although these were tightly woven into the storyline, it felt contrived at the end. Is this the author sharing the limits of his writing abilities, or is he just cynical of gay relationships? Given Jay’s claim that, ‘happy relationships are boring’ not surprisingly many of the relationships splinter into a soap opera ending. Where they aren’t ending, there is a high degree of suffering. This, in my humble opinion, is EXACTLY where Bell fails us as a community. Can’t we get a bit of normalcy? I’m not suggesting that relationships don’t end. Yet the ending of any relationship doesn’t have to end in overt drama, Mr. Bell. It can be rather subtle. Plus, it would be special if we could avoid the three-way relationships.


As always with Jay Bell, the novel is permeated with pacing issues. Jay is known for piling in an excessive amount of plot lines into the final chapters of this series.


Jason’s budding love life, numerous love triangles, the elucidation of the proposal and the complications, and old ghosts charge violently from the past. Then that scene….


Too little space for character and plot development. ALL of these elements are emotionally manipulative in their stunted, shortened state. All could have been expanded into so much more.





Lastly, I am a strong opponent of an epilogue used at the conclusion of a series/solo novel and feel that they are abandonment from skilled writing, and furthermore weaken the overall book. Moreover, they seem to be exclusively contained to Ben and Tim’s successful relationship. I get it “happy couples are boring”, but in a world often defined by hate of an internal quality, as well as externally, members of the gay community NEED every moment of happiness obtainable. As such, I vehemently reject the notion that happy couples are boring. *



The novels are arranged to correspond with the seasons, and as the storyline overlaps, the symbolism of seasons is a remarkably accurate way of capturing the tumultuous lives of these two gents. In reality, while this is a portrait of a relationship over the course of a decade+, it is also a hugely successful and accurate study in sexual development.

Lets start with how we got here…


Summer/Winter offer very different orientations of the same experience.


Summer/Winter introduced us to two characters; strong, noble, confident, defiant, dorky, Will from Will & Grace like, Benjamin Bentley, and Ben’s insecure, confused, but teddy bear lovable, protective and dedicated counterpart Tim Wyman.


Ben, having conquered the initial phases of his sexuality and claiming stake to it, began venturing into the murky territory of solidifying his expectations of a partner and the workings of a relationship. As onlookers we spy on Ben as he attempts to nurture Tim’s initial confusion over his sexuality, while also struggling to maintain his own sense of self. As much as Ben tries to navigate the two, he decides to preserve his personal integrity and abandons his attempt to mold Tim into his own vision of a partner. In the second half of SLS we watch as Ben stumbles through a life concaved by financial and personal hardship. He gravitates back to his hometown, and finds comfort in a partner that complements himself. Through the viscous cycle of his relationship with Jace, where they endure the splinters of Tim’s manipulation and Ben’s subsequent collision with loss when Jace dies, Ben secures a greater understanding of intimacy, love, forgiveness, and resilience, each resources he will impart on his future relationship with Tim.


In stark contrast to SLS, SLW broadsided me with how relevant Tim’s story was a reflection of my own past—limit your excitement. I didn’t hire anyone to break up a relationship, though there are some quality manipulative skeletons in my closet. His actions, shimmering with genuine love and compassion, were tinged by insecurity, loneliness and only a basic notion of romance and of his own sexuality. His life was stratified into two opposing worlds, one that allowed himself to revel in his love for Ben, and the other a place combining internal struggle with social oppression, denying him the freedom to fully integrate Ben into his life. Tim created a space in an attempt to shield one life from the other, the purpose to preserve his relationship with Ben. In the second half, Tim struggled with his own set of challenges, electing to face his homosexuality. He leans on Eric for wisdom, and later acts on impulses rather than rationale, and manipulates the hell out of Ben. Chaos ensues. Eventually, grieving over a past dwarfed by doubt, Tim is ready to rekindles a life with Ben.


Something Like Winter left us, three years in the future as witnesses to Ben and Tim emerging as equals, but differentiated by their own life experiences, challenges, and strengths. Down on one knee, “Tim reached into his pocket, took out the ring” and honoring Jace for the love he shared with Ben for the moments he himself couldn’t be there, places the ring on Ben’s other finger. This gesture is symbolic because it represents Tim’s emotional and sexual evolution. Likewise this was Ben’s moment to pay tribute to Jace and all that he afforded him and all Ben reciprocated, while also opening space for Tim’s love.


In Something Like Spring we time travel five years backwards from Tim’s clunky, but deliciously adorable proposal. 2006, the year known formally as ‘The year Dick Chaney Shot That Guy’ and the year tears were shed over Pluto’s demotion. 2006 is also the year we first met 16 y/o Jason.


Bruised by the foster care system, and his mostly intentional rebellion against adoption, Jason passes through numerous placements. Fortunately he has the support, and nurturing of his casework, Michelle, whom, if you recall is Jace’s sister. The strength of this bond between adoptee and caseworker is paramount in Jason forgoing his reservations and welcoming, however begrudgingly, the billionth placement. Jason finds himself on the doorstep of a controlling mother, two adopted siblings, one, a psychopathic boy and the other an abrasive older sister.


Then there is Caesar, the charming, seemingly straight, freaking studly, buff lad. Jason becomes straight up obsessive and stalker like. He doesn’t have a remote idea of the separation between fantasy and reality. It is literally straight out of Talented Mr. Ripley….



Thankfully there is no boat, paddle, drowning scene.


It becomes scandalicious, as we grind our teeth at another straight man gone gay plotline—an early 90s theme which presumably garnered praise as a controversial analysis of sexual development, but now is derivative, contrived, and cliché. Don’t stop there, lets cultivate a culture of every straight man’s locker-room fear, as Jason, suffering uncontrollably from ‘adolescent horny syndrome’, awkwardly assaults sleeping Caesar.




The ‘unexpected’ scenario of assaultee and assaulter swooning over one another is delivered like a lifetime movie starring Tori Spelling—old Tori Spelling, you know the one desperate for any TV role. Jason and Caesar are openly gay, so the reader doesn’t have to endure the tortuous internal versus external conflicts we saw in SLS. This inevitably feeds Jason’s obsession with Caesar, as he displaces a past devoid of attachment and blindly throws himself, trust and all, at Caesar. Bottom line is that this is a rough cut of the end of the Tim/Ben saga, with the added addition of a triangle relationship, minus authenticity, and maxed out on heart-wrenching contrivances.


I’m going to proceed with a bit of ambiguity, as the plot lines are a bit redundant and conventional for this genre, this isn’t, however, a bad thing!


2009… Phelps is caught smoking pot, and Jason isn’t doing much better. Living in Huston, and with a GED in his back-pocket, 19-year-old Jason has fought for, and established a life for himself, albeit a bit precarious. His life is nestled between difficult and impossible, and it takes homophobia to shred the gauze that was his life. Homophobia makes itself scarce in this series, and it is a bit disappointing to not see more of a reality-based climate. Given the books intended Y/A audience, and considering the climate of youth homophobia that frequently results in suicide, Jay missed an opportunity to explore the facets of this phenomenon to a greater extent, particularly the use of characters that ‘successfully’ navigate bulling. Nevertheless, Jason railed against the situation, utilizing resiliency most likely derived from his experiences in foster care.


His situation brings him to Austin, and into the lives of a particularly adorable couple. In an SUV of basically strangers weaving into the deepest recesses of the city, Jason stammers cautiously but hopeful into the lives of Ben and Tim.


‘Emma turned and gestured to Jason with one arm, as if presenting him. Ben took a step forward, held out his hand and then dropped it again. ‘


‘Um. Welcome home”, [Ben] said, before looking uncertain. “You are staying, aren’t you? Or do you want to look around first, inspect the premise?’


‘Jason laughed. He couldn’t help himself. When Ben heard this he smiled and offered his hand again. “I have no idea what I’m doing,” he admitted. “Let’s start with the basics. I’m Ben’.


In review form this seems all awkward and weird, but trust me, Jace makes an appearance earlier on that helps as a segue between plot lines.


Ben and Tim have become the couple every gay admires, even when Jay Bell rebels against the idea of happy-go-lucky boring couples. The kind of couple that eats Ben and Jerry’s ice cream from the carton, one spoon shared amongst them both, while an old dog and cat rumbling in the grass. Even with his spidey sense for the inevitable catastrophe, Jason perceives comfort.


An interesting phenomenon occurs, whereby Jason’s arrival becomes the catalyst for uprooting unresolved issues. For some this happens at the first meet and great, and for others, like Jason it has a fairly delayed onset.


Ben assumes the position of nurturer, prompting him to mend his own inherent qualities with those derived from his relationship with Jace, a process that inevitably forces him to further integrate the loss of his former husband.


Outwardly Tim exudes confidence and portrays himself as an adjusted individual, but inside Jason provokes a deluge of insecurities, the source of which is an emotionally numb childhood, that quickly erodes any semblance of paternal instinct.


We see this most clearly in one of his many confessions:


“Yah. Look what a great job they did with me.” Tim’s voice was dripping with sarcasm. “The thing is, I don’t know how to do it right. I can’t raise a kid.”


Jason is easily the most effected by this complex interrelationship. He must give a nod to the past, accepting that the familiarity of a family long lost is in front of him, not behind him, and, as he will discover, so is everything else.


Each will find that hemostasis is only possible vis-à-vis the strength of their family unit, and while work will need to be done independently, this work is only possible if and when they willingly accept how much they, really, genuinely need one another.


Transition from 2009 where we all forgot about Phelps and onward into 2011, the year focused on ‘tiger blood’, Jason perseverates over a crush, Tim tries endlessly to move past his childhood, and Ben continues to be adorable, and that whole sappy proposal happens…. And….And the inevitable tear inducing tragedy.





Tim will inevitably recognize the parallels between Jason past and his own marred childhood, recognizing it deleterious effect on his ability to initiate and sustain intimacy, and more globally its effect on his overall emotional facilities. To a certain extent doing right by Jason is Tim’s way of dissolving the residue of his own childhood, rectifying and forgiving himself for the hurt he caused Ben, and becoming a better partner. To what degree, and even if he is successful is for you to discover.


Ben recognizes earlier on that a sort of symmetry joins Jason and him. While Tim can relate to Jason’s past, and sees the implications like a malady of the soul, Ben acknowledges something only one afflicted with it can recognize; vulnerability. You know, the vulnerability that gets you into trouble over blue running shoes, for instance. Rather than forcefully superimpose his own guiding principles onto Jason, he must help him navigate the formation of his own conceptual map of relationships, support him in understanding that family isn’t translucent, threadbare gauze, but the synchronicity of an unspoken song between one another, and most importantly who to share his spoon with.


Jason will repeat the same events of his earlier life—picnic dates in particular, and a few misguided attachments—, in an almost transparent test of his new life. His conception of love while in his youth group days as “[...] some guy I have to impress or one who feels like he needs to show off. I just want someone who loves me that I can love back. Simple as that.” will transform into something sturdier. As much as Ben (AND TIM!) wants Jason to find that person to share a single spoon with, Jason wants it more. Embracing Ben’s wisdom, and Tim’s tenacity, combined with his own world-view, Jason might just get there. But, most of all, Jason will be content with giving Ben and Tim everything. And maybe, just maybe, family is all he needs.





*It is my hope that Bell reconsiders this orientation, and either byway of short stories or with larger offerings with individuals directly interfacing the couple as the focal point, affords us the opportunities to see more of the life Ben or Tim share. It's been rumored that one of the secondary characters in Spring is to take the reins in next novel. The notion that secondary characters can be cast as primary characters in offshoots is an error in judgment, if not for any other reason than its potential to disrupt the symmetry of the first two consecutive novels. Likewise, Ben and Tim are the only primary characters to survive the Something Like series, and as such we have grown to adore them both—but more so Ben, because honestly... come on. I would be extremely hesitant to indulge any novel, offshoot or otherwise, that does not include Ben and Tim at the forefront.


An unexplored area in literature. we need more of this.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home: A Novel - Carol Rifka Brunt

Does anyone remember 1987? I don’t. I was 7….8. I remember AIDS though.
 No one called it HIV. No one distinguished it. No one really, truly 
even validated it. HIV literally pushed gays into the public sphere, and
 unfortunately not in the best of ways.

I remember meeting this guy, this gay fellow when I was about 
12. He had HIV; I was told this, like some stupid preemptive warning. I 
remember looking at him with awe. He was young, beautiful in the 
crispness of his pride and his flawless presentation. Even in a T-shirt, 
he had control of a room. He was the first gay guy I ever met, and 
rather than being scared, and not taking my distance, cautious of 
catching HIV, I was enthralled just like our June. Oh, and he introduced me to colognes.

I was wearing some parody Fruit Of The Loom shirt that read, “freak of 
the loom” or something equally stupid. I remember sinking back in my 
room, tearing the shirt off, and resenting the buy outright. This 
is how we were back then, so cautious, all jittery methodical in our 

Onward to the book…

It is centered on June’s relationship with her Uncle Finn and the 
implications of both her infatuation with him and his AIDS status. It 
focuses, however brief and ill constructed, on the family dynamics 
altered both by June’s relationship with Finn, but especially on 
Finn’s slow decline and death. We only briefly meet the mortal Finn, 
but like the HIV chorus found in Two Boys Kissing, his voice vibrates across 
the pages, and imparting some of himself on those he left. There 
are more characters, but with the exception of Toby and Greta, 
they stay in the shadows.

This book perfectly encapsulates the narrative of gay  
from this period in time. June, our primary character navigates the 
terrain with all the confusion and personal conflict bearing down on 
her. Can Chap Stick spread this foreign illness? A kiss on the head? Will Finn’s status 
muck up their relationship? Confusion abounds.  no 
one is left unscathed.

Furthermore, it is about fortifying relationships long fragmented from 
years upon years of jealousy and loneliness—Greta, her mom, etc.  
Some of these relationships fractured long ago, while others, built on 
long, far-reaching stilts once perceived as indestructible, faded 
against the backdrop of heart-breaking sorrow. There is an internal 
struggle between remembering the person you once thought you knew 
through and through, and integrating the other identities he molded 
outside your relationship. This was June’s struggle, and even with past 
memories to rest her head on and Toby—who seemed the most reliable 
source, or maybe June figured they shared the same image, and as such 
she didn’t need to disregard the image she had of Finn—, this 
was her struggle.  Will learning that the image etched in her mind of 
her uncle isn’t fully constructed affect her relationship with her 

<spoiler> Wouldn't it have been special to have a painting, one of Finn and Toby since she came to terms about Finn and Toby and their relationship? adding an additional painting, one in the basement to the wall of her room? It would have been a very special, and solid conclusion. </spoiler>

slightly on topic re painting <spoiler> I got the overall concept about the additions to the painting and the meaning making behind it. It was concrete and well thought out, however I WISHED that at some point items from Finn's place were brought into the home as a way of illustrating moving on and mending relationships. </spoiler>

It primarily focuses on the awakening of a friendship between those 
equally affected by a loved ones death, and the strangeness of it all. June and Toby’s
 relationship will test the boundaries of trust, empathy and the power 
of vulnerability, and the ways they are both personal constructions as 
well as threads tethering them together. It’s up to them to figure
 out how to mend these two conflicting states.  

on that topic <spoiler> i wish it was more intimate in that she brought him the cleaned jacket. brought him some stuff of Flinn's from the house rather than just clothes before he died. I wish Toby had some object to grasp and see before he died. i just needed it to be a bit more heart breaking and to show she, as the primary character, changed a bit. I really needed that. She learned on the train ride that he needed and required something that reminded him of Finn, so why not take that knowledge and help the guy pass on?! It really makes me sad that Brunt didn't realize she needed to go a bit stronger here. All that talk about love and you didn't realize what he really needed? </spoiler>

While the general concept and structure holds this novel together, there
 are items that fray it at the edges. The relationship between June and 
her sister Greta is so bizarrely formulated that it felt slapped 
together at the last moment. There are moments that Greta abandons 
her former self; this is to be expected, she is 16 after all. However, 
many of her actions are so oddball and without any proper explanation I 
was left feeling a bit disconnected. In short, I found that she was not 
very relatable.    

June’s ‘relationship’ with a peer is forced, and in the end distracts 
from the storyline. It was utterly ill-fitting and did not show what 
I felt was proper, given what I knew of her. She just didn’t dig 
guys her own age; not yet at least.

Each of these is a marker of an immature, not yet developed author. 
However, my principal complaint is a female character.  It 
was so Gillian Finn, so shocking to introduce an underage character 
that failed to reign and contain her feelings. It used common themes 
echoed in books a decade old and in the end was 
incredibly redundant and derivative.  I agree with the reviewers whom suggested this book would be far more successful if it had a male 
character. This would have accomplished a few things.

If the main character was attempting to build and understand his own
 self-identity and sexuality, the primarily concern I broach later about
 ‘incest’ may have assuaged many reviewers provoked by June’s 
infatuation with her Uncle. Rather than attracted to Finn on a physical
 level he could have focused on his lifestyle and the confusion that 
abounds as a direct result of him questioning his own sexuality. Maybe sexual attraction was unavailable. It may or 
may not have had subtle nuances of sexual attraction, but I believe they
 would have been radically different if the main character was male. He 
would have pulled away from obvious displays of intimacy and 
internalized them as wrong (possibly, maybe?), and most likely reacted 
in an angry, defensive way.

Conversely, it would have allotted for a much needed editing and a more 
believable story storyline if the author curved away from overt forms of
 intimacy and, having a male character, introduced a higher level of 
emotional turmoil even without including issues with perceived sexual 
identity. Imagine the pull between a male teenager admiration with his 
gay older uncle, but wretched by emotional disequilibrium derived from the 
uncles sexuality?  

Then we get to the controversy of ‘incest’ that was overtly handed, 
perhaps too heavy handily, from the first page to the very last. I 
shouldn’t have to note this, but one of the explicit elements of incest 
is a sexual relationship. So, that didn’t happen. Lets call it relentless, misguided infatuation. It is self-evident 
that many readers have displaced memories of how easy it was to become 
infatuated with older role models. Is it a stretch that June regarded 
these feelings as something beyond the boundaries of friendship? 
Perhaps. Is it beyond the boundaries of friendship to thoroughly 
disregard the blemishes of the people we once admired? Nah. I guess that is were infatuation lies, between our own insecurities and the act of idolizing others with a total disregard for their own struggles and challenges. We also may 
want to remember that, although there was this element of extreme 
intimacy, June never revealed true sexual feelings, but rather 
illustrated her unpolished understanding of intimacy. I do think 
peoples’ reactions to this part of the book neglected to realize that
 it wasn’t in fact sexual, but a high level of intimacy/admiration; once
 again, teenage lens. For those who imbedded a cultural viewpoint, the novel came off 
as overtly sexual because June was a female character, and our minds 
possibly discounted that intimacy doesn’t have to include sexual 
behavior, and how hard it is to sometime realize this—both as teenagers 
and as adults equally.  It’s far easier to understand this issue from 
the surface, and express discontent, than it is to look at the smaller 
details. Plus, fiction anyone?

Others have fought against the references and use of alcohol by those 
who are underage, and further expressed a fury of anger over an adult 
contributing to this behavior. I find this perspective a bit dated, as 
well as a clear sign of their own explicit wiliness to approach 
books from their own lens, and not to detach themselves and venture 
into the June’s world without a sense of familiarity. Also, they 
probably have never passed a newsstand, or watched anything but G rated movies, or walked down the street, or turned on the TV, or read a review before buying/taking a loan of this book.The notion 
that all books should somehow act as a guidance counselor, edging young 
readers to adults’ orientation to maturity, adulthood, and ethically 
sound behavior, is absurd and frankly a bit delusional; I bet you were 
all-stars when you were 14. Also, seriously, this mindset strips away a 
teenagers’ means of self-expression, identity exploration, and the 
benefit of mistakes. It’s even more absurd if you find yourself 
understanding this book as a coming of age novel.

An objective lens, and a reflection of our own past as well as the 
dangerous climate, and contempt of homosexuality and HIV/AIDS during the
 80s will help nourish the way you regard this 

Hungry for Short Stories? well here you go

Irregular Verbs and Other Stories - Matthew Johnson

Netgalley ARC



This massive collection of short stories will engage some, frustrate others, and enrapture many. It is, after all, a very unique offering, one that spans the gauntlet of subject matter, and explores the dirtiness of human existence. The author explores the layers of mundane life transitions—even though, on their own these are tragic and often unnecessarily cruel—through a contemporary lens that cuddles up to surrealism, while nodding to gothic fiction and brushing shoulders with Joseph Conrad (as Karen points out), as well other author of years past. Oh, Eggars’ early work is in here too, particularly On Wanting to Have Three Walls Before She Gets Home, Up the Mountain Coming Down Slowly, and The Only Meaning of the Oil-Wet Water.


Stylistically there is the sleekness of Aimme Bender throughout the collection, whereby the author imparts a smooth, delicate approach to surrealism that holds firmly on reality. If you like Bender, Tessa Mella, Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge and again Eggars, then this is a collection you will drown in with pleasure among its titillating and intellectually arousing pages. Unfortunately, there are times when the collection’s broad use of styles is less a brightly arranged jazz ensemble, and more a confusing collection of contrasting notes.


Language, meaning, wellness, resentment, hope, suffering, grief, and resolution, are themes that tether the massive amount of short stories together. However, the broad style, though commendable, made me dizzy, and I skipped a few. But when it’s good, it’s awesome.



The first story, Irregular Verbs recalled “Both Hands” by Ani Difranco. It attracts in its delicate and achingly tragic conceptualization of bereavement at the same time that it repeals, because it is just too fucking familiar and raw and awful. The personal meaning making and intimacy of langue is explored. This IS AMAZING! BUY this book JUST for this short story.


Another Country explores the implications of developing equilibrium between self, and new culture as the author explores the depths of immigrating to a new country. Assimilation, to various degrees, presents itself as a difficult task for many of the characters. There is time travel too.


Beyond the Field You Know, is all Alice in Wonderland meets up with the movie Looper in a fantasy-esque short laced with threads of horror. Children are persuaded to enter portals with false expectations and gifts. You will probably read other articles that reference The Wild Things, but eh, not so much. Some fear their situation, some struggle to adjust, while one in particular gets pissed even though he is fairly scared too.


Talking Blues, is a brand new spanking exhibition into hell and into the human experience of struggling without resiliency and without a guiding hand. It’s also sorta about love. Music is LOVE and passion, and all things good like a snow day for kids.


When We Have Time- is beautiful in its execution, as well as its interpretation of family. It’s one of my favorites.


Closing Time. Oh you didn’t appear to be offering much, but upon a second reading—more of a skim, which I recommend—you were so much more. A young man, caught up in his own busy life, on the cusp of marriage, and transitioning as the owner of his fathers restaurant, is forced to follow the tradition of feeding his father’s ghost and mourners; so cool, by the way! At the end he recognizes the utility of his late father’s vast collection of stories, and adjusts to the idea that maybe there is some residue of meaning that he didn’t attend to when first hearing them. We must all slow down.


Long Pig- Again themes of changing to fit a foreign culture, but more on a personal ethical level. The wellness and meaning behind slowing down and enjoying the little things. Another favorite.


The Last Islander- An unusual depiction on change, what it means for everyone, and the moments before and after you relinquish your memories to this change. Community, togetherness, technology and tenderness.


Heroic Measures- The resilience of self, the resilience others, and how grieving is a two person thing. Perfectness. ABSOLUTE LOVE!


The Dragon’s Lesson- dragons! DRAGON! Lying, cheating, jealousy, lessons to be learned.


The Wise Foolish Son-


A folk tale sifted through two different lenses. The first, a wise old man telling it to a group. It’s old (the story), perhaps a bit embellished. There is meaning and answers behind the story, but will it be fully understood? The second is more of a first hand exploration of the events—or is it? The contrast between the two stories brings about feelings that these two perspectives may be equally unreliable. The main character is Dasat or Dasatan depending on the story, and it is through him that we gain a better perspective; I mean sorta, not really…. I am still fairly lost.

frightfully complex in an unnecessary way

Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple

I am troubled by the fact that new contemporary lit is just reinventing itself into a bloody mess of overly embellished novels. this is one example. The writing style was complicated, felt a bit disjointed, and compared to the simple style of writing and simple plot, it was overly stylized. 

I am just lost.

The Blue Book - A.L. Kennedy

goodreads giveaway

One of a short list of books i couldn't make my way through. I found it disjointed, and otherwise just a confusing piece of writing. Don't get me wrong, when it was successful it was really successful, but the majority of the book was so over the top with literary devices that it felt a big clogged, a bit stagnant.



Note: i have to leave a rating because of good reads give away

ugh... delfated baloon, run over by car

Something Like Autumn - Jay Bell

  And you're turned up to top volume
And you're just sitting there in pause
With your feral little secret
Scratching at you with its claws
And you're trying hard to figure out
Just exactly how you feel
Before you end up parked and sobbing
Forehead on the steering wheel
How many times undone can one person be
As they're careening through the facade
Of their favorite fantasy you just close your eyes slowly
Like you're waiting for a kiss and hope some lowly little power will pull you out of this- Ani Difranco

The dilemma, at least for me when reviewing this book is whether or not to compare it to its big brother and big sister. Ultimately I concluded that it would be irresponsible to try to capture this book without a backdrop of what preceded it. Unfortunately, adopting this mode of analysis weighed heavily against my overall review.

The first novel was like Nestle Chocolate Cookie dough directly from the tube. The second was like turning your pillow over to get the cold side. Something Like Autumn… well… trying to find the cold side of the pillow during summer and struggling with cookie crumbs in your bed… or something uncomfortable like that.

It’s all Ben’s fault. I finally realized I love Ben. No that isn't enough; he is my sun to my moon or whatever that Game of Thrones phrase is. I also concluded that it was Ben who carried me forward through the first two novels. This is obvious, as this is ultimately his story, viewed from different vantage points. So Ben, blames on you, Mr. Adorableness.

Something Like Autumn was carved out of the same storyline that guided the previous two, except with changes to casting and different location scouting. So, if you envision a box, containing a stripped down version of all three books you’d have:

2/3 ish… Teenagers looking for more in life. Everyone is good looking and has a sizable member. Everyone…. is good-looking. Teenager has a flavorful sister. Kind and understanding parents coddle teenager. Teenager reflects on need for concrete foundation of love most often only found in adulthood after all those pesky learning experiences. Sage advice mingles about. Teenager finds someone. Sex. That someone turns out to be a difficult fit into teenager’s life. Teenager doesn’t figure out right off. Repeat times a billion theories that love for another is boundless, ever growing, and never ceasing. Advice comes forth. Teenager struggles. Crushing emotional blows. Teenager looks to the wide-open world, eyes coasters.

Adults looking for more in life. Adultish people fumbling along the way, and having the prerequisite torturous, but confusing relationship(s), and oh, of course, pocket that experience for later.  More sex. Emotional baggage is unloaded, reloaded, unloaded, reloaded……repeat....

And then BEN! And BEN AND BEN!

Introducing…. Tim.

Last ¼…ish… Struggle with concept that love is never-ending and as a result stupid fucking choices. Lots of sex. More stupid choices. Embed idea that sexuality is fluid, reflecting the whole ‘we don’t live in a vacuum perspective’. Resolve that inner turmoil. Then, you know, that part.

Sound familiar? Right….

See, here is the deal. This series is kinda like getting your favorite dish, say, Pad Thai at three different restaurants.  The first restaurant has a solid traditional, comfort food-esque Pad Thai. The second one repurposed into an amazingly original fried concoction. The third, well you are in Italy, and well….

I have various issues with this book.

Firstly, it failed to exhibit originality, which, after two other books relying on the same themes and plot, was beyond necessary. I already covered this disappointment above.

Secondly, to a large extent it focused exclusively on Jace’s past, which is fine, but it was explored to a torturous degree.  Something Like Summer, with its concise, careful style was beautiful, haunting, original, and daring. Summer was able to fit within a very small number of pages, an intimate and delicate weaving of tragedy, hope, and frailty. As the series continued the page length increased, almost doubling, and with it the emotional punch was weakened—though, if anything, I WISH Summer was longer, cause, duh BEN! Since Summer/Winter were presented as complementary pieces, the length had less of an influence on the books substance, delivery, and success, compared with Autumn. Even though Summer, Winter, and Autumn shared similarities in terms of structure and themes, Autumn was tethered at a distance (Think the movie Gravity). Without the delicate and even weave holding Summer/Winter together, Autumn was emotionally stunted, and stumbled beneath the overwhelming shadow cast downward by its brother and sister. The distance between Autumn and Summer/Winter required Autumn to branch out on its own, with unique individual experiences. Unfortunately, other than repurposing the plot structure of the previous books and occasional new events, Summer didn’t find its individuality. Rather than exploring the events from a new, refreshing perspective, the tactic of writing repetitive themes appeared to be swift strokes of a brush.

Which brings me to my third issue. The novel was emotionally dry. Presumably it is fairly difficult to explore the same themes in three separate books, specifically when we all know what happened to Jace. The most difficult thing here is maintaining familiarity, while altering the vantage point ever so softly. Unfortunately, redundancy abounds, and the same themes repeated from the earlier books became stale. Implementing new events, and embellishing on older ones brought brief relief, however they were few and far between. Introducing Jace’s interpretation of events post ‘incident’ was refreshing, and tore at the emotional threads sustained by reliving the event three times. However, the key potential of this novel was exploring Jace’s subjective orientation to the ‘event’, yet the impact was a whisper rather than a scream. The levees should have cracked and breeched, but earlier events were the focal point, and there were only moments left to offer a sampling of Jace’s experience. I also expected a greater level of focus on Paris. There was lots of emotional fragility and personal turbulence left unexplored.
Finally Jace, the man of the hour. Nothingness. Redundant elements and there effect on the overall story as well as emotional content provided a sketch of Jace. Jace remained the sweet, understanding, and perhaps naïve person we encountered in Summer/Winter. Sure there was the brief emotional exploration not found in the other two books, but it was fleeting. Even though we discovered substantial knowledge of his past, the array of emotions was limited. Character development constipation……Static.

The thread of acceptance of adults in these individuals’ lives was unrealistic. Jace’s life was brimming with adults that offered advice, strength, and resilience. Sisters, uncles, aunts, moms, dads and friends adjusted swiftly and without pause to non-typical sexual identities and relationships. Yes, there were rifts and confrontation, but the majority of these originated from an angry, self-centered sister. We also had the expected relationship disharmony, and maybe if this area was amplified to a larger degree, Jace’s character would feel less two-dimensional.

 Look, it’s a good book, and I am being tremendously hard on it. You have to understand, though, that Summer/Winter were exceptional examples of a skilled author exploring the deep terrain of homosexuality, self-identity, and hardships inherent to the task of maintaining self-agency while allowing yourself to love. In the end, while it doesn’t shine as bright as the others, it is part of the series and SHOULD be read.

It's not you. It's me. Here is a puppy.

Anndddddd…. The Project Runway vote…


Double the amazement of the first!

Something Like Winter - Jay Bell

I could make you happy, you know If you weren't already.....
[HE'S] not really my type But I think you two are forever
And I hate to say it, but you're perfect together
So fuck you and your untouchable face
Fuck you for existing in the first place
And who am I That I should be vying for your touch  Ani Difranco

Fresh of the cart of the emotional bashing of Something Like Summer,  I took on this book.

It’s really difficult to express the reasons I adore this book. I adore it for its honesty. I adore it for accepting the fact that life is jagged glass, even if you are happy and content with life. I admire it for openly saying that even though life is better, there are still struggles, and the struggles of our past are never fully removed, but the scars grow fainter and fainter as the years past. I adore this book because it illustrates that people do crazy things for love, and sometimes those crazy things have good intentions hidden away.

Here we find Tim at the forefront of the love affair between Ben and Tim. The storyline is concise and follows the exact sequence of Something Like Summer with some departures. You’d think at times that this would be problematic; that it would be a stagnant mess. Jay (author) is clever enough to pull this off with the same mastery of Something like Summer.

Tim brings us back across the sandpaper of his youth, and his relationship with Ben. He delves slightly into the relationship between himself and his parents. We gain a better understanding of his background, and how his upbringing may  have contributed to his difficulty in expressing his emotions, but more importantly we understand, at least more clearly his intentions and motivations for his behavior; protection.

Ultimately Tim understood the meaning making behind his relationship with Ben, as well as the consequences. Competing with his own innate urge to reject his feelings towards men, restrained to rhythms of a heterosexual past, and trying to protect Ben from all this, Tim sheltered their relationship, and as a consequence drowned out the magic. He knew that he wasn’t ready to change his life to fit his budding sexuality and his relationship with a fellow he truly, deeply, and painfully cared for, while also protecting his own image. However, through Tim’s perspective, Ben was so blinded by his own successes with navigating his sexuality that he rejected the subjective experience of coming out, and as a result ignored Tim’s right to progress at his own speed. Ben’s ‘FUCK THEM’ attitude slammed against Tim’s rational views. As a result things splintered, and 1/4th into Something Like Summer/Winter, they parted. This is all familiar territory for the reader of this book, what differs is angle at which it is viewed.

College is a combination of suck and awesomeness. Tim is no exception as he tries endlessly to gain perspective. He eagerly explores his sexuality like any other closeted fellow; via hookups (1). We can’t blame him, but his actions do chip away at his façade and the man he wants to become. Presumably he is trying to achieve the same level of wellness that Ben had as a teenager, but is perhaps rushing it a bit. He finds a fellow and extracts moments from his past with Ben into this new college fling. One could view this whole drama scene as destructive or beneficial; it’s up to you folks. During these early college years we find out what that scar is on his shoulder, and we also acquire insight into the emotional damage it causes.

We meet Eric. Eric shows Tim a whole new world. This is a world that immerses time with a deeper understanding of love, relationships, compassion, homophobia, sexuality, companionship, and compromise, etc. In many ways Eric has the patience to guide Tim into new terrain, and compared to Ben’s hastiness, Eric’s proceeds with a slow, delicate touch that is really successful.  Eric shows Tim the circular motions of positive, constructive love (2). Plywood, nails, cement….. foundation for future relationships established.

Between finals and contemplating the future, a cascade of mistakes big and small follows. Insight is cradled in between these experiences, and sometimes its newness is deceiving; a hidden rusty nail. When and how to wield it takes practice. Ben’s ignorance, and Tim’s unstable obsession—each the result of inexperience with life lessons—contributes to that dangerous event.  “You wanted an excuse to come running to me. You wanted your relationship with Jace to fall apart just as much as I did.”…




and you know the rest from Something Like Summer . But, Tim loans us his perspective, and if you are like me you reject the terms. This dance of success and failure became gruelingly redundant at this point—see Jay, normalcy balances nicely against emotional upset. If you are like me you lost faith in Tim, even as he painfully tried to convince us of his good intentions.

The novel expands upon Tim’s relationship with his twink, and adds valid meaning to the experience. Suddenly we retain some hope that Tim will resolve his sadness, his past, and his own self-inflicted cruelty. The foundation laid by Eric and Ben is tested for weaknesses.

Finally, we arrive at that IT MOMENT. Love is Love…. But not really, and conceptualizing it in such simple terms really rejects the notion that love is a fluctuating viscous thing that shifts and turns as we grow older, and that is exactly what happens with Ben and Tim. We need those in the past experiences, friends, lovers and what not, to tell us how far we can bend, and to help us understand the curves and divots of love, and to further help us understand when to let our finger tips touch for the last time as we walk in separate directions. Anguish, perfect warm love, shame, sex (good and bad), intimacy, revenge, hesitation, and all the rest help us build up our walls, shutter our doors and windows, and wait patiently for the time when we should open them onto the world. We as readers just needed to wait, just as Tim and Ben did, for this moment. Standing in front of Tim’s new painting, Ben and Tim weigh a past of all these things and more, against the glow of hope. Jay gives us a little hint of Ben and Tim’s future in Something like Summer. Love is never completely cloaked in safety, but maybe Tim and Ben get as close as possible to a life of happiness, again, maybe those scars are still too rough and new to let things solidify into anything but backs turned and the sound of feet in opposite directions. All I can say, and warn, is that this is not your typical fuzzy love story. Jay warns you of this in the first few pages too.

We commonly label books like this as ‘from a different perspective’.  Interestingly, the author avoids the cookie cutter approach to achieving a broader understanding of the circumstances by using a nonconventional, but simple approach.  Firstly, he immersed us into the lives of these two guys, providing us with an emotional tactile experience. We became these characters, and as a result grew to understand them from an outsider’s orientation.  The invested reader of Something Like Summer presumably understood the motivations and intent of both Ben and Tim’s behaviors without relying directly on the POV. It’s OUR interpretation of the events not Ben’s or Tim’s. For me the shared sequence of events between novels, the fact Tim and Ben openly explored their own, as well as each other’s emotions, altered this approach to writing.

The writing in Something like Winter wasn’t as powerful, and lacked the emotional punch of Something like Summer. My original perception was that this may resulted from the similar story-lines and sequencing, as well as a scant amount of time focused outside themes shared between the two books. Originally cause for a star, I sat on this, and decided that no, this wasn’t the case, and to a certain degree the novel had more emotional content than Something like Summer.  Told through the eyes of Tim, someone defined as emotionally reserved (putting it nicely), it makes sense that this book registered lower on the emotions scale. Ben was quite deft at exploring and expressing himself, while Tim hid his emotions away, fearing the repercussions. The subtlety in the different approaches, and the fact it took me a day to register this, is testament to the power and strength of this book and its author.

1. Please take note, the sex scenes in this book are a bit more, shall we say graphic? however, they are tasteful. just an fyi.   

2. I already trusted your intentions, and loved you, but now I love you spoonfuls and spoonfuls.

Project Runway Verdict:


this book is fucking terrific

Something Like Summer  - Jay Bell

"And you are so lame. You know you always disappoint me. It's kinda like our running joke & it's really not funny. I just want you to live up to the image of you I create..... When I say, "You sucked my brain out" the English translation is "I am in love with you. And it is no fun." Ani Difranco


This book catapulted me into the life of Ben and Tim with the impact of being thrown against a brick wall. From its onset it embraced strong emotional content that raged against the pages, assaulting me as I continued forward.

Ben, a 17 y/o confident, wise-ass, insightful, courageous (both in coming out, but also in his daily interactions with others), educated, and loving fellow meets Tim, also 17. Oh Tim, he’s a cocky, good looking, but absolutely insecure, emotional wrecking ball, but he is also sweetness, protective, and a warm care bear.

Tim encompasses everything Ben wants in a partner—for the most part this begins with a physical attraction, but lets be honest here, what love doesn’t? Tim, the blue shoe runner, stirs the stalker in Ben—I found this charming and cuteness all over the place. He pretends to just happen to be in the right place at the right time, be it the ‘blue shoes’ running path, the hallway, or right in front of Tim’s own front yard.

Angry at events that happened at school, events that define Ben’s high school life, he rages into a whirlwind of furry. The events of that day bubble over, sliding beyond his naturally strong and durable strength and resiliency. The ugly truth is that he is cut down by the redundant barrage of hate and bystanders. Fuck it, Ben says to the world around him and crashes forward seeing red. Crashes forward so hard that he literally crashes into Tim.

Blood and torn ligaments cement the two into an awkwardly adorable relationship. At first this is a direct reaction to Ben’s physical—and I mean physicalllllll, in terms of adjusting his briefs—reaction. There is also care in this nurse-patient role. What’s unique about this situation, and the book in general is that it avoids the typical stereotypes of love, sex, and the failure of obsession all to often carelessly portrayed in other gay themed lit.  

Ben pushes forward, almost making his teenage hormones disappear—good for him, because if someone like Tim fell into my life at 17 I’d be ramped up. He develops a caretaker relationship, and Tim slowly adjusts to this. A relationship blossoms. Friends, friends with benefits, partner? Short loved soon to be nothingness? Well, read it and find out.

Of course we have two different people. Tim holds firm to the sidelines of his self-identity and his sexuality. And PLEASE, don’t give me that crap that you were all conscious of your sexuality and so balanced in your body that your sexual development didn’t bring pain, personal challenges, and confusion.

Then you have self-assured Ben who has already run the miles upon miles it takes to frame his sexuality even if the painting is unfinished. But he was also developing his own world-view, and just because he was further along the process of self-identity doesn’t mean he’s better off. He may be beyond the point of knowing he likes the lads, but he is still undecided about what he wants in a fellow.

Take a moment to see these two people from your own perspective. The stud at the beginning of 'gayness' and you confident—I hope, for your own self-love and I feel for you if you’re not there YET. Hugs. This is a “shit would hit the fan” scenario.

Ben tries to force himself to adapt to Tim’s situation, slowly pealing back old scabs, and revealing new ones. Ben, bleeding emotionally from old wounds and from those of new love that all to often tears one’s emotions asunder, chances corrupting his self-identify. Ben prides himself on coming out, so this struggle to compromise himself is troubling to say the least. And shit, unless you are heartless this is the beginning of your screaming, feeling sadness and maybe shame, because remember, if you are honest you have all been there.

Tim recognizes his own personal confusion, and feels like he is betraying himself, but these feelings don’t even match the constellation of personal shame that he feels for hurting Ben.

Does Tim honor himself and crash forward between waves of self-hatred, confusing, and the unknowing? With the first steps of coming out comes the first wounds each exposed to the world, and the salt water just angers them. In the backdrop is recognizing the devastation he is causing Ben. Does he proceed or does he say fuck it and step out of his own personal ocean of torture and return to a life of conformity? Or does he say fuck it and tread new territory beyond the waves with Ben at his side? You’ll have to find out for yourself. With love comes pain and pain comes love, and shit that is some complicated stuff.


 ...It's all very Jordan Catalano, Angela Chase....

Rush Rush into early adulthood, where confusion abounds and college distorts reality. With it social and emotional aspects form a rudimentary foundation. Both characters navigate this tumultuous time with an uncomfortable amount of confusion and personal conflict. Swinging in and out of each others lives, we witness disjointed connections, as well as deep connections, all mirroring those of the past. Enter on the scene new lovers. Old lovers. Mistakes galore. Accomplishments. Emotional immaturity. Hate. Love. sadness. anger. Admiration. And you, you raising an eyebrow, smile, crying then laughing and screaming with anguish in your own hearts and hatred/love towards Ben, Tim and all the others. and me... all



woooosh another few years forward and Jay takes us into the dark caverns of adulthood. A dangerous marriage of pain and sustained love emerges more clearly, as Ben and Tim settle their own personal regrets and a history of sadness. Are the scars of their history together and the time spent apart faded enough to ignite new feelings? Or are they too deep, too much a part of their essence that they are consciously and subconsciously too warped to consider a future together? Or have they had enough of one another, and with settling their own personal traumas both able to walk away? 


I really don’t know if I wanna make out with him because he is probably darn good in bed, or take him for a drink and permeate his every thought, but I admire Jay Bell (author) on so many levels. He’s that good at writing.

So, yah, Jay (me Jay, not author Jay), what is so unique about this novel? writing style. Jay (the author) matches writing style with the emotional maturity of the characters. The beginning utilizes a simple style, which corresponds with the cognitive and emotional abilities of youth, and grows in complexity as they grow. Style and character development hug tightly throughout the book. The complexity of the writing isn’t stationary, but ever flowing. Well-done Jay!!! (Once again author).

He gets right inside the heads of a teenager, then a teenager colliding precariously into young adulthood, then the tortured, but somewhat warm slide into mid-adulthood so well, with such expertise and skill. There are no ornamental metaphors that make you go “ooo…awe”. Words are chosen with care and a love for writing. The author is really invested in this book, perhaps because he too can identify with it, or maybe he has peeked into other people’s lives and witnessed it. It doesn’t matter. Not a single word is misplaced. Every piece of the dialog representing a particular developmental stage with accuracy.

This book was emotionally charged to a point of disassociation......a sledgehammer of sorrow and pain. There are few scenes that don't carry with them an emotional tactile response, however, there is one scene that had me almost curl up into a small, tight, hedgehog ball. You'll recognize this scene straight away, as it drips with so much emotional strain. It affected me in that visceral elbow to the stomach. Legs curled to my chest, I put the book down and said out loud 'oh Ben....' and sat silent for awhile. The mark of a terrific author is his/her ability to rouse emotions that are only explained through snapshots of your own personal tragedies, not words. Be careful. Be ready. This is pure grief.

But what really shocked me emotionally was how well Jay tore into coming out and self-identify, and then succeeded in establishing two different anchors on the same continuum—Ben waving at one end and Tim shaking at the other. I was told in graduate school that life isn’t linear, but a jagged spindle of thread that is torn, re-attached, and frayed. We don’t live in a vacuum, they say. In this way we encounter ourselves in this novel. As horribly simplistic as the term ‘coming out’ is this process tore and frayed us, forcing us to walk from one end of that continuum, pushed off or tripping ourselves along the way and sometimes stepping backwards. We are never completely on one side or the other, are we? As Eric proclaimed in a way that only a life of fraying could create, and I paraphrase, we are never done with coming out. Even as Tim and Ben develop something, they are never done coming out to the life around them, nor themselves. There is something always anew in this process, and it’s frightening as hell.

complaint-ish department.... It wasn't long enough!! The other ones in this series are almost double in page length. this.is.not.fair. Finally, this book is significantly smaller than its counterparts. A deeper exploration of Ben's family, his interactions with peers, and internal dialog would have strengthened an already strong novel.

Another complaint. Jay mentioned somewhere that happy couples are boring. I'd argue that they are as equally important and entertaining as a relationship defined by strife and confusion. We live in a culture where relationships are inherently difficult, or perceived as such. A large portion of society wishes to strike down our inalienable right to love. Politics have diminished the defining principles of marriage. In our own social circles we witness, not the greatness of successful relationships, but the unsuccessful Tims and Bens. Yah, sometimes we see success too. I wanted more boring stuff. Eating B & J straight out of the carton while watching sappy movies. Picnics in public parks as a way of demonstrating Tim's ownership of his own sexuality. Holding hands while combating direct hits from homophobic. I wanted boring. And let's face it Jay, sometimes the boring and mundane in relationships is as destructive as conflict.  

It's jarring when you literally live with characters for only a brief amount of time and you feel such sadness at that final sentence. This book was a library loaner. This book now has torn pages, a broken binding, and a cover that is crumpled up. I guess I now own this book. Oops.

This book will ‘rock you like a hurricane’, and it’s so fucking awesome to be thrown around. So fucking awesome!

and, per usual, the Project Runway Judgement: