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I did not enjoy this book as much as Tales from Foster High books 1-3. I will outline why later in my review, but first I want to mention the many things I did like about this book.
The growing relationship and love between Kyle and Brad and their intimacy and interactions in this book are wonderful. I really connected with them both as a couple and enjoyed the further development of their relationship. Introducing new gay characters into the story was a plus also, even if Robbie did make me cringe. This added a new layer to the town and their back stories added to moving the overall story along.
I enjoyed the way the point of view shifted from Kyle and Brad. It's interesting to hear their different points of view and to see the story through different eyes. The depiction of these two characters as 17 year olds was spot on also. They both have attitudes and are somewhat opinionated like 17 year olds often are, yet are also very vulnerable and innocent at the same time.
I also liked the message in the story. It is important that we acknowledge the harm that can be done through intolerance and bigotry. Too many teenagers take their lives leaving families and friends who have no idea why. It's time we all faced up to why this happens as I am sure the majority of teens who commit suicide do so as a result of the angst they feel about their sexuality. The only way we as human society will change that is by being far more tolerant, educated and open minded about the plights of others. This story did a fairly good job of spelling that out to the reader.
However, for me there were negatives. I felt the story dragged. Many scenes went on far too long and some I felt were unnecessary to the overall story. Perhaps some of the parts introduced are going to be further developed in the yet to be released books in the series, however I didn't like the way some things were in the story for little or no reason. Mr Parker's relationship with the guy from the other state for instance. This part of the story went no where and seemed completely irrelevant to the overall story. If this is going to be part of the next story, then I believe it needed to be integrated better into this one. There were a couple of other examples like this in the story also, which just seemed to me to be needlessly stringing out the story.
I live in Australia and haven't visited Texas before, however I do understand that the 'south' of USA is very conservative and perhaps there are those who have strong opinions against the world's progressive acceptance of gay people. I did find some of the behaviour by adults in this book pretty alarming though. On one hand, we have many of the townsfolk accepting gay people openly (the cafe owner, the police chief, Brad's ex girlfriend, all the 'geeks' from the library club, Kyle's female friend, Brad and Kyle's parents etc) and yet, the bigoted, violent and hateful actions of one or two adults seems to be tolerated. I don't believe the adults and those in positions of power wouldn't have put far more pressure on the adults who publicly spewed abuse and hatred toward school aged children before the problems this caused in the book happened. It seemed far too much of a blind eye was turned for this to be real.
Further, how many people live in this town? It seemed like it was a very small place, however suddenly hundreds of people are posting hate onto the Facebook page of one of the characters and not one adult is doing anything about it. And a post on You Tube of someone having a private conversation and coming out as gay is never going to go viral! Most people are far, far more accepting than that, and I am sure the haters would, in reality, be outnumbered greatly in real life. Further, it is illegal to spread hate and to bully people on Facebook. The police chief's daughter told him everything else that was going on, why didn't he know about the Facebook issues (that went on for the whole of winter break) and if he did, why did he do nothing about it?
Clearly it is set in recent times as Kyle received an iphone for Christmas. However, to me story seemed a little 20th Century. The USA is in front of Australia in that the US has recently legalised gay marriage. There is a very large tolerant and progressive population in the states and I just cannot see this kind of abuse of gay people being tolerated in the 21st Century. I am sure it happens, just not so sure it's realistic that a whole town of people allow it to happen in public without legal consequences.
Overall, the book was quite good and most likely I'd recommend it. I do think too many gay novels focus far too much on the social taboo that is very rapidly diminishing in society. There are not too many adults who tolerate open 'gay bashing' anymore as in most parts of the world, it is as illegal as racial discrimination. I do hope in the not so near future, novelists begin to write compelling gay fiction that doesn't have vilification and acceptance as their key plot.
Any additional comments?
This story wrecked me in the best kind of way. John Goode so masterfully captures the emotion and angst of high school, of being bullied, of action and consequence at a time when a lot of kids feel invulnerable in some ways and staggeringly fragile in others.
Kyle shows more of his damaged side, and Brad steps up to the plate to be the guy Kyle really needs.
“I love you. That isn’t a like, isn’t a puppy love, and it isn’t a crush. The moment we kissed in my room, I was yours; it just took my stupid brain time to figure it out. You are everything I need in my life, but more importantly, you are everything I will ever need. I am never going to break up with you. Never. If we break up, and, God, I hope that’s a gigantic ‘if’, it will be because you realized I was not the guy you thought I was and that you can do better. So no matter what happens between us, I will never break up with you. Got it?”
Kyle, I think, has the biggest growth arc in this story going from emo!Kyle to avenging!Kyle by the end...and it suits him. We see his transition to the super awesome character he is as he grows up and accepts the mantle of his responsibility.
Kyle and Brad 4eva!!
As for the narration...it was good, not overly dramatic in any way, which actually was sort of disappointing in a couple of places.
I appreciated the different character voices Ahr provides, and while I didn't care for his choice for Kyle's voice, I did love his voice for Brad, which I thought was awesome.
This was my first time listening to Michael Ahr, and, while I can't honestly say I was blown away, I can definitely see picking up another of his audios in the future.
But this book...this series...damn, it's so good. If you haven't already read it, I have to ask why? Get on that. Seriously. Everyone should read this series.
Remember: "You're going to end up just fine. Don't give up, not yet."