Kyle Jackowski, typical sullen emo teen, struggles to find a way to deal with his sexuality and finds himself in trouble with the law...again. But instead of being sent to a juvenile detention center like he expected, he is given a chance to commute his sentence by working on a farm for the summer. Enter Sam, son of the farm owners, who shows Kyle what he feels is perfectly normal and that he doesn't have to hide from his feelings. In turn, Sam's parents show Kyle that his abusive stepfather and battered mother are not the norm. With their love and support, Kyle finds his place in the world - by Sam's side.
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Ever so often, I accidentally, or not, choose a book intended for the teen LGBT market. This is one. A lovely innocent love story at it's very best. If you're looking for a hot M2M romance, keep on looking. If you want to believe in love, spend the credit.
Kyle is 17 on the cusp of 18 and on the verge of finally, finally, leaving his abusive step-father’s house for art school when he gets suckered into doing something stupid. He throws a brick at a window and ends up almost in juvenile detention. Instead of a jail, he signs up for a work-release program in upstate NY at a farm. Sam is the son of the famers for whom Kyle works. He’s an openly gay college sophomore and he returns each summer to help on the farm. Both boys are virgins. Though Sam has known for a while that he is gay, has even had some boyfriends, he is saving himself for a “committed relationship”. Kyle has barely admitted he is gay and is far from having ever acted upon it. Kyle takes to the farm like a duck to water and when he meets Sam, their attraction is instantaneous. Kyle has “seen” Sam in a dream, and Sam is immediately protective of the obviously abused Kyle. Sam essentially takes on the job of showing Kyle the world as a gay young man and helps him to identify and normalize his feelings. Sam’s family is also amazing in this capacity, helping Kyle to feel love for the first time since his father died a decade ago. Kyle is a tough nut to crack though. He doesn’t know how to handle these feelings, doesn’t trust them, and he worries that Sam is either dating him because he’s convenient or going to disappear forever once school starts up again. In either case, he wants to protect his heart, so he keeps his distance. Almost reluctantly, Kyle agrees to date Sam and together they tentatively explore the physical side of their relationship. The summer moves quickly and the boys find that though they are really thinking they might be in love, they don’t think the relationship can withstand long distance. So they essentially break up. Time and again Kyle finds himself in abusive situations (both over the summer and at school), and it isn’t until he meets some supportive friends at art school that he takes measures to learn some self defense. Though he enjoys his new friends at school, he misses Sam and doesn’t really hear much from him, so he thinks it’s over between them, for good. However, over Christmas break, things start to look up for Kyle when Sam comes to visit. We get a tepid HFN that (thankfully) doesn’t have to suffice, since we now have part two to read and enjoy following Sam and Kyle as they continue their relationship.
** This is a young adult/new adult book. With that in mind, much of this book was wonderful and I really, really enjoyed it. There was definitely room for improvement, however, even as looked upon with a younger audience in mind. First, I loved how Kyle was able to navigate through his emotions, processing his feelings for Sam and his family, while ignoring the voice in his head of his step-father with it’s homophobic, hateful messages. Sam and his family were wonderful influences and served to be great examples of how things could be. Sam was a fantastic, mostly realistic, young man. He’d had some “sexual” encounters, but preserved penetration for someone special. I really liked that. I liked the forethought and the idea that not every boy is gunning for more with every guy he meets. Even in college! Sam’s family was also amazing. They had some issues (namely Sam’s twin) but mostly they loved each other and worked hard and didn’t judge. By adding in some “flaws” the author was able to show a family, somewhat realistically, who could demonstrate another side of love. As a love story this book really satisfies. Kyle needed Sam so much, but did have a lot to offer and once he crawled out of his shell it looked like the two would have a healthy relationship. Another thing I really appreciated was the theme of food through out the story. Part of love for Kyle is food (as it is with most humans) and his own family was skimpy on love and food. Each chapter (or close to) showcases Sam’s mom feeding Kyle some new dish, showing him how fresh food, given with love and abundance can be amazing and more than just simply a way to fill a hunger. It was a lovely metaphor and cleverly used by the author. However, what bugged me, so much, was the completely unrealistic language Sam used with Kyle. He spoke in a way no 20 year old I ever knew spoke. He was totally self-actualized and at times he sounded no different than I would expect a guidance counselor. I felt he even treated Sam more as a father figure than boyfriend at times… with the major exceptions of them having sex (or nearly so). It felt more like a May/December story than a story between two contemporaries. He was just too perfect. He didn’t ever push, he had all the answers, he didn’t cheat, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke… goody two-shoes, if you get what I mean. The other thing that bugged me was Kyle and his constant string of abuse. Everywhere he went he was getting beat up and not until the end did he think that maybe, maybe, he should do something to protect himself. This got a bit tedious. I also found it disconcerting that Kyle, from Manhattan, had less knowledge of being gay and gay sex than the country boy from upstate New York. Even the most closeted boy in Manhattan would have some idea of what goes on… some idea that being gay might be normal… some idea that his asshole step-father shouldn’t be beating the crap out of him for looking gay… Finally, I would have been mad if I hadn’t had the sequel available to me right now. I hated where the story was left. It was barely a new start for our boys and a terrible place to leave them for an entire year while waiting for the sequel to come out. But… the sequel is out and from the blurb we know the boys stay together and in fact begin to explore their more intimate side of the relationship. While I appreciated the vague references to physical intimacy the author used, mindful of a younger audience, I think that she could have used more accurate terms without crossing over into “erotica” and still maintaining age appropriateness. However, it was refreshing that most of this book was about the relationship and hardly any about the sex. I loved how satisfying it was for Kyle to finally find love. Overall I give the story a 4 of 5 stars, I really liked it.
Audio: Paul Morey is a narrator who has done lots in the m/m genre and he did another solid job. He doesn’t do too many variations in voices, though I did enjoy his Bronx accent for Kyle’s football friends. He is a good narrator whose voice blends into the background and allows the story to flow without distraction. I enjoyed his narration and give it a 4 of 5 stars.