Sunday, May 3, 2015

Book Review: Fifty Yards and Holding by David-Matthew Barnes

Fifty Yards and HoldingBlurb:

 Victor Alvarez is in serious trouble. Now seventeen and flunking out of high school, he’s been chosen as the leader of the violent street gang he’s been a member of since he was thirteen. Riley Brewer has just broken a state record as the star of their high school baseball team.

When Riley and Victor meet by chance, a connection begins to grow. When friendship turns to love, both young men realize their reputations contradict who they really are. Once their secret relationship is discovered, Victor realizes their lives are at risk. Refusing to hide in order to survive, Riley vows that only death can keep him apart from Victor.
Todd's rating:

Well, I wish I could write a different review, but sadly that isn't the case this time.

This story just felt really disjointed for me. The first half of the book was all about Toro (real name Victor) and his interactions with his street gang, Los Reyes, the shooting death of his 13 y.o. cousin by their rival gang, his selfish sister's drama and his meeting Riley.

Toro supposedly had a girlfriend, to whom we are never even introduced. The gang is all-consuming in Toro's life, until he meets cute baseball player Riley and they begin spending time together.

Then he just walks away from the gang (there are only 5 members, really?) and none of its members confront Toro on his departure. This is the same gang talking about killing 4 members of the rival gang who killed 2 members of Los Reyes, so just letting their former leader walk away didn't sound remotely plausible to me.

Then the book fast forwards 5 months and Toro and Riley are in love and inseparable, with Toro having moved into Riley and his mother's very small apartment. No details on the progression of their relationship, it just "is," so the reader is expected to just roll with the fact and move on.

I'm not a fan of books that completely skip the 'minor' details of how a couple becomes a couple, as I find that to be one of the best parts of a couple's story.
What did they have to overcome between point A and point B?

What turned out to be their commonalities and what were there differences?

How did their initial attraction grow into love and conversations of forever?
But that aside, there were several things about the book that I found really bizarre.

1.) Toro initially met "baseball star" Riley, who's reportedly good enough to go pro someday, when Toro gives Riley advice on 'how to bat.' Riley has nearly single-handedly won not one, but two, California high school state baseball championships, while Toro has 'watched baseball' on TV.

"Ummmmm, okay, you're cute, so *thanks* for the much-needed advice, random hot Latino boy!"

2.) Toro is 17, born and raised in the Berkeley/Oakland area and seemed completely unfamiliar and uncomfortable with city buses. Huh?

I lived in the SF Bay Area for 13 years and *everyone* but the uber-rich lives and dies by public transportation there (especially if they don't own a car.) Period. I never met an exception to that rule. Not once. *ass-scratching*

3.) At 17, Toro had *never* been across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. *jaw-drop* Wait, WHAT??? It's like *8* miles away, if that.

Unless he'd been abducted by a band of non-traveling agoraphobics, intent on only ever being 5 feet from their front door, I find that very unbelievable. Especially when Toro's sister was fine with public transportation. So sorry, not buying it.

4.) When, 5 months after his departure, Toro hears that his old gang is out to kill him and he decides that his *only* option to keep Riley safe is to KILL HIMSELF.  REALLY???  No. Damn. Sense. At all. That felt like it was added for dramatic effect and nothing else.

For me at least, this story came across a bit like something written for a Teen Telenovela.

Lastly, for those interested, there is zero on-page 'sexiness', not even touching, apart from holding hands and a few kisses.

So, no, I didn't particularly enjoy the book and would not recommend it to my friends.

2 *less-flowery-words-more-relationship-setup* stars for this one.


My copy of the book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair, unbiased review.

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