First love - coming of age - family - acceptance
When Charlie was eight years old, his mum bought him a microscope for his birthday. Since then, he's known how he wants to spend his life. There have been trials, and challenges, but now - finally - the day is here for him to start college with his lifelong friend Anthony Pace.
Anthony is a red-haired force of nature. He writes poetry about their enemies and eagerly participates in all Charlie's science experiments without understanding a word. Every morning, he waits at the end of their street so they can get the bus together.
But things are changing.
Families are important, and complex. Charlie's mum hasn't been well, and his relationship with Anthony begins to shine like a different star in the sky.
Can everything come together in this explosion of physics and chemicals that Charlie calls life? Will Anthony Pace ever share his poems with the world, and can the Chihuahua, Princess Arabella, ever learn to stop licking?
A different planet
This book reminds me of rain on a sunny day or the last bit of a really good dessert. It’s joy … dimmed. But not defeated.
When Anthony Pace refuses to share the red car, Charlie’s mum says, “You should tell him ‘shut your face, Anthony Pace’.” But Anthony Pace becomes a friend and learns to share.
Anthony is everything Charlie isn’t: artsy, laidback, the yin to Charlie’s yang. Charlie’s uncomfortable looking people in the eye. Charlie is brilliant, but he doesn’t like change; change makes him anxious.
The boys go off to university together, Charlie to study science, Anthony to study literature. Everyday Anthony waits for Charlie. All his life Anthony has waited for Charlie.
Charlie’s desire to keep his mum safe is heartbreaking. He tries so hard to keep it together, but he’s slowly being crushed by dust and bills. His beautiful, supportive mum is slipping into darkness. She burns the roast and she rages. And sometimes she doesn't know who Charlie is.
But even when Charlie shuts the door, Anthony refuses to leave. They make a leap then, from friendship to more.
Charlie and Anthony’s sexual exploration is at once tentative and frantic. Heated kisses lead to more adventurous touching, and Charlie just wants to see Anthony naked.
"Is that good?”
“Oh, God, yeah.” Anthony was arching his back, humping Charlie’s hand.
“I didn’t know people talked when they had sex. I didn’t realise.”
Anthony laughed. “Course we can talk, you prune. Just because my cock is in your hand doesn’t mean we’re different people.”
Claire Davis and Al Stewart write unique stories: unapologetically British, quirky, humorous, with a thread of sadness. Shut Your Face, Anthony Pace is a tale of discovery and loss. It’s a tale of family ties and love that binds.
The ending isn’t a pot of gold, but there’s poetry and laughter. And there’s a mermaid. And a fierce Chihuahua waiting for her diamond collar.
Charlie stopped to get the words right. “How come you like me, though?" It was a big something he had to ask …
“Because you’re funny and kind, and don’t care that I wear perfume … You’re part of me Charlie … And you have curly hair and wrists and that look when I’m talking bullshit. You listen to my poems and the way you look at me—it makes me feel all special.”