Monday, June 13, 2016

ARC Review: All the Wrong Places by Ann Gallagher

All the Wrong Places (Bluewater Bay, #14)
From the blurb:

Three cheating girlfriends in a row have given skateboarder Brennan Cross the same excuse: he wasn’t meeting their needs. Desperate and humiliated, he goes to the professionals at the local sex shop for advice.

Zafir Hamady, a sales clerk at Red Hot Bluewater, has an unusual theory: he doesn’t think Brennan is a bad lover. In fact, he doesn’t think Brennan is heterosexual. Or sexual at all, for that matter. He also can’t stop thinking about Brennan. But even if he’s right and Brennan really is asexual, that doesn’t mean Zafir has a chance. Brennan’s never dated a man, and Zafir’s never met anyone who’s game for a Muslim single father with a smart mouth and a GED.

Brennan’s always thought of himself as straight. But when sex is explicitly out of the mix, he finds himself drawn to Zafir for the qualities and interests they share. And Zafir can’t help enjoying Brennan’s company and the growing bond between Brennan and his son. They work well together, but with so many issues between them, doubts creep in, and Brennan’s struggle with his identity could push away the one person he didn’t know he could love.

Heather's rating:

I always say this when I'm talking about Ann Gallagher/L.A. Witt/Lauren Gallagher: she isn't afraid to try new things! I mean, really not afraid. When she sees a challenge, she just grabs it by the balls and makes it her bitch. I just love her for it, and I continue to try all of her stuff because I'm always fascinated about what I'm going to get.

This book... wow, she really expanded my horizons. First of all, we get two asexual MCs, a POC MC, and one of the MCs is a father. I'll talk about the asexuality aspect first, because that was really well done, IMO.

I've only read one other book with a MC who identified as asexual, and that was How To Be A Normal Person. In that case, only one MC was asexual, which was a doozy for me to wrap my head around. In this case, both MCs identified as asexual, which was easier for me to digest.

Granted, fellow readers, the concept of asexuality is something that I struggle with. I'm pretty far on the opposite end of the sexuality spectrum, so the entire notion of a romantic relationship without sexual attraction is something that I've spent many nights pondering over in my head. I am, without a doubt, NOT questioning the validity of asexuality or the ability of those who identify as such to have meaningful and romantic (if they chose) relationships, but it is something that jars with my personal notion of what I look for in a relationship, so I really have to go outside myself and inside the characters' heads to understand where they are coming from.

What I really liked is how Ann Gallagher made the concept of asexuality very easy to understand for readers, without it coming across as too didactic. She even went into some subsets of asexuality a little bit, and I spent a good while googling some new-to-me terms.

I also found to be VERY interesting is how she made Brennan's character sort of a BFY situation. Brennan previously identified as heterosexual with no interest in men. After meeting and having a prolonged friendship with Zafir, he discovered that he is actually bi-romantic. I'm a sucker for stories where characters have to expand what they thought was their sexual orientation, so Brennan discovering that he could have a romantic relationship with a man was pretty cool for me. I also liked the friendship between Brennan and Zafir, and how much support they gave one another.

What I struggled with a great deal were two issues. One, I didn't really feel the ROMANCE between Zafir and Brennan. They felt very friendship-y to me, and it really had nothing to do with the fact that they didn't have sex. I'm not sure why that was, but I just didn't feel that deep romance connection that I like to have to sweet me off my feet. Maybe it's because I subconsciously look for attraction as a cue for chemistry? Could be...

The second issue that I really had was the pacing. I mean, nothing much happens in this story. The plot was basically just them... hanging out. Working. Talking. That's it. I thought that the story didn't have enough excitement to maintain my interest, which was a bit of a shame. I learned a little more about Muslim men and skateboarding, but I really wanted something more intense to happen.

Overall, I think that readers looking for a book with asexual characters will really be pleased by this one. However, readers who are just discovering what asexuality is should also try this. It was a nice read, and I am grateful to Ann Gallagher for bringing something new to the table.

**Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

Oh, and the dental references... on point!!! ;)

Buy this book:

Riptide, Amazon, Kobo

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