Sixteen-year-old football punter Liam Hartley has come to terms with being gay, but it isn’t something his religious and conservative community will ever accept. He’s isolated in his Midwest town until Cody Williams transfers to his school from Chicago. A proud bisexual young man, Cody shows Liam he isn’t alone—or abnormal—and they soon become more than friends.
Despite the intimate, secret world he shares with Cody, Liam is in pain. The hatred spewed by bigots has an effect on Liam, even if Cody carefully hides their relationship with a pretend girlfriend. Liam is jealous—he doesn’t want to have to share Cody, and he doesn’t want to have to live in shame. Cutting himself seems to be the only way to deal with everything he’s suffering, and things only get worse when Liam and Cody are outed in front of the school. And even if they can make it through the hardship, they know their relationship is destined to end when Cody’s family returns to the city.
Liam can’t go back to facing the hatred and religious judgment by himself. He won’t survive it. Somehow, Liam and Cody must secure a future for both of them, and that means finding a way to stay together.
While the author accurately captured the voices of the teenagers in this book, with their struggles and figuring out who they are, I thought that the amount of issues piled within were a bit much.
Liam, our protagonist, is a junior in a small town high school, the punter on the school's football team, and gay. He knows he's gay, and he's okay with that, but there's no way he can let on about that, because his parents drag him to church on Sundays, and all he's ever heard from the pulpit of the local Baptist church is that homosexuality is sin.
I felt sorry for him after just a few pages, empathizing with him about the impossibly situation he's in.
Enter Cody, new student, in town temporarily due to his father's job, who becomes the new star player on the football team. Also, he's gay too.
I liked the story well so far, and looked forward to how Liam and Cody would navigate the rough waters ahead.
I thought that the depiction of the relationship, first love, the inability to keep their hands off each other even in risky places, the jealousy Liam feels at Cody's pretend-GF (who doesn't know she's a beard) were all well done, but I didn't think that the self-harm issue was handled with sufficient depth.
While Liam's parents, especially his mother, were supportive at the eventual reveal that their son is gay, I also felt that the climax and subsequent ending weren't handled with enough depth either. I would have liked to see some closure to what happened, and I would have liked to see an epilogue of sorts that showed how Liam and Cody fare after the main part of the story ended.
I did like the inclusion of the Wiccan beliefs and how it was juxtaposed to the Christian conservative beliefs to which Liam's parents subscribed. The jarring differences between Cody's parents and Liam's parents were also well done, if somewhat one-dimensional.
I would recommend that this book carry trigger warnings, especially since it's geared toward young adults, considering the self-harm issue it discusses within. Yes, the cutting is mentioned in the blurb, but I felt that the dangers of cutting were not sufficiently explained, nor did I believe that Liam, once repeatedly flooded with those endorphins, would so easily be able to stop cutting.
While the issues raised within were realistic, they weren't fully resolved to my satisfaction. YMMV. Overall, a good effort. This was my first book by this author.
I was given a free copy of this book by the publisher for review.
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