Monday, November 28, 2016

ARC Review: You Are Not Me ('90s Coming of Age, #2) by Leta Blake

Follow Peter into the summer following his senior year to face new beginnings, new friends, and old baggage.

After a tumultuous final year of high school, Peter Mandel needs a break. It's the summer of 1991, and his secret relationship with his ‘best friend’ Adam Algedi is put on hold as Adam goes away to Italy for the summer. On the cusp of adulthood, Peter has a couple of months to explore who he is without Adam at his side.

Enter Daniel McPeak, a slightly older, out, responsible college guy with a posse of gay friends and an attraction for Peter. Drawn into the brave new world of the local gay club, Peter embarks on a whirlwind of experiences—good and bad—which culminate in a hotel room where he has to make the ultimate choice.

But Adam will come back eventually, and there are promises that have to be kept. As autumn draws near and college awaits, can Peter break free of the binds of twisted first love? And what exactly is Daniel's role in his life - a brief temptation, or something more?

Join Peter in the second book of this four-part coming of age series as he struggles to love and be loved, and grow into a gay man worthy of his own respect.


This new series by Leta Blake is gay fiction with romantic elements.

Book 2 of 4. Length: 100,000 words, 328 pages

These books contain aspects of: New Adult fiction, ‘90s gay life, small city homosexual experiences, Southern biases, sexual exploration, romance, homophobia, bisexuality, and twisted-up young love. Oh, and a guaranteed happy ending for the main character by the end of Book 4.

Jewel's rating:

Note: You Are Not Me is not a stand-alone novel. It is the second of a four part series, featuring Peter Mandel as he learns how to live his truth. I'll do my best to not spoil too much about book one, here, but do know that I probably won't be 100% successful. And, if you've read the blurb for book 2, you already know more than you should if you're interested in reading this series, but have not yet read Pictures of You. If that last sentence describes you, I recommend you stop reading this review right now.

Still with me? Cool.

This series has had a way of transporting me back to the early 90's when I was a young adult (I'm slightly younger than Daniel) and living in the southern US. The music, the cultural references, the events of the time… I tell people, I'm not nostalgic for that time period at all, and I'm not. But when I think of the things going on right now, I almost miss the innocence we had then. But then I remember the bad stuff and am glad that if nothing else, we've made it so HIV isn't a death sentence. I'll also mention that I have never cried while listening to Losing My Religion, by REM, until reading this book. In the context of Peter's journey, that song is heartbreaking.

You Are Not Me picks up right where Pictures of You left off. Adam is in Rome and Peter has the summer to get some heavy thinking done and hopefully make some (we're hoping for actual good) decisions. Peter has been hurting and Peter has also hurt others, even if they don't know it, yet, and he needs this summer to just…be, and learn how to breathe again. And learn that he does have a lot more options than he ever thought he would have. He's coming into his own and it is such a beautiful thing to witness.

And I want to share with you how much I loved that Peter made some new friends, through Robert and Daniel, and he got to experience what it was like to be an out gay man. Without the secrets, without the deceptions, without the fear. And he got to know what it felt like to be wanted in the open. Peter, Peter, Peter… I wanted to hug him, I wanted to shake him and I wanted to hug him some more. He's a loyal guy and he's been loyal to Adam, even though Adam hasn't really deserved it.

In my review for Pictures of You, I said that I liked Adam and I really wanted him to learn how to be honest and open. I still want these things for him, but he hasn't managed it yet. In fact, we witness Adam coming apart at the seams. His desperation is heartbreaking, but at the same time, he needs to break apart. To know what he's doing to others. To himself. I'm still rooting for Adam, hoping that he finds his way to living and loving in the open, even though he's been a manipulative bastard. But I still think Adam is not good for Peter, at all. Adam needs to know what it feels like to be left behind.

We met Daniel in Pictures of You and he's a real stand-up guy. A good friend and he's real in so many ways. And while there was an attraction between he and Peter, from the start, nothing came of it in book 1, because Daniel doesn't play games, he doesn't cheat and he doesn't do casual.

Daniel is the kind of human being we should all aspire to be. Is he perfect? No, he's not. But he cares about people. And he walks the walk. Daniel is a student of architecture at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Architecture isn't his passion, though. His real gift is his humanity. He volunteers for ARK (AIDS Response Knoxville), and his volunteer work is directly with men and women dying of AIDS. And he's there for his friends, even when they do stupid shit, and he wants the best for everyone. For himself, though, he wants Peter. Even when it hurts him, he wants Peter.

Well, now Peter is on his own, and although he didn't make Adam any promises, he didn't break things off, either. So Peter has some serious soul searching to do to figure out what he wants and who he wants to be. The summer is eye-opening for him, but he still is so conflicted. He doesn't want to betray Adam, but at the same time, he wants to find happiness, himself. But Peter is young and maybe he's not quite ready to do what's right.

You Are Not Me doesn't take short cuts, any more than Pictures of You did. Throughout the book, you know that somehow, sometime, the feces is going to hit the oscillator in an important way. And it does. And I can't tell you when or how, but Peter does figure things out and though the end of You Are Not Me isn't exactly certain, I am very happy with the events as they stand. They give me hope.

I'm looking forward to book 3 of this series. I need to see where these boys are and how they've coped and where they want themselves to be. I can tell that this story has come straight from Leta Blake's soul and it sings to me in ways I can barely articulate. For those that need a complete story, you should wait until book four is about to come out to read these. Otherwise, you'll be like me, camping on Leta Blake's porch all winter waiting for more words. You Are Not Me doesn't end on a huge cliffie, though, so if you're ok with knowing that this isn't the end of Peter's journey, read these and keep an open mind and remember what it was like to be that young.

ARC of You Are Not Me was generously provided by the author, in exchange for an honest review.

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