Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Book Review: The Bravest Thing by Laura Lascarso

The Bravest Thing
High school junior Berlin Webber is about to reap the fruits of his hard work and land a football scholarship—if he can keep his sexuality a secret from his best friend, Trent, and their homophobic coach. Then Hiroku Hayashi swerves into the high school parking lot on his tricked-out motorcycle like some sexy comic book villain, and Berlin knows he doesn’t stand a chance. 

Hiroku is fleeing his sophisticated urban scene to recover from drug addiction and an abusive relationship when he arrives in Berlin’s small Texas ranch town. Initially sarcastic and aloof, Hiroku finds in Berlin a steady, supportive friend who soon becomes more. As Hiroku and Berlin’s romance blossoms, they take greater risks to be together. But when a horrific act of violence tears them apart, they both must look bigotry in the face. While Berlin has always turned to his faith for strength, Hiroku dives into increasingly dangerous ways of coping, pushing them in opposite directions just when they need each other most. 

Two very different young men search for the bravery to be true to themselves, the courage to heal, and the strength to go on when things seem darkest. But is it enough to bring them back together?

Todd's rating:

Holy crap. This story was about the furthest thing from an easy read as I've tacked in a while. So if you're looking for angsty, step right up, folks.

After a drug overdose and a stint in rehab, followed by his family moving from Austin to rural Texas, Hiro had (at least momentarily) escaped his abusive, controlling, older, ex-boyfriend, Seth.

Only to begin his Junior year of high school and immediately pop up on the singularly-focused radar of the bullying, homophobic quarterback of the new school's football team. Trent.

But in true Hiro fashion, his smart mouth couldn't help itself, which was funny, but also especially dangerous when making enemies of the entire football team.
“You know what we do to faggots around here?” Trent says.

“No, but I’m pretty sure I know what you do to the goats.”
Well, the entire football team, minus one, that is. Berlin Webber, running back and all-around nice guy. And deeply closeted.

Yet, Berlin can't seem to stay away from Hiro, becoming more and more addicted to the broken boy's presence, to the point of drawing even more attention to themselves.

As Hiro told Berlin, when Berlin tried to make light of the seriousness of Trent's bullying:
“Just remember this moment,” he says softly. “Remember that I warned you.”
And with almost prophetic accuracy, Trent's attack came swiftly and mercilessly shortly thereafter.

I feel his breath, hot and foul on my neck as he whispers in my ear, “This here is what we do to faggots.”
This part was extremely difficult to read. Downright horrifying, if I'm being blatantly honest.

It left Hiro even more wounded than before, after which he fled and fell back into bad habits with an equally bad person from his past. He knew better, but no longer had the strength to care.

What I loved about the book was that, no matter what, Berlin never gave up on Hiro -- even if Hiro had given up on himself, at least for a while.

The story was packed with both happy and gut-wrenching feels and, other than what I felt was a severe under-reaction to what was happening by Hiro's parents, I felt that the events in the story were pretty plausible. I detest manufactured melodrama and, thankfully, nothing here felt like that.

I enjoyed watching as Hiro proved to himself that he was (mostly) strong enough to face the world on his own, and finally realizing that, when he wasn't confident in meeting life's punches head-on, Berlin was the single best person to have by his side.

When the book wasn't drowning me in angst, there were a decent number of sexy bits, plus, the bad guys did at least get some form of comeuppance, thanks to Berlin's bravery in shedding light on the problem. It wasn't quite what I wanted, but I would've ranted like a mad man had there been zero consequences in the end.

Yes, I would have freaking KILLED for an epilogue, maybe from 3-4 years down the road, showing that the boys were happily building a life together, but I was sort of okay with how it left off. I'm just greedy, so of course, I wanted more.

Both the writing and editing were stellar, so I'd have to rate this book at around 4.5 stars, mostly because it drew me in and kept me fully engaged from beginning to end.

But I did take off half a star due to the frequent kicks to the balls I felt that the book squarely delivered my way.

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

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