Ethan Domani had planned the perfect graduation trip before tragedy put his life on hold. Smothered by survivor’s guilt and his close-knit family, he makes a break for the open road. He doesn't know what he's looking for, but he's got the whole summer to figure out who he misses more: his boyfriend, or the person he thought he was. It’s just him and his memories . . . until he almost runs over a hitchhiker.
Nick Hamilton made some mistakes after his younger brother died. His violent ex-boyfriend was the most dangerous, and the one that got him shipped off to Camp Cornerstone’s pray-the-gay-away boot camp. His eighteenth birthday brings escape, and a close call with an idiot in a station wagon. Stranger danger aside, Nick’s homeless, broke, and alone. A ride with Ethan is the best option he’s got.
The creepy corners of roadside America have nothing on the darkness haunting Ethan and Nick. Every interstate brings them closer to uncharted emotional territory. When Nick’s past shows up in their rearview mirror, the detour might take them off the map altogether.
Wow, talk about a "healing" story. This was for sure that story, folks.
Eighteen year old Ethan Domani was still reeling from the sudden loss of his best friend / boyfriend over a year ago, but was embarking on the six-week, cross-country road trip they'd planned all throughout high school.
And his family had asked him for only a few things. One, to call home. Often. And two, don't pick up any hitchhikers and get taken to a 'murder cave', which was oddly specific.
Well, he ended up being crap about both of those requests, especially when he nearly ran over Nick Hamilton, also eighteen, during a really bad storm, only a few hours into his journey.
Nick had realized that very day that he could legally walk away from Camp Cornerstone, an insane pray-the-gay-away boot camp.
So he did just that, with only the clothes on his back and no real plan for his future in mind. Only to get the hell away from that awful place.
And then he met Ethan, whom he felt was more kind and caring than he had any right to deserve.
God, the scene where Nick told Ethan that it was his birthday? GAH! All the feels. All. Of. Them.
I absolutely loved watching as these two guys worked through their grief and guilt together, although it wasn't quite as easy as simply watching. The story immediately pulled me in and left me completely invested in their mutual fates.
Ethan had always led a bit of a charmed life, with an amazing family and a boy he'd met (and "playground married", how goddamn adorable is that?) in the second grade. Scott.
Since age fourteen, they'd planned to live their lives together, then tragedy struck, leaving Ethan broken and at odds with the person he had been versus the new person that he must become.
Nick had also suffered a death, his little brother's, which blew his home life apart and set him on a self-destructive path, one which led him to being locked away in a gay conversion camp by his emotionally-absent parents, mainly to keep him away from his abusive ex-boyfriend.
And let me tell you, Kyle, the ex? That bitch was CRAAAY-ZEE. Very much the type of controlling, violent stalker you pray to never ever have in your own life.
"Restraining Order, party of one. Restraining Order, party of one?"
I enjoyed the slow burn of this story, as the guys got to know and trust one another over the course of the road trip, as they made their way from Virginia to California.
Then everything imploded in New Mexico and led to lots of soul searching and important realizations for both of the guys.
The story never felt rushed and it just flowed, without any parts feeling contrived, unnecessary, or overly melodramatic.
There was a bit of steam, also, but the one *real* sex scene did fade-to-black, which left me a bit disappointed. Both of the guys were 18, after all, so why not go there to help bolster some of the feelings, beyond the obvious physical attraction?
But, other than that, I'm not sure I would have changed anything about the book.
Well, actually, that's a bit of a lie. While there was an epilogue from a state or two after California, I would have *killed* for an even later follow-up on the guys, showing that they were still happily together, maybe a year or so down the road.
Yet, in spite of my greediness, I'd still rate this story at around 4.5 highly-satisfying and touching stars.
I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a story about working through grief and coming out the other side, if not stronger, at least intact. Mostly.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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