Series States of Love | Nebraska
For fourteen-year-old Jacob Thomas, a Christian and the smartest kid in class, Bobby Versailles is completely out of reach. Jacob wishes a girl named Allie loved him because he still doesn’t get that he’s gay, but he always keeps his eyes peeled at school, hoping to catch a glimpse of Bobby.
It’s Bobby Versailles’s senior year. Captain of his high school football team, he’s bound to win Homecoming King and hopefully a state championship, but he’s been miserable for years. His fear of somebody finding out he’s gay has brought isolation and loneliness. He has hidden that he’s gay by going on dates with girls now and then, and also by working out and excelling at football—which has also helped teachers look past his learning difficulties. When he first eyes Jacob, it’s possibly love at first sight. Bobby becomes a little obsessed. Jacob has got to be gay, and when Bobby makes a move, both of their worlds turn upside down!
It’s 1982, and while the Nebraska Cornhuskers are barreling toward a possible NCAA National Football Championship, everyone in a small town two hours away hopes Bobby can lead them to a state championship. Can two teens with vastly different lives find love amidst the fervor of Nebraska football?
To state the obvious, this is a YA story. Duh, right?
But some stories tend to feel much more YA than others, and this one, for the most part, felt *verrrry* YA.
Neither Jacob (aka J.T., aka 'Jate') nor Bobby had ever been in a real relationship before, so the "I love you's" were super quick here, which played a large part in the story feeling super-YA on steroids.
At nearly 15, Jacob's extremely sheltered, religious upbringing was as hilarious as it was naive. I'm honestly not sure if I was meant to be laughing (at him) nearly as many times as I was. He was fun to read, though.
At 17, Bobby came across as a teeny bit more world-wise, but also had the type of hopeful innocence that made me wince at thoughts of it being crushed out of him by the 'good people' of rural, 1982 Nebraska.
Just to allay a few fears, I'm sure that some potential readers will fear the impact of religion in this book, like I did. Well, those fears are unjustified here, as Jacob and Bobby had no horrific encounters with evil church-goers or bullies through the end of the story.
What may come down the road is anyone's guess, but they experienced no overt homophobia or violence over the course of this story, which I found pretty atypical for a coming out (of sorts) tale.
What I also found very different about this particular YA book was the inclusion of SO MUCH ON-PAGE SEX. I mean, Jacob was only 14, so I was a bit taken aback at first. They avoided penetration, but still.
I enjoyed the first half of the story more than the latter half, I suspect in large part because it mainly consisted of Jacob and Bobby hooking up, looking for places to hook up, or just thinking about hooking up.
The semi-idyllic ending required a bit of suspension of disbelief, but it was sweet and optimistic. Maybe too optimistic, as I didn't see the MC's or the 3 friends they came clean to being able to be entirely discreet indefinitely.
So without any direct bullying or religious repercussions included in the story, along with the fairly immature MC's, this novella came across as a light YA story. Extremely light, which I've found fairly typical in the States of Love series.
I'd rate this book at around 3.25 stars, but would've killed for a short epilogue from a few years down the road, showing that the boys were still together, making things work. And that they hadn't been beaten to death once their secret had been laid bare for religious redneck retaliation.
My ARC copy of the book was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair, unbiased review.
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