A guest review by Sirius
Summary: Well-written coming of age story.
The summer you turn sixteen is supposed to be unforgettable. It’s the stuff of John Hughes movies and classic songs, of heart-stopping kisses and sudden revelations. But life isn’t always like the movies…
For Sean Jackson, sixteen is off to an inauspicious start. His options: take a landscaping job in Georgia with his father, or stay in his small New Hampshire hometown, where the only place hiring is the local ice cream shop. Donning a pink t-shirt to scoop sundaes for tourists and seniors promises to be a colder, stickier version of hell. Still, he opts to stay home.
On his first day at work, Sean meets Becky, a wickedly funny New York transplant. The store manager, Jay, is eighteen, effortlessly cool, and according to Becky, “likes” Sean the way Sean’s starting to like him. But before he can clear a path to the world that’s waiting, Sean will have to deal with his overprotective mother, his sweet, popular girlfriend, Lisa, his absentee father, and all his own uncertainties and budding confusions.
Tender and achingly funny, this coming-of-age story will resonate with anyone who is—or has ever been—a teenager, when the only thing you can count on is how little you really know, and the next glance, or touch, or breathless night can be the one that changes everything…
I enjoy Young Adult Stories and the Coming of age subgenre is one of my favourites. This was a completely new author to me and I decided to give the book a try. In many ways this story is similar to many “coming of age” books I have read before. The teenager is coming to terms with who he is, with his sexuality, growing up to be more comfortable with the world around him. But being firmly situated within the basic framework of the subgenre does not mean that the story is bad, quite the contrary in my opinion. There are plenty of mysteries where the case lands in the lap of an amateur detective for example and it is what the author will do with the character and plot which could set the book aside or not.
I think that this story was well done, and several things made it truly special for me. It is a very quiet, not over the top kind of story, but I really liked Sean’s voice and I thought that his narration did sound close enough to how a sixteen year old would sound. Of course Sean struggles with accepting that he is gay and announcing it to the world, or at least at first to the people he can trust enough, but I thought that the angst was kept to the minimum and it was refreshing to me. It was there, do not get me wrong, just not as much as in some stories I have read. And a lot of adolescent angst especially can be believable and true to life – of course it is scary for the teenager who wants to fit in to say even to himself that he is gay. Anyway, I know I have a pretty high tolerance for angst so if you decide to read it, let me know whether it was too much for you or not.
I loved that one of the discoveries Sean makes throughout the book that the more he opens up to people, the more he turns away from introspection towards outside communication he notices that he is not alone. It was quite amusing to read how he initially thinks that he maybe is the only gay person in his school and maybe the second gay person in his small city and how he slowly realizes that it is just not true even in his small city.
In fact I really like how the author did the small city atmosphere – he does not show us that Sean is necessarily wrong by being afraid that people will hate him, but there are a lot of people who do much better than what one would expect from them and maybe a small city is not that much worse than the large city. There are people who would accept you and people who would not.
I especially loved that the author populated the book with several open minded and accepting female characters. I am always very happy about that. I did wonder whether some of these characters were too perfect (especially Sean’s former girlfriend), but it did not set me in the eye rolling mode, and I guess it is always better for me than the opposite.
There are some romantic elements in this book, but I really do not want to say more for the fear of spoilers.
I also was very impressed that the narrative was done in the present tense, which is usually a very hard sell for me and in this book it did not bother me in the slightest. If present tense is an automatic turn off for you, beware.