"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." - Oscar Wilde
3.5 stars rounded up to four because I liked the writing so much
This one was a little difficult for me. I've been looking forward to this one for a long time. And in a way, I wasn't disappointed. The writing was really, really good. I loved the voice, I felt so much for Brandon and I could have read about his inner musings all day long. I actually did.
I also really enjoyed the whole part about fanfictions and the world of fandoms. It was funny, it was entertaining and in some aspects it was dead on. It's not everyday that you laugh about something so hard that was actually part of your own life at some point. Overall, I was thoroughly entertained, grinned and laughed a lot, and had a lot of fun with Brandon's very own way of describing, acting and retorting. Loved it.
And I was very happy with his character development. His struggle with his religious upbringing was heartbreaking to read, but in a very good way. I think it's important that stories like these exist. No matter how often you tell yourself that it doesn't matter what your family thinks and that you're entitled to live your own life exactly the way you want to, in the end it's all just BS. It takes an unbelievable amount of time, and PAIN, to get over your very own family rejecting you - no matter what the reason behind it. I'm not even sure you really can get completely over it. It gets better, but you know what they say about opening wounds and inner scars and all that. What made it so good for me to read Brandon's story was the fact that he knew, he just KNEW in his head that what his church was preaching was wrong. He didn't believe in it, not really. But he doubted a lot. And had an even harder time standing up for himself AFTER his coming out than many others have who are rejected completely by their family the minute the word "gay" is on the table. I'm not saying they have it easier, far from it. But I do believe that it's harder to break out of a hurtful situation and finding your own way outside of your family valueas and beliefs, when on the other hand, you somehow feel your family members' affection and concern - no matter how twisted - shine through here and there. Brandon's struggle with who he wanted to be, who he was supposed to be, and most of all, how to react to a family that wouldn't accept him completely but "tried" to love him anyway, was wonderfully done and I loved every minute. I might have wished for more of his "F*** You, I am who I am and you are supposed to love me unconditioanlly no matter what!"; but in the end that just wasn't him and that's all there is to it.
Now on to my problem with the story. It was a great CoA-YA story. It delt with religion and family and church respectfully and in a very real way. Nothing was just black and white, nobody was completely good or bad - not at home, not in the fandoms, not even the drunks and assholes from the TV show. Even the side characters were three-dimensional, very well crafted and real.
But the romance? I'm sorry, but this book would have been better without the romance in it. Why? Because I couldn't feel the connection between Abel and Brandon. They were great friends, best friends even, and their Bromance was actually kind of sweet. But as a couple? Nah, I just couldn't see it. That had nothing to do with the sex happening off page. I couldn't care less. Sure, seeing some of the intimacy in bed can be part of a good romance, but it doesn't have to be. Good sex doesn't make the story, and it sure doesn't break it when it isn't explicit. But even before that, even when it was just about kissing and touching, or "having a crush", it didn't work for me. I didn't feel a thing, except maybe amusement about their friendship. I thought the fights might save it, because you know, I'm a sucker for emotional explosions and word-vomiting and hurt feelings and good apologies. But that, too, fell flat for me. Again, everything worked as a nice Bromance, just not as a love story. The ending was very sweet, but I still couldn't buy it. Maybe because I never really connected to Abel in the first place.
So I liked the book, just not the romance in it. Which is kind of bad when you're reading a romance. But, whatever. I liked it, I understand why people love it, it just wasn't a real hit for me.