This was a fun read. I started off really enjoying it. Even though it was easy to tell where this story was going I genuinely wanted to see how the author would get there. There was a particular scene where the main character, Tanner, gets blamed for a plumbing accident that got my biggest laugh. Comedy gold. Though my first impression was good problems arose as the book continued.
Once I got to the good bits the dynamics between Billy and Tanner didn’t cross new ground. Without the side characters and the comedy it didn’t move, or more accurately, grow much. Instead of being excited about Tanner’s big reveal, I felt annoyed. Like of all the times, this is the time you do it? It made so little sense beyond one obvious bit, to drum up some drama to make the story more interesting. Instead it just seemed like another unrealistic plot moment designed for people who like drama and can suspend heap-loads of reality to make something to crazy to work, work.
The other thing that got me was the book seemed to want me to dig deep without trying to taking me down that path. Like Tanner talks about how hard it is being at college/university but I don’t think, for the amount of time it’s brought up, he ever actually deals with that emotion. I get the sense I’m supposed to feel that verbalising it is dealing with it. It’s not. People say stuff all the time and never actually deal with it. Some have good intentions and other have zero intentions to deal with things but know expressing their feelings is enough to stall most people for a while before the unresolved problem arises again so the cycle can begin again.
It was the same with Billy. Talking about how he had to stay home instead of going to culinary school, but it feels so effortless. Like it wasn’t that much of a struggle for him to stay behind. He had no choice in the matter and the story reads like it wants readers to feel some sort of way about how it affected him, but he gets along so well with his family and this issue never gets brought up in a way beyond just talking about it. It never digs into the alluded emotional trauma this causes but as I said there is zero evidence of this in how he acts, and interacts with characters we only have his word. Much like Tanner supposedly living a lie about being a star athlete. He keeps saying it but I get the sense he is still a star athlete and it’s just harder than he thought with all the competition. So where’s the lie he apparently is living? And scraping by academically… he never deals with that either. I was waiting for him to tackle this one with his parents. Deal with the fact he might need to either buckle down and go hard with the football career or start looking into a backup plan which he might need some tutors or summer classes to make happen. But it’s more of the same, mention problem, almost go deep but the story must go on so it’s not dealt with.
The side characters gave this book life. Specifically both moms and Tanner’s grandma. Laughter abound. Especially how Tanner’s mom acts after the reveal. Hilarious. My second biggest laugh in the book.
The romance angle and the sex didn’t lift of the page or fit much for me. There’s something about the way a college experienced student and a boy who’s been out of high school as a working adult for two years talk and approached adult themes that felt very sixteen instead of twenty. A lot of the time I was brought out a bit like no twenty-year-old would say this, especially not during the encounter. However the steamy mid-sex talk did this a lot. Even if they had never had sex before something about their sentence structures I found lacked the experience that working and being around older and maturer crowds for two years would have. It was a bit too juvenile for their age bracket. A lot of the reactions, situations, and the way things were worded through the novel in its entirety sometimes made me think of teen fiction trying to masquerade as adult fiction.
That was what undid it mostly. With all the hilariously good moments that kept this book alive, the main characters still felt like they were a few years behind the age they actually were. The story was clearly designed for adults but a lot of the times read more PG13 and never quite lifted to the level of real character depth that I continuously felt I was being pulled towards. It hit one good note and sang it really well. But it had so much potential to hit all the other notes but missed them. And, after reading some of the other reviews I noticed I’m not the only one that found the writing a bit juvenile as a whole.
Lastly, I am here for books where being gay is a non-issue. However, I couldn’t suspend enough belief that in a small southern Christian town literally no one has an issue with this. Like no one. And, plot spoiler, the local minister marries them, I found this out in the second book. Again, we have a small southern christian town with an open-minded pastor and openly gay residents and… no one cares. Let that wordy sentence sink in a bit.
This book gets three stars for the comedy and overall southern sass and mostly Tanner’s mom’s reaction to his coming out. You can’t beat that kind of writing. I’m here for it. Beyond that, it doesn’t have much going for it. If you’re looking for a hilarious romance about two guys navigating their way through first love, you’ll love this book. If you’re looking for an adultier worded, slightly more angsty, in-depth type of read along with your comedy, this is probably not deep enough and too safe for you, outside of the sex scenes of course.