Omorphi by Cody Kennedy. Goodness me, where to begin. First the scope of this story (over 400 pages) and breadth of the emotional highs and lows left me shaking at times and breathless others. I will admit that it is difficult to remain analytical with such an emotionally charged novel to review. Also, the task of attempting to encapsulate this action-packed love story into a few paragraphs is rather daunting as well. So bear with me as I attempt to present what I have no doubt is a piece of this author’s heart and soul into a logical and concise review.
Let’s begin with what worked so well in this novel and, in doing so, give you a short summary of what the story was all about.
1. Boy meets Boy.
Michael sees Christy for the first time as he rounds the track field. Christy, a tiny slip of a young man, sits perched high up in the bleachers, watching track practice every day. When Michael finally works up the courage to approach his “fan” (with encouragement from his best friend, Jake), he discovers how breathtakingly beautiful Christy is, both inside and out. However, Christy’s tortured and unthinkably violent past keeps him trapped inside the nightmare he once lived and unable to endure even the smallest of touch from Michael. As these two begin a dance that will ultimately lead to their lives being threatened repeatedly, we watch as boy falls in love with boy and hearts slowly begin to heal.
Stunning—truly. The slow and methodical build to this relationship was outstanding in this novel. Yes, there were declarations of love rather quickly in this story, but once again I was reminded of my high school days when I was on the cusp of college and experienced my first kiss, much like Michael, and how positive I was that I was in love. For me, it began my dating history; for Michael it began a journey to unlock the demons inside Christy’s head and help him cope with them. Note, I said cope and not heal. While there was most assuredly healing in this novel, there was also the real reminder that sexual and mental abuse leaves lasting scars and the real goal for Christy was to make the nightmare memories he carried transform from leaving him weak and nearly catatonic into someone strong and able to endure.
The love story that author Cody Kennedy writes leaps from the page and wraps itself around your heart. I found myself frantically turning each page, heart hammering inside my chest, needing to see, to be sure that Christy and Michael were going to be okay, survive, endure. I breathed a sigh of relief when I read how they struggled, how Michael felt helpless at times in the face of Christy’s fractured mind and soul, how they argued and had to work through their problems, like a real couple would. Even down to the language of their love for each other, how they morphed into pet names, described each other in loving terms, all this leant an air of credibility to the story, giving it the realism it needed to support such a lengthy novel.
2. The genius in making the high school semi-private and the cast of characters come from different socio-economic backgrounds.
When you attend a semi-private high school (as I did), you are surrounded by the poor and the wealthy. These kids intermingle and enjoy freedoms on a campus that are unlike any a public school would offer. In order to make Omorphi work on many levels, and maintain some semblance of realism, the author had to create a high school campus that was both liberal and available to all social levels. Hence, Kennedy is able to give us the very wealthy (Jake, Christy), to the moderately wealthy (Michael), to the lower end of the spectrum (Stephen, Jerry). All these students were able to have access to the school and allowed for the plot points of private security for some kids and blatantly homophobic parents for others to coexists seamlessly.
It also made the incidences of bullying and outright violent interactions seem more real. The author sheds light on the very real fact that bullying crosses all economic strata and that rich kids are just as likely to gang up and intimidate a weaker classmate as the kids who make their way on the street would. Once again Kennedy levels the playing field and teaches us that we all have choices in life and the consequences for our choices can have deadly consequences.
3. Allowing for the “rainbow” to grace the sky.
With a novel of this scope, it would have been easier to make each of the characters more “cookie-cutter,” all the gay kids less flamboyant, the jocks rigidly straight, and the girls all pretty and flirty. Instead, Omorphi gives us a much truer picture of what lives right outside our door. First, we have Christy, who is feminine in look and appeal, who enjoys wearing girl’s clothing and makeup, yet is undeniably male and grows in strength as the novel progresses. Then there is Michael, who is out to his family and best friend, but on the down low in high school where he worries that coming out of the closet will cause a fracture so deep he might lose his place as captain of the track team and possible scholarships. And then we were given the unique way in which author Kennedy chose to paint Michael’s best friend, Jake. By novel’s end, you realized that Jake most assuredly could have been bisexual, and was unafraid to admit his love for Michael, and the real truth that had he liked girls just a little bit less, Jake would have easily fallen in love with Michael as Christy did.
Not once did I find this hodgepodge of sexual preferences unappealing or unrealistic. Even as long as the 35 plus years ago that I went to high school, I had friends who were gay, straight, and somewhere in between. I had a male friend who liked to play with my makeup and ended up in a career on stage and is now happily married to his lover. For once, a novel dared to present what to me was a real slice of life and give voice to the many choices under the rainbow that colors our world. I was so impressed with the courage it took this author to explore the varied sexualities he presented in Omorphi and I silently applauded his strength in doing so.
Finally, I would be remiss in not acknowledging the careful construct of writing about a victim of sexual and physical abuse and how much restraint it takes to present this type of character correctly. Christy broke my heart in so many ways. He plucked at every maternal bone in my body and I wanted nothing more than to rescue him from the hell he had endured and continued to live out in his memories. Rather than weaken Christy by allowing him to unrealistically morph into a healed and happy young man, Kennedy takes the much harder road and allows Christy to remain flawed and wounded but growing stronger each passing day. I believe this was the moment I couple the word genius with the name Cody Kennedy. It is so much easier to “fix” your characters, to allow them to find love and be restored to “normalcy.” But it is a sign of excellent writing that allows a character to remain fully real in their brokenness and not diminish by one word their arduous journey toward healing.
Cody Kennedy writes with staggering beauty. He respects his plot lines and his characters and, in doing so, sheds light on the real fact that abuse occurs every minute in our world. He holds that truth carefully in his capable hands and shows us that we should and must be part of the solution in stopping this travesty. I told this author recently that while I have never met him, I knew him. Through his novel, Omorhpi, I was able to see a glimpse of the heart and soul of this remarkable new author and it was simply put, a beautiful sight.
Does Omorhpi have its moments where small holes appear in the plot? Yes, there are a few times here and there that the story threatens to veer off track, but the author is quick to pull it back from the brink of real trouble. The reality is that with over 400 pages of text, there is the threat of over telling a story or losing your way. I found neither of these to be true with Omorphi. It remained focused and fairly tight throughout the entire story and that impressed me greatly. I found that the sex between the boys was tastefully accomplished, mostly off the page and, with Michael being just two months shy of graduation from high school, very realistic. The slow way in which this aspect of the novel built was realistic and well done.
I highly recommend Omorphi by Cody Kennedy to you. It is a novel that will stay with you long after you have read the last page.