Buy Link: The Locker Room
Author: Amy Lane
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
The Locker Room follows the lives of Christian Edwards and Xander Karcek over about a 15-year period, from the time they meet at age 14, through high school, college, and ultimately the NBA. When we are first introduced to them, Xander is in bad shape. His mother is basically a crack whore and he is literally starving, forced to fend for himself for food and clothing and to sleep under his building’s stairwell to stay out of the hands of his mother’s violent boyfriends. When he meets Chris one night while playing basketball, the two boys bond immediately and intensely.
Chris doesn’t know how serious Xander’s problems are, but he and his family begin to look out for Xander. Eventually Xander’s struggles become too much for him and ultimately the Edwards take him in to their home. At this point, the boys have admitted their feelings to each other, but don’t act on them physically out of respect for the family that has taken Xander in as essentially an adopted son. Once they graduate high school and move onto college, however, they guys start a physical relationship along with their emotional one and from that point on they are all but married.
As they enter the NBA, Chris and Xander continue to face challenges despite being wildly successful players. Their biggest struggle is hiding their relationship. Against all odds, Chris and Xander end up on the same team, but the efforts to “play straight” and keep their secret while living and working together all day is incredibly hard. Yet they fear that revealing their relationship will end their future in the sport they both love. And Xander still struggles with trust and self-confidence, having been let down by his mother so significantly as a child. Although he loves Christian incredibly, he still has a lot of insecurities.
I really loved this story and the intensity of their love for each other. Amy Lane does adoration so well and you can just feel how each man thinks the sun rises and sets on the other. They are almost worshipful in their love for one another, beginning from a young age and continuing on throughout the book. The story is told from Xander’s point of view and it is so clear how the combination of basketball and his relationship with Chris just saved his life and is what keeps him going.
The book almost felt like two parts to me. First, their time in high school when the focus is really on Xander’s survival. Seeing these young guys try to figure things out and take care of each other in such difficult circumstances was very moving. The second part follows their time in college (briefly) and then their move to the NBA. Things slowed down a bit for me a bit here, especially in the early parts of their adulthood. However, the pace really picked up again toward the last third of the book.
One aspect of the book I particularly enjoyed is all the secondary characters. Chris’ family plays a big part in the story, from taking care of Xander as a child, to being there for the guys in adulthood. And I loved how Xander’s “harem” of female friends really looked out for him (and he for them). In many ways the guys are so all about each other, it was nice to see how important the other people are in their lives and how their close circle of family and friends really make a difference.
One of the things I really loved about this book was the way Chris and Xander were so emotionally intertwined and how their lives were really built around one another. Although my life is certainly not this dramatic, I can relate to that sense of meeting your soul mate at a young age and growing up together. I have mentioned before on this blog that I started dating my husband at 16 and basically we were each other’s first almost everything. We began dating in high school and have now been together over 23 years. We have kids and a close relationship with family and friends, so our lives are certainly broader than one another, but I would say that he has been a part of virtually any event of real significance in my life because we met so young. I think Lane really captures that feeling well in the story about how intense it is to have someone else so connected to you through so much of your life.
Ok, sorry for all that personal stuff!
The Locker Room is very a involved and intense story, but I didn’t find it to be a downer or too angsty. The guys are super hot together and I enjoyed watching them grow up and find their way. It is not too sports heavy, but if you like basketball, or sports in general, you will likely appreciate the importance the men place on playing and how meaningful it is in their lives. Overall I would highly recommend this book. So sweet and moving and a wonderful story of young love and the challenges of growing through to adulthood.