In Escaped we are back for the 5th and penultimate book in the fabulous Little Boy Lost series. As always, this book continues pretty much immediately where the previous book left off, meaning you really want to read these in order (and possibly hold off reading this review until you have finished the earlier books).
Brian and his friends have rescued Jamie from the horrors of Steven O’Dell and it is none too soon as Jamie has been severely burned and beaten, and is strung out on drugs. Since clinics and hospitals are too risky with Steven looking for them, Brian relies on some long distance medical care from his father Richard and some street oxy courtesy of Leo to help Jamie handle the withdrawal symptoms.
Even once Jamie has mostly recovered from his injuries, he still can’t put life with Steven behind him. The guys have to be cautious everywhere they go as they know Steven is looking for Jamie and one wrong move could lead him right to them. Everyone is constantly looking over their shoulders to make sure that Steven isn’t lurking before they can go anywhere. In addition, Jamie is still suffering from drug dependency and his dwindling supply of oxy means he is looking at a painful, wrenching detox. Jamie tries desperately to be strong for Brian, who is so patient and loving, setting up a home for them and taking care of Jamie. Yet the lure of drugs and the pain of withdrawal is incredibly strong and Jamie isn’t sure he is up to the challenge.
This was another roller coaster story in the series, full of love and tenderness, excitement and exhilaration, and pain and suffering. As happy as Jamie feels to be away from Steven, he is never able to accept that he is free to be with Brian. Jamie is convinced it is just a matter of time before Steven finds him or he messes things up with Brian, and sadly he is right. This poor boy, just a shell of once he once was. Wasting away, addicted to drugs, full of fear and self-loathing. I feel for him as even when things are looking up, he truly remains hopeless.
And of course this hopelessness and the desperate desire to be worthy of Brian are what ultimately lead to his downfall. And for the first time in five books we see Brian finally put himself first and accept that he needs to protect himself and his heart, even from Jamie. This was sad after waiting so long for their reunion, but I was also happy to see Brian finally stand up for his own needs. I am hopeful things smooth out for them in the final book, but I get why this needed to happen, and I think it is for the best.
On the bright side, we finally see Jamie reunited with his father. His dad is incredibly remorseful for his actions (and inactions) that led to Jamie being sent to the Sunshine Center. And he makes it clear how much he loves Jamie and how hard he searched for him. With his father’s help, Jamie’s life is finally looking up and he begins to feel a glimmer of hope that he might actually have a future. I finally think he is in a good place, or at least getting there, which makes me really happy.
Once again Barnaby paints such a moving and wrenching portrayal of both young love and the horrors of homophobia. Seeing this lovely boy with such a bright future nearly destroyed by his own parents’ actions is made even more horrible knowing it is the reality for so many teens. This passage where Jamie confronts his father struck me as capturing things perfectly:
“Yes, thanks to my little forced vacation, your straight-A student turned into a high school dropout, a drug addict, and a porn star. Is that better or worse than being gay?”
This series never shies away from showing us the reality of this prejudice and the pain it all can cause.
But even with the painful bits, I am enjoying this series thoroughly and can’t recommend it highly enough. I am eagerly awaiting the last book and am crossing my fingers for a bright future for both our boys.
Here is the full list of Little Boy Lost books: