Rating: 5 stars
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Length: Novel

“Love isn’t meant to be hidden away. Life is too short for shame”

Ben Bentley watched Tim Wyman from afar the summer before their junior year in high school. Tim was new to his school and the most attractive boy Ben had ever seen, but Tim hung out with the kids that showed nothing but hate for Ben because he was gay. So eventually Ben thought Tim was probably an ugly person in a beautiful mask.

While skating home from school one day, Ben sees Tim out running and skates into him – accidentally on purpose. Taking a tumble down the steep incline injures Tim and gives Ben the perfect excuse to get to know him. Tim’s parents are out of the country for two weeks and, after a trip to the hospital, Ben spends those two weeks as Tim’s personal nurse. The more time Ben spends with Tim, the more he likes Tim as a friend and hopes that someday it can be more than a friend.

One afternoon, the boys finally have their first sexual encounter.  But afterwards Tim explains to Ben that he doesn’t want anyone to know about what happened between them. Tim tells Ben that he has a girlfriend, but says they can still be friends. Eventually however, Tim reluctantly agrees to pursue a relationship with Ben as his boyfriend as long as Ben agrees not to tell Tim’s parents or anyone at school. In the following months, Ben discovers a vulnerable, caring side to Tim that no one else is given the opportunity to see. He also realizes how hard it is to love someone in secret. After a few arguments, problems with parents, and almost being discovered, Tim breaks up with Ben the summer before their senior year.

But it’s not always easy to let love go. The years to follow bring Ben through college and into adulthood. He has the chance to find love again and to learn what it means to trust someone. And eventually, Ben is faced with difficult decisions when Tim turns up in his life again.

Something Like Summer is a beautiful coming of age story. It follows Ben through twelve years of his life in love and heartbreak. This is the first book that I’ve read of Jay Bell’s and I have to say I am now a fan. The author has a way of holding my attention throughout the entire book. I was enthralled with Ben’s story. When he was happy or sad or hurt, I felt those emotions too. The storyline kept me hanging on all the way to the very end.

The cast of characters, both main and secondary, are great. Even as a teenager, Ben is a headstrong, determined, brave young man and those traits only grow as his character matures. He is honest – to a fault sometimes – and makes mistakes, but always owns up to them. Ben always puts the people that he loves ahead of himself. In the end, I found him to be extremely lovable and very honorable.  Tim was a confused teenager finding his way through life with little guidance from his parents. He was just discovering who he was in his teenage years – trying to gain acceptance from his parents as well as his peers. Coming out of the closet or claiming Ben as his boyfriend wouldn’t have gained acceptance as far as he was concerned. Throughout his teenage and college years, Tim is very self-centered. He does whatever he has to in order to get what he wants, no matter who he hurts. Although this story is told from Ben’s POV, we see Tim grow up throughout the years too. I liked Tim and couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for him throughout the entire book, and in the end he became a man worthy of the love Ben always had for him. In the beginning, a relationship between Ben and Tim was destined for failure, but the connection and love between both characters only seemed to last and strengthen as they years went by.

I loved this cast of secondary characters. Allison has been Ben’s best friend from childhood and she is fiercely loyal, even when she feels he is making a mistake. She stands by his side through thick and thin. Jace is a beautiful man full of love, devotion, forgiveness and trust. I admired him every time he was in the book. He was such a special character that laid his heart out there and allowed it to get trampled on and still remained the grounding presence that Ben needed. And Ben’s parents – they are mainly Part One of the book, but they are a wonderful part of Ben’s story – so accepting, loving, and understanding. They are a little more easy-going than most parents I know but they loved their kids and it showed every time they were part of a scene.

The only quibble I have –and it’s not really a complaint – is that I wish the ending of the book would have extended further into the future. I would have liked to see what is in store for Ben in the relationship at the end of the book.

In the end, Something Like Summer is a beautiful journey through the life of a boy who discovers love and loss, but continues to grow and become a wonderful man because of those experiences. I highly recommend Something Like Summer by Jay Bell.

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