Rating: 4.75 stars
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Toren Grey is a shy, quiet, high school student who loves his family and works hard at school. He is definitely not part of the in crowd and mostly tries to stay off the radar. So he is quite surprised when he is approached by popular Wesley Carroll, the school bad boy. Toren has definitely noticed Wesley and has a bit of a crush, so he is both thrilled and terrified when Wes talks to him, and even more so when Wesley wants to be his partner for a history project.
Wes is totally different from the quiet, studious Toren. He is popular, outgoing, and appears totally self-confident. He drinks, smokes, deals pot, and barely studies. He doesn’t care much what others think and always wonders why Toren does. But there is a vulnerability to Wes as well. His parents are cold and dismissive, favoring his older brother with the affection and support. So despite his outward confidence, there is definitely some self doubt and insecurity beneath the surface.
Wes & Toren follows the boys from the end of their senior year in high school through Wes’ first year of college. It takes us through the first steps of their relationship as they get to know one another and become friends, tentatively exploring first kisses and first sexual experiences. We watch as Toren struggles with coming out and faces his fears about his family’s reaction, as well as how outsiders will perceive him. And we follow the men as their relationship blooms into love and they begin to grow and settle into a life together. There are some conflicts along the way, mostly in the form of Wes’ less than accepting family, but for the most part, the story takes us on a journey of first love and the sweet and tender moments these guys experience together.
Wes & Toren is everything I love about a young love story. Colail does a great job of capturing that thrill of the newness and excitement of first love, especially as we get the story from Toren’s less experienced voice. We can feel the thrill and terror and anxiety about each new step in the relationship, both physical and mental. To me so much about love at this age is the journey, the sense of finding that person when you are young and having that relationship grow and develop as the characters themselves grow. And Colail gives us such a wonderful sense of that here. We can really feel how the bond of their relationship affects them as they have new experiences, how much their partnership strengthens both of them individually. I love the way each man has vulnerabilities and insecurities and each grows with strength and confidence over the course of the story, aided by the support of his partner.
When we first meet Toren he is timid and shy and frequently anxious. He knows he is gay and is terrified to tell his mother and is scared of anyone finding out. His is exhilarated by his relationship with Wes, while at the same time he is often terrified. But slowly Toren begins to gain confidence, to lose that constant worry about what other people think and to stand up for himself, first in small ways and later in a very important one. On the other hand, Wes has a bravado that seems to carry him through everything. When we first meet him through Toren’s eyes, Wes is a bit larger than life. Everyone likes him, even the teachers, and he is almost untouchable. Yet as the story continues, we can see Wes’ vulnerabilities as well. The lack of support from his parents is so hurtful and he has doubts about himself, especially compared to the more academically minded Toren. Yet the unwavering love and support from Toren, as well as the complete acceptance from Toren’s mother and sister, help Wes gain that true confidence that he is missing. It is so clear that each man is growing and becoming stronger aided by the support of his partner. But I loved that the essence of who these guys are remains with them. Toren is always the more anxious, the more cautious, the more focused. And Wes is the tease, wilder and bolder and constantly horny.
One of the things I liked about this story is how it takes us through both the major milestones and the small details of Wes and Toren’s relationship. There aren’t any big conflicts or major plot events, the story just takes us on a journey as we watch these guys fall in love. I could really believe in them because I could see their love and their bond day in and day out. Yet on the other hand, I think the story could have benefited from being tightened up. At 300 pages on my ereader this is a long book, and at times it felt a little repetitive. We get lots of scenes of the guys coming home from work or school, having dinner, and making love. I was never bored, and part of me loved the sense of watching these guys as they went about their daily lives, but I still think this could have been tighter.
Although most of the focus of the story is on Wes and Toren, we meet some great side characters as well. Toren’s sister Alycia plays a big role in the story, as she is Toren’s biggest supporter and confidant. Her complete acceptance of Wes and Toren’s relationship goes a long way to giving Toren the confidence to come out to others. And I loved the relationship she develops with Wesley, almost becoming like siblings. Despite being younger than Toren, Alycia is so confident and strong that she proves a great supporter of both he and Wes. I also really liked Wes’ brother Steve. Wes’ parents so clearly favor Steve, seeing him as so much more successful than Wes. But Steve loves and supports Wes and refuses to play into his parent’s games. Even when they reject Wes for being gay, Steve always stands behind Wes and lets Wes know how important he is to him. I also loved Toren’s mom. She works a crazy schedule as a nurse and isn’t around a whole lot. Alycia and Toren have a lot of independence and take care of themselves quite a bit. But when she is needed, Toren’s mother is always there with love and support for both Toren and for Wes.
Overall I really loved this one. Colail captures the sweetness and excitement of new love so well. We see the doubts and insecurities, but also the confidence that grows and blooms through their love for each other. I loved watching Wes and Toren’s relationship develop and I could really believe in their love for one another. Great story, definitely recommended.
P.S. For a chance to win a copy of Wes & Toren, as well as a ton of other great prizes, be sure to stop by the Young Love Week Giveaway!