Rating: 4 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
“There was nothing exciting about my life or anyone in it. It was the same old routine: survive Elite High.”
High school can be some of the most awkward years of our lives. For John Henry Ames, they are some of the worst, but some of the best as well. Bullied nearly nonstop for the past two years, John enters his junior year at Elite High afraid to face the two bullies, Matthew and Jacob, who have plagued him since beginning high school. With the help and protection of John’s two best friends, Madison and Kitty, he avoids the bullies as best as he can.
When the school financial counselor approaches John about his poor financial situation and offers him a job as a tutor in exchange for tuition reimbursement, John jumps on it. Little does he know that the student he will be tutoring is none other than Nicholas Anthony Hawking, star quarterback of the Elite Hawks and famed womanizer of Elite High. After their first meeting, Nick proves to be a good guy and fierce protector when Matthew and Jacob corner John alone. And from that point on, Nick makes it his personal goal to look out for John.
The more time they spend together, the easier it is for John to fall in love with Nick, which is the worst thing that could happen since Nick is straight. So John keeps his feelings from Nick and sets out to be the best friend ever. As days go by, John struggles to keep their friendship solid under growing jealousies and confusion. When tragedy strikes, John and Nick are forced to face confusion and growing feelings for one another even as they face the intolerance of their families and friends.
In order to really get this book, I had to place myself back in high school Crissy’s shoes. And let me tell you, those weren’t comfortable shoes. But to understand the melodrama, the teenage angst, and the lovesick dreams one must do what one must do. Not to mention that the novel is of the young adult persuasion, so of course, I had to look at it from a different perspective than most books that I read.
Surviving Elite High is the story of a young gay boy fighting for love and to find his place in the world. It’s a good story told from the point of view of a lovesick teenager. It is very melodramatic and fantastical as are most kids John’s age. The story itself is full of sweet moments. It’s a coming of age for John and Nick. Finding themselves amongst the pressures of high school. They are faced with many struggles that only strengthen their bond. I appreciate that this story showcases the confusion and insecurity of finding one’s self. I also adore the support system that John has as he travels his road of self-discovery. His best friends, Nick, his mother, and even, at one point, Jacob prove to be a force to be reckoned with.
John Henry Ames is your typical high school geek. The smartest in his class, shy and sweet as well, it makes him the prime target for bullies. He’s young and just figuring out what it means to be gay. He comes from a financially struggling, loving, and supportive single-parent household. I wanted more from him, though. I wanted something to make me really feel what he was going through. Don’t get me wrong. He’s a decent character. I just would have liked more. And even though the story was in John’s POV, Nick was probably my favorite character in this novel. He discovers something about himself that he never knew and instead of being afraid of it, he presses on. He’s a strong, supportive character. He’s determined and has a pretty good head on his shoulders. I would have really liked to read his POV in this story. I think Nick’s journey is the part of this book I liked the most.
I like that the bully situation was brought forth in this story, but I would have liked more attention focused on that. A no tolerance policy would have been nice – something that would have shed some positive light on the situation. The transformation of one of the bullies was nice, but a little awkward. Like all of the sudden he wasn’t a bully anymore and oh yeah, by the way I’m gay. It was part of what I considered melodramatic and not really believable.
The writing itself felt very young. It read like a high school student writing an essay or a story that he fantasized about. It’s another telling versus showing problem. There was far too much telling and not near enough showing. And some of the situations and outcomes just weren’t that realistic.
In the end, there were more pros than cons in this book. I’m not much of a young adult reader, but the premise of this story appealed to me. The beauty of this story is the coming of age and finding one’s self that John and Nick experience. And really, who doesn’t like a story where the geek gets the jock? If you are a fan of young adult, geek-loves-jock, or teenage angst, this story is definitely for you.
What a nice little review. Thank you so much. 🙂
You’re very welcome. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.
Thanks for the review, Crissy. I’ve been reading a bit more YA than I normally would (probably just because they are m/m, and I didn’t read any like that when I was reading YA), so I appreciate what you said about having to go back a bit in that mindset. Especially when you’re talking about a high school setting, there’s a lot of drama/angst and then for it to be dealing with coming out and dating, well, that adds another layer. I think it’s pretty compelling reading and when done well, it’s just as powerful as reading the adult fiction. Two that come to mind: J. Roman’s “Keeping Secrets” series with Heartless and Clueless and J. R. Lenk’s Collide, which I just finished this weekend so it’s greatness is really fresh in my mind.