Rating: 4 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
I kind of have to look at You Belong With Me like it’s an over-the-top teen movie. It is a YA novel, published by Harmony Ink, the YA division of Dreamspinner Press. I would, without reservation, recommend it to young adult readers. I enjoyed it as an adult as well. However, it has moments you can only picture as a scene from a movie, moments that that make you groan on the inside while you smile a big goofy grin. If you can set aside its idealistic tendency to present sweeping dramatic, emotional moments, I think you can enjoy this as well. I suppose this is my advice: Start this book with the expectation that you’ll be reading a light, fun, sweet YA novel that likes to wrap things in a big red bow, and I believe you’ll be glad you did.
Wesley Harris marches to the beat of his own drummer. He’s 16, small in stature, creative, quirky, and openly gay. Needless to say, he’s the victim of frequent bullying. One day, as he’s sitting in his room, creating t-shirts for a group presentation for school, he looks out his window into the next house and is surprised to see his long time crush, Brad Johnson, looking at him from his own window next door. He’s even more surprised when his new neighbor introduces himself to Wesley’s family and immediately strikes up a friendship with him. Wesley doesn’t want to get his hopes up. He knows Brad has a girlfriend and his crush will remain unrequited, but he really enjoys spending time with him.
Brad’s sexuality comes into question and is a struggle for him as he gets to know Wesley. Wesley continues to be bullied until he finds the strength to stand up for himself. And they both continue to be a part of one another’s lives, even when it seems that only friendship is possible between the two of them. Homophobia amongst Brad’s friends and his own father make it difficult for him to accept who he is and, while he has strong feelings for Wesley, he’s not sure he can stand up to the bigots who surround him.
I adored the characters in this story. Wesley is talented and adorable and, while he is often the victim of bullying, remains strong and true to himself. Brad is athletic and gorgeous and kind. While he gets a little wishy-washy, it’s a realistic portrayal of a boy struggling with his sexuality while receiving no support. I had two favorite supporting characters. Chrissy, Wesley’s best friend, whose enthusiasm and love are a force to be reckoned with, and Wesley’s mom, whose support and unconditional love is touching.
This isn’t a complicated story. Two boys, falling in love, exploring their sexuality, and deciding if they can become one team against the world. It has everything you would find in a popular teen movie. A caricature of a troubled bully, slow build-up to coupledom, grand romantic gestures, and a final scene that is, quite literally, too good to be true. But it’s sweet and hard to dislike.
Get a copy for yourself and your teenager too. If nothing else, they will understand a little better the impact of bullying and the struggle that gay teenagers have living their lives true to themselves. And this message is an important one.