Surviving Elite High: Senior Year
Rating: 3 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
John and Nick have had a wonderful summer growing as an independent couple, it is time for them to break out of their bubble and start their senior year at Elite High. At the beginning of the school year, a new student, Emily Roberts, proves to be a thorn in John’s side when she sets her sights on Nick. Nick loves him and John knows that, although it doesn’t make it any easier to see Emily constantly flirting with Nick. The biggest problem is that Emily turns out to be one of Nick’s oldest friends.
When notes from a former tormenter start showing up in John’s locker, he can’t help but think that Emily has something to do with it. He doesn’t know what to do when Nick sticks up for her, calling John jealous and bratty. But when Emily openly tries to sabotage their relationship and John’s friendship with one of his nearest and dearest friends, Nick realizes that he would rather give up his friendship with Emily than ever live without John.
After Emily’s parents are killed a car accident, John insists that Nick be there for her to help her through her loss. But when John catches Nick in a situation he never thought possible, he has to make the decision to either trust his heart or trust his head. He’ll have to decide if fighting for love will be enough to see their relationship survive their final year at Elite High or whether outside factors, jealousy, and doubt will be the end of their fairytale romance.
This is the second book in John H. Ames’ Surviving Elite High series. I liked this book okay, the same way I liked the first. It is young adult focused which is a plus since it’s very much a young adult book. But I find it hard to believe in comparison to the way I feel contemporary young adult stories should be. I mean, how many seventeen-year-olds live together as a couple, supporting one another, without any sort of parental supervision? How many schools would allow that? So whereas, when I focus on the plot, I really like the story, the details have left me scratching my head.
And the melodrama continues in the lives of John and Nick. Again the story is young adult focused, but even in young adult stories – as melodramatic and angsty as they tend to be – I still like some level of believability. The conflicts are not all unbelievable, which I do appreciate, but some are way over the top. And the final conflict was really just overkill. Also, the way that John and Nick talk about how much they love one another, how they can’t live without one another, is just too unbelievable and very cheesy.
“Yes, baby. I truly love you. You’re the fire my soul needs to be alive. Without you by my side, I’m incomplete.”
That’s only one line. They’re riddled throughout the entire book. I’ve never heard a seventeen-year old speak that way, not sure that I’d want to. And I can’t picture it.
Now, it’s not all complaints. I found myself liking John and Nick even more this story than the last. They face several attacks against their relationship in this book. They don’t always come out unfazed, but they do eventually come out stronger. John is more likable than he was in the previous installment. He’s more confident, stronger, and more secure. He is not perfect, but what seventeen-year old is? And, Nick…well, I loved Nick in the first story – overcoming odds to take what he wanted. And I liked him again in this story. He’s not confused any longer. He knows who and what he is and refuses to be swayed. The boys are growing up in this book and it’s refreshing to see them maturing emotionally a little.
I wavered on the rating for this story. On one hand, I like these characters and the story is decent if not entirely believable. But on the other hand, the believability is just not there and the melodrama is over the top. For me, the decision came down to the final conflict which was just too much, way too over the top. So I settled on a three-star rating, the middle of the scale, because I didn’t love this book, but I didn’t absolutely hate it either.
Surviving Elite High: Loving James
Rating: 2 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
After James Gordon met John Ames and Nick Hawking, he couldn’t help but have hope that his own geek/jock love story was out there somewhere. James just has to find the right jock. Enter Nathan Parker. Nathan is everything James has ever dreamed of – captain of the basketball team, sexy, domineering. He’s also one of James’s tormentors and the biggest bully in school. But James is determined to find a way change Nathan, determined to turn Nathan into his jock. But things aren’t always that easy.
When James’s father announces that he is getting remarried, James is taken by surprise and more than a little upset. His mother has only been gone for five years and he’s not ready to move on. To find out that his father is marrying Nathan’s mother comes as a complete shock. And once they are actually married, things just go from bad to worse. The first time Nathan forced James to give him a blowjob, James wasn’t sure what was going on. The forceful actions were not what he expected, but he had wanted Nathan for so long that he was afraid to complain. Even as Nathan’s actions continue to grow more violent, James is convinced that Nathan is in love with him, but just doesn’t know how to express that love. So James decides to make the first move, the biggest move. But one unforgivable moment changes James’s mind about his future with Nathan.
Jacob Ashmore, one of James’s dad’s employees, is a few years older than James, but he’s always been a good friend to James, always had time to spend with him and listen to his problems. After Nathan’s betrayal, James begins to see Jacob in a new light and realizes he is the love that James has always longed for. But when old tormentors threaten to ruin James before he has a chance to voice his feelings to Jacob, will love be enough to save James when his innocence and his life are threatened?
Surviving Elite High: Loving James is the third installment in John H. Ames’ Surviving Elite High series, and definitely my least favorite of the series. There are just too many problems for me to really like this book, and I tried. I can’t say I loved the other two in the series, but they were better than this one in so many ways.
First, I have a problem with some of the facts stated in the book. I feel like there should have been more research into certain aspects of before stating them as fact. And if they weren’t meant to sound the way they sounded, they should have been worded differently. For example:
“…but really there’s no way for a guy to get raped, so it couldn’t be that.”
Without giving too much of the story away, some things happen in the story that may presumably cancel out this statement, but it’s never corrected. This is a statement that stayed with me while reading the entire book. The inaccuracy of this one sentence threw me for a loop. For this to be included in a young adult book, in which presumably young gay men will read it and possibly be influenced by it, is misleading and sad.
Another example of misinformation given in this book, and on a less offensive note, is the explanation of bondage.
“Bondage? What’s that?”
Jacob sighed and quickly looked around. There was an awkward look on his face that he could not erase. “Well, I don’t know how to explain it to you in the PG-13 version, but here it goes. It’s a form of sex that involves a lot of whips, ropes, and other sexual toys. Usually, one is the dominant person and the other is the submissive person. The dominant does anything to his partner in order to fulfill their sexual desires.…”
I would like to note here that my problem is not with the subject of bondage, but the definition. I’ve done some research on this subject in the past so to understand better some of the books I read. And there is a difference between just bondage – which is simply the act of restraint – and bondage with discipline. A D/s relationship is not so easily explained as a just bondage. I feel that for young adult readers to happen upon this misinformed explanation in a book is a failure to young readers who may not know better.
The violence in this book is another issue for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against violence in books. I simply feel that it was over the top in this book. The forceful treatment of James by someone that he thought he loved was shocking. I still can’t understand why he was so enamored with someone who physically abused and violated him. It wasn’t like they had any sort of relationship prior to the acts that put him in some sort of “battered boyfriends” category. I would also like to point out that the aggressor’s actions being blamed on his childhood molestation is clichéd and was also used as the excuse for the antagonist in the previous book. So it all just felt out of place, repetitive, and unoriginal.
Okay, so off of those soapboxes for now. On the subject of characters, I couldn’t find myself connecting with James. I get that he’s a confused sixteen year old who only wants to be accepted. I’m not saying that he wasn’t an okay character in theory, I just think he’s poorly characterized. He was stuck on the history of John and Nick (from the previous two books). He was almost obsessed with wanting to be just like John instead of finding his own voice. It made him weak character-wise.
Jacob is the one highlight in this story for me, and he will remain my favorite character in this series. Whereas, this is James’s story, and the story is written in James’s POV, Jacob still shines like the diamond in the rough he is. He is still caring, patient, and understanding. The best friend. The protector. The most forgiving. Jacob is the most stable, believable character of all of the characters in the entire series.
Finally, the relationship between James and Jacob. I like this pairing if only because Jacob finally gets a love in his life that wants him as well. But the lack of relationship building in the story is disappointing. James and Jacob don’t really interact much throughout the course of the book. I would have really liked to see them grow as a couple, actually see the reason they might have for falling in love. Maybe it could’ve helped me like James more. I don’t know. But the way it played out just fell flat and was disappointing.
In the end, the only saving grace for this book would be Jacob, but he was not enough to make me like the story. The facts stated are offensive, confusing, and incorrect. I feel that there should have been more research into subjects unknown. I’m not sure if the author plans to add to this series, but it is not a series that I plan on continuing to read. I cannot recommend this book.