Rating: 4.75 stars
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This novel begins with a suicide. It’s a hell of a way to start a book, and I can’t say I wasn’t a little apprehensive about it. I feared the entire novel would follow a course of pain and despair and, while I understood the subject matter means not all will be roses and unicorns, I didn’t think I could handle such an emotional read. What Wade Kelly does, however, is infuse tragedy with hope, pain with healing, and desperation with determination. This is, undoubtedly, a very sad story. But there are lessons to be learned, and there’s an obvious desire to keep others from following this devastating path.
Jimmy Miller is just a regular kid. He’s under a lot of pressure from his mom to get good grades and help around the house, especially since she divorced Jimmy’s dad. Jimmy splits his time between his parents. He has a best friend at home named Matt, who is gay and a bit of a man slut. While visiting his parents, Jimmy meets Darian, and quickly realizes that, not only is he gay, he’s falling in love with this beautiful emo boy.
We know from the first paragraph that Jimmy killed himself and both Matt and Darian are left to deal with the aftermath. As some sort of miracle, they find each other and are able to rely on one another during such a difficult time. Neither Jimmy nor Matt were out, so finding solace from their grief from other sources is difficult. Matt is able to give Darian support and vice versa, and it seems that soon they have more in common than just their love for Jimmy and sadness over his death.
This book is interesting in that Matt finds Jimmy’s journal in the first couple of pages, and so we see this story progress not only from the present day interactions between Darian and Matt, but also through Jimmy’s journal entries and recollections. Of course, we know that the suicide is coming, so you read with trepidation and a bit of dread, but Kelly managed to counterbalance that emotion with the beautiful budding relationship between Darian and Matt. The support that they show to each other is sweet and life-affirming, so it kept me from feeling too miserable about what I knew was eventually going to happen as the plot develops.
I loved all of the characters, though I wish we would’ve been able to be witness to more of Jimmy’s relationship with his mother, however painful that may have been. Because that relationship played such a strong influence in his suicide, I didn’t really feel the build-up as much as I would’ve liked. To me, he seemed like just a kid who was having troubles at home and struggling with his sexuality, but I didn’t feel that despair and loneliness and sense of giving up that I would’ve expected from him.
Besides that, though, I really loved this book. The relationships between both Darian and Matt and Darian and Jimmy (and even Matt and Jimmy) were both loving and adorable but also packed full of chemistry. There’s a joke in the book about how they would’ve made a great threesome and, if I can joke in the midst of this serious subject matter, I completely agree. They all brought out the best in each other, which made it all the more heartbreaking to know Jimmy ends his life before he even has a chance to live.
Toward the very end, Matt gives a speech in church that just cements this novel’s status as a not to be missed read. I find Kelly’s perspective on religion compelling. Matt is Christian and gay and still maintains his devout beliefs, but he’s able to articulate the problems with Christianity — that there are those who simply do not emulate Christ and that, in doing so, they are the ones who are wrong, not those who they persecute under the guise of “saving” them. It’s beautifully written and not at all preachy and focuses on loving your fellow man; I found it to be both powerful and inspiring.
This is not a light read, but it’s one I whole-heartedly recommend. The horrifying reality is people are committing suicide all of the time because they think they have no choice, and this is a moving commentary on the society that inadvertently helps lead them to this decision. It’s heartbreaking, but full of hope. We can hope that Darian and Matt are able to be masters of a different kind of fate — one that is full of love and acceptance and openness. It’s going to be a long, tough road, but they seem up for the task. And there’s a sequel coming soon!