Rating: 4 stars
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The Waiting for Forever YA series is adapted from the Little Boy Lost series by J.P. Barnaby and released as though written by one of the characters from the books, Jamie Mayfield. Basically, Harmony Ink Press took Barnaby’s beloved books and edited them for a young adult audience. If you’ve read and loved the Little Boy Lost series, like almost everyone I know, you may not want to read this series as the books are very similar. Luckily, I had never gotten around to reading the first Little Boy Lost book even though, because of the great word of mouth reviews, it had been sitting on my kindle for months. So I jumped at the chance to be able to read and review this YA version of the series.
This first book, Choices, introduces us to two best friends, Jamie Mayfield and Brian McAllister. They live in a small, extremely close-minded town called Crayford, Alabama. They’ve been friends all of their lives, until Brian realizes he has feelings that go beyond friendship. Terrified, he starts to push Jamie away. Brian’s not stupid. He can’t imagine that anyone in his life would be able to see his feelings for another boy as acceptable, including Jamie himself. But when Brian realizes that he may not have to suffer from unrequited love after all, things really start to get difficult.
In order to keep the attention off of their relationship, Jamie and Brian try to keep things as normal as possible, with Jamie even seriously dating a girl named Emma just to keep people from guessing the boys’ secret. Life is not smooth sailing for these boys, and love doesn’t always seem to be enough. When their summer treehouse nights together are discovered, it leads to the worst kind of consequences, which, in turn, spirals into even more and more difficulties for poor Brian.
Brian finds solace in surprisingly supportive parents, a teacher willing to put his neck on the line to help him, and a new friend, Adam, who is there for Brian when he really needs someone. Brian has some choices to make when he graduates from high school. One path will lead him to college in Alabama with his friend, Adam. The other will lead him, if he’s lucky, back to his beloved Jamie. After everything he’s been through, it’s difficult for Brian to think of giving up on his one true love, but he knows Jamie would want him to be happy, with or without him.
I enjoyed this book about Brian and Jamie. It’s clear from the beginning that these two boys deserve to be together and there’s little else better than two best friends finding love. It’s sweet and heart-breaking and more than a little bit makes one angry at the world that the process of being together for these beautiful, innocent boys is so difficult.
While there’s quite a few beautiful moments, including those involving two of the most amazing foster parents in the history of parenting, there is also a lot of close-mindedness and tragedy. My heart broke more than a few times over the course of this novel, and the cliff-hanger left me wanting to pick up the next installment immediately to continue the journey with Jamie and Brian.
On the one hand, I think the move to turn this series into a YA read was a good one. Essentially, this is a coming of age story, and there are many young adults who would no doubt benefit from and find themselves in the story about these two boys. I did not miss anything that was removed to make it appropriate for a YA audience. There were plenty of romantic moments between the two boys and, while we maybe didn’t get a detailed account of the time they spent in the treehouse, the feelings and chemistry they had is still very apparent.
I do think the biggest problem I had with this story, though, may stem in large part from the adaptation of this book. I’m not sure making Jamie Mayfield the fictional author of this book was the best move. First of all, this story is largely told from the point of view of Brian, and Jamie is gone for a good portion of it. Secondly, the voice felt all wrong to me. Barnaby tends to be quite loquacious. Everything is described in quite vivid detail — all things that are said and done fill up pages upon pages. It is, in fact, tipping 300 pages, which is quite long for one installment of an ongoing YA series.
Mostly, though, it didn’t seem authentic to the voices of the young men. It was quite wordy and also sounded very adult in that wording. There was a lot of introspection that seems to only come from wisdom and experience. And what happened to the carefree nature of youth? I know these poor boys were going through a lot, but the angst and the drama shut down any of that joy that one would feel at such a critical age. I’m not trying to downplay the importance of the unimaginable things that happen to victims of bigots and close-mindedness, but the voice did not match Jamie Mayfield, and that is why I can say I recommend, but do not strongly recommend, this book.
Especially if you have a YA reader in your house, I’d pick this one up. I already said before, I’m looking forward to the next installment and hope for some happiness for this couple. They truly deserve it.