Rating: 5 stars
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It is a rare thing for me when a novel leaves me at a loss for words. How to describe how much I enjoyed the story? How deeply and quickly I became immersed in the characters? How thoroughly believable and imaginative this created world became for me? All the Colors of Love by Jessica Freely was such a complete package. So where to start a review that cold be summed up in one simple word—Magnificent!?
Let’s begin with the characters. Harry, despised by his father, abused, neglected, and angry has one more shot at redemption when he is dropped off at the latest school that is to be home for as long as he can keep out of trouble. For Harry, that is sure to be a very short stay. Harry’s father is, for all intents and purposes, evil incarnate, using his considerable wealth to cheat and rob the poor in order to gain more power. Harry hates him with a passion so deep that he knows he would kill his father at the first opportunity. In fact, that had become his main reason for living until he met Antonin.
Antonin comes from the most extraordinary of families that includes a mother, Rose, who had been sold into prostitution at a young age, addicted to drugs, and somehow managed to survive and give birth to the one thing she loved more than anything, her son. Along with him and his mother, there is also Magnolia and Cid. Cid, once and still a brilliant scientist had developed a vaccine that would allow a person to live forever. However in the testing phase, Cid’s human body died while her brain and emotions became linked to a pleasure droid. Magnolia, her lover, cared for Cid throughout the incredible transition and they now live with Rose and Antonin. Finally, the fascinating half man, half sea creature Tumcari lives in the greenhouse pond on the estate. He is like the father Antonin never really knew. In fact, Tumcari replaces in Antonin’s affections the same father that tried to put Antonin into prostitution and kill Antonin’s mother.
These two boys, who despite their horrendous upbringing, somehow manage to retain an air of innocence, collide when they discover they are to be roommates. As the story progresses, Antonin reaches out to Harry, inviting him home for the holidays and befriending him. It is with both incredible humor and sweet tenderness that author Jessica Freely evolves the budding romance between these two boys.
While you cannot help but laugh at the stunning way Harry runs an inner dialogue of disbelief that not everyone hates him, that, in fact, Antonin won’t abandon him as so many others have, you also nearly weep at the fact that Harry has never ever been loved. When it is revealed that the brief few moments of joy in Harry’s life were in his mother’s arms as a small child, and his father murdered that same mother, you are simply devastated.
This incredible mélange of characters Freely creates cling to your heart and alternately made me laugh out loud at their antics. I was mesmerized by each one of them. It was amazing to me that I could feel such involvement in their story when it was so obvious that they were creations of the author’s fertile imagination. The reason? Every scrap of love they felt for each other was palpable and real and so clearly communicated in this story. Freely has created a cast of characters that lives and breathes the same emotions we all experience, and, by doing so, infused in them just a hint of each of us.
However no story can have great characters without the proper setting for them to inhabit. So we must next tip our hat to the author’s stunning ability at world building. While Freely uses the Earth as her home base, she creates a time era that is replete with synthetic beings/robots, travel by microjets, and yet contains such simple things as action figures and comic books! Each futuristic element was grounded in countries as familiar as Belize and Siberia and yet they were so realistic that I settled into the fact that this was an Earth that had moved well beyond the 21st century. Little nuances such as the boys’ history classes discussing movements that had taken place and realigned world order, to the holographic comics that Antonin created, were carefully dropped into the story to further build a setting that blatantly spelled out that we were no longer in Oz, Toto. It was cleverly and seamlessly done.
Finally, the action packed plotline and the sweet dual romances between Magnolia and Cid and Harry and Antonin kept this novel moving at a breakneck speed that was so highly entertaining. There were bad guys to kill, fortunes to be recovered, and first kisses to be exchanged and each moment was well thought out and engaging. I was swept up in this story, carried along in its grasp and left gasping by story’s end.
All the Colors of Love was simply a stunning tour de force! When I tell you that I laughed, I cried, and I was so deeply moved, I am understating the impact this story had on me. I, for one, am thrilled that Jessica Freely tried her hand at writing a YA story! As it turns out, this author who had already made her considerable presence known in the adult M/M genre is also one of the finest new voices in the YA market place and I looked forward to seeing more of her incredible work!