Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance
I am fairly positive that I am going to go against the status quo here by liking the less desirable main character in this novel, Names Can Never Hurt Me, rather than the obvious underdog. And perhaps I am reading way too much into the character of Nick Jones, but as a teacher of some 25 years, I would bet not. So, here goes.
Nick Jones is obviously conceited, self-involved, sex-driven, and shallow. Except. He is also scrupulously honest, caring and loyal almost to a fault, and I believe written as a character that suffers from ADHD. His scattered thoughts, his inability to focus on one task for long, and his aimless drifting through life would indicate that he is an adult in need of meds to help him stay on track. So, now this almost typical male version of a “dumb blonde” becomes so much more. His shallowness turns into a naïveté that tugs at your heartstrings and when he is finally able to actually see his behavior as destructive and hurtful, he is able to slowly bring about change in his life, but only because his love for RC grounds and focuses him.
And there is the actual beauty of this story. Yes, as these two men get to know each other and RC’s horrible tale of abuse and painful bullying at the hands of classmates is revealed, we are provided the opportunity to see how it affects a person who unknowingly and callously would have been part of that very school crowd who had laughed at RC. This, for me, was the true genius behind Wade Kelly’s novel. The realization that slowly dawns on Nick of how very abusive it is to be “just part of the in crowd.” When he understands that NOT doing something to stop the bullying of another person is tantamount to being an actual bully, his response is heart wrenching and incredibly powerful. Kelly goes beyond the victim (in this case RC) and shows us how each one of us at some time in our lives could very well have been the abuser. She shines a light on the simplistic occasional remarks we make about a stranger’s physical appearance and juxtaposes it with hate crimes and violence done on others and asks how our callous remarks really inflict any less real damage on the victim than a beating would. Because of her powerful writing and her bravery to call us out, we realize through this incredible story that inside each of us lays the ability to be a bully. That made this story simply mind-blowing.
Names Can Never Hurt Me is a journey of self-realization and forgiveness. Nick Jones transforms before our eyes, sometimes so painstakingly slowly that we want to throttle him but again, this idea of his ADHD allows us to understand that at his core lay a very compassionate young man. When he meets RC and is finally confronted by the fact that he is gay and that he must bear up under his friend’s mockery and betrayals, he becomes something more than a sex addled, uncaring party boy, he becomes someone who is determined to love another person more than he loves himself.
I know that some of you will wonder why I did not recap this story for you. I could give you a few paragraphs about how Nick wanders along for over half of this book as a self-absorbed ass who uses girls for sex without realizing they are doing the same to him, but that would be to minimize the real thrust of this novel. The story here cannot be encapsulated in a few sentences. Rather, you must involved yourself in this novel, immerse yourself in the life of a young man who is conflicted, attention deficit and simply unable to see beyond his own shallow image of himself to the real person inside. And when his polar opposite, the shy, wounded and angry RC rocks Nick’s world the real journey for both men begins, a journey of understanding, remorse, forgiveness, and healing. It is a beautiful trip that carries the reader along and shatters us with its breathtaking truth. I highly recommend this novel to you.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.