A life on the road may be fun for a while, but Jesse Macon is tiring of the lack of roots and opportunity to meet a guy and settle down. A worthy goal for any guy, but what makes Jesse special is that he is only 17 and can see the future. Jesse’s father is the owner of Macon Brothers’ carnival, and Jesse is stuck. He knows that one day, all of this will be his, and the way his father’s health is doing, that may be sooner than planned.
Best friends Rand and Jesse trust each other with everything, or so they think. Rand can read minds and is secretly in love Tate, but won’t do anything about it. Broken hearted when he hears that Tate lost his virginity to Jesse, Rand discovers that unrequited love is a bitch. At the carnival, Rand meets Donny, the newbie, and the more he gets to know him, the more he is attracted to him, but neither boy is ready to come out of the closet, except to each other.
Homeless and destitute, Donny needs this job badly, but Jesse doesn’t like him and he doesn’t think Jesse’s dad, Elliot, is happy with his performance either. Rand is the only person who has shown him any kindness and even that did not end well. Jesse is mistrustful, and the tension is palpable.
Add to all of this, the fact that Tate, the Mayor’s son, can bend people’s wills to his own, and the complications seem insurmountable. Jesse needs to figure out how to convince his father to get treatment for his illness, and the boys need to figure out what they want, who they want, and what they need, and they only have two weeks before the carnival pulls out of Decatur for another year.
I have to start by addressing the biggest surprise I came across in Carnival – Decatur: the ending. I was reading away, happily following the events of the story, when it came to an abrupt end. My first thought was, well, I’m sure you can guess what it was, and so I went to a few other sites including the publisher’s website to try and find out about the cliff hanger ending (and not a particularly suspenseful one at that) and ultimately I was advised that Carnival – Decatur was in fact the first of a series. Don’t get me wrong, I love series, but I want to know that I am starting a new series and not find out at the end of the book. Needless to say, I was not impressed.
That being said, there is a lot going on in Carnival – Decatur, with multiple overlapping story lines, but not once did I feel confused as they flowed rather seamlessly together. The pace at which the boys address their sexuality, wants, and needs may have been a bit fast, but then again, at that age, in a small town, when new and shiny show up, it may act like a catalyst, and it is obvious that nothing will ever be the same for Jesse, Rand, Tate, or Donny.
It takes Jesse and Donny with Tate and Rand to make the boys realize what they have, and all four boys fear the consequences of coming out. Jesse stresses of knowing the future, both good and bad. Their individual journeys had a logical progression and showed some pretty good character development and depth. The secondary characters were kept to a minimum and were also addressed really well and contributed to the overall story.
So, let’s talk about the things that did not make sense. Donny is quickly made a confidant to Rand’s secrets and Jesse’s premonitions. What changed to make Jesse not hate Donny? I did not see how that part of their relationship progresses to that point, although I did finally get that Jesse’s attraction to Donny was the reason for the attitude at the beginning, but for Rand to tell a stranger about his mind reading abilities? Yeah, no. Also, I kept wondering why does Jesse uses so many names for his father. It was a bit confusing and irritating at the start, but soon smoothed out as the story progressed.
So even with the issues I addressed at the beginning of my review, I still liked this book and will continue to follow the lives of the boys as they continue their journeys into adulthood. They were still some fun characters and the carnival will ensure a fresh infusion of characters, both temporary and permanent.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.