Alex tells himself he is happy coasting through life these days. He has an apartment he shares with his best friends and a girl to meet his needs. After being bullied as a kid, he has put his past behind him, life is smooth sailing, and he doesn’t need any bumps in the road.
When gorgeous Daniel shows up at the door as a potential new roommate, their budding friendship forces Alex to look back at a painful memory that altered the course of his life. Spending time with Daniel, Alex realizes he has been denying who he is for way too long. Alex begins to acknowledge this to himself, but the journey to a relationship with Daniel is much harder than Alex even knows how to put into words.
This is a cute and sweet story of self discovery. Alex is living with his hard partying, musician, best friends when Daniel just shows up at the door one day as a new roommate. His other roommate had arranged the meeting and, although Daniel is a stranger to all of them, he moves in that night. Hard to believe, but go with it. Alex has issues, tries to steer clear of gay men, and when he finds out Daniel is gay, keeps his distance. We do learn that Alex was bullied as a kid and something significant happened to deny his true sexual feelings for over a decade. This is a character driven book and Alex’s journey is not as an easy one. He is attracted to Daniel, but his journey of acknowledging these feelings and beginning a relationship is well done and realistic.
The overwhelming issue with this book is the dialog and overall structure. From the first page, the dialog is awkward, stilted, and some of the sentence structure is off. The guys range from speaking casually, to awkward casual, to sounding formal, to using transitions or words like “moreover” and “irremediably” that sound like they are reading a research paper, to using words that are not a natural part of conversation. The guys are in their late 20s, living in LA, and their word choices did not capture their age or their location, or at times their relationships with each other. I stared highlighting examples, soon realized a good portion of the book would be highlighted, and had to put the book down at one point as it started to hurt my head. I then did some research and discovered that this book is listed on Amazon as first being published in 2013 in Italian. I also read a blog post by the author stating that this was the first book she has published in English. It then all clicked as I realized the dialog and sentence structure does not read as if English is the characters’ first language. I will tell you this is extremely unfortunate as the story that was given between the lines was engaging. When Alex and Daniel do get together their connection is evident and the intimate scenes are hot. This may have had to do with the fact that there was less dialog in these scenes. I will offer a few examples:
- When Daniel first arrives at the apartment, Alex tells him, “I will leave you to the hosts. I don’t have the strength to do the cicerone right now.” Now, that is the only word of Italian in the book and it is not stated anywhere that Alex is Italian and that word just stood out from his dialog.
- When Daniel goes furniture shopping, besides the fact that he had the furniture delivered “immediately,” (they live in LA) his dialog reads, “As soon as the delivery men were gone, he started working to settle his purchases.”
- When Daniel heads to the store and Alex does not want to stay with his other roommates, Alex says, “If you’re going out, I’m coming with you. I don’t want to stay here with these two sour spinsters….And I’m not the Princess on the Pea, okay?”
- Once at the store, when Alex says they should buy something good, Daniel counters with, “Good like healthy, or good like greasy, salty or sweet, hyper caloric things?” And when they are challenging each other to a run, Alex says, “I think I can beat you whenever you want, even if I eat all of these delicious things.”
- When they are making plans to meet at the store that Alex works at he tells Daniel, “Okay, sure. When you want. It’s just me there, because my boss is always busy somewhere else, so it’s enough you tell me when you want to come.”
- When a friend sees them inside the store he says, “Hello Alex. I was walking outside and I saw Daniel. I thought I’d come in and greet him.”
- And an exchange between the two guys when Alex says, “Oh, right. Why should it be important you meet a guy with whom-I know, among other things-you openly flirt?” To which Daniel responds within the conversation, “I’ll never deny my words, even if this makes a fool of me.”
- There are several sentences that start with the word, “Hum,” or have that word in the sentence that I took to mean, “Umm.” There are phrases such as, “Maybe your ears are full of glue,” and “Blind as a mole,” which are not common expressions.
- And lastly all of the guys say, “Hello” to each other. While this might sound reasonable out of context, these are guys that live together, are best friends, and when they pass each other throughout the apartment they constantly say, “Hello,” which in the context of the story sounded incredibly formal.
There are many more passages such as these and there are other passages within the context of what was going on in the scene that I could figure out, but on their own did not make a whole lot of sense.
I did have some concerns over some areas of the plot, such as when Alex confronts his childhood fears and the outcome was somewhat too perfectly scripted, but there was so much else going on with the dialog that it overshadowed those concerns.
Both Alex and Daniel were just every day kind of guys and were interesting characters to read about. Alex’s story was a great, coming out, sexual awakening story. The story dealt with how bullying leaves a permanent mark on your life even years later and how difficult it is to overcome. It is then a testament to the writing overall that even given the translated dialog, I was able to come away with the thought that this could have been a solid story. It then became difficult to rate this book as I would certainly recommend Alex and Daniel’s story, but I cannot in good conscience recommend this poorly translated version of it.