Ray is an androgynous person living in Ellery, Vermont. Ray suffers from depression and has had many clashes with the parental-type figures and is facing eviction from the current residence: a basement apartment in Ray’s ex-stepfather Tom’s home. Ray works at a local greasy spoon and craves the connections with co-workers as much as the tips. Ray’s actual parents are multimillionaire dysfunctional people, and Ray has incurred their wrath by dropping out of college and refusing their money. Ray truly loves only one person: Davey, a pseudo step-brother (Davey is 11 years old and the child of Tom and the woman he married after Ray’s mother and Tom divorced) and Tom is not willing to trust Davey in Ray’s care due to Ray’s floundering and (potential) alcohol problem. Also, Tom’s not fond of Ray’s androgyny—but wrecking Tom’s new Mercedes while on a booze-and-pizza run is the last straw, and Ray is pretty much homeless.
While working one late night, Ray is verbally assaulted by a drunk customer. Wyatt, one of the tablemates of the loudmouth, forces an apology and strikes up a connection with Ray over the course of a couple visits back to the diner. Turns out Wyatt’s a frat-boy in Ray’s dad’s former house—and this is particularly problematic. Daddy Dearest has some very strong (negative) opinions about Ray—and is positioned to make Ray’s crap life even crappier. Despite Ray’s mental/emotional issues, there is an undeniable physical interest in Wyatt. This is new; Ray hasn’t had an interest in anyone since the Big Break Up more than a year ago. Feeling brave, and emboldened by Wyatt’s interest, Ray responds to Wyatt’s overtures. Sort of.
This book is very well-written. Part of the plot, however, absolutely depends upon Ray’s androgyny and the question of which equipment lays beneath the zipper of Ray’s signature black stovepipe jeans. I’m not going to spoil this, because it would destroy the reading experience, but I will say there is a good amount of misdirection. I loved Wyatt. He is a great character and a fitting mate to Ray. The lengths to which Wyatt extends himself to keep Ray off the streets is admirable. Plus, Wyatt’s always looking to get Davey and Ray together for brief visits, even if Tom doesn’t allow this. Oh, did I mention that Tom is Wyatt’s academic advisor? Yeah. Wyatt puts his college career on the line to keep Ray and Davey connected. The romance, as it develops, is tender and, eventually, passionate.
Of course, Ray has a LOT of secrets, some of which cause a rift between Ray and Wyatt. Also, the androgyny thing creates tension for other guys in Wyatt’s frat. Some of the dudes dig it TOO much, while others are freaked the EFF out. Expect sexual harassment and homophobia. One brother, in particular, isn’t in favor of Wyatt’s attempts to make their frat “more inclusive,” which sparks off a big altercation that leaves Ray in jeopardy. I enjoyed how this situation got resolved. It allowed Ray and Tom to solve problems in their relationship and also gave Ray clarity about Wyatt. The resolution of the story is satisfying. There are some sexytimes, but those are pretty down-low; the first of them doesn’t specifically reveal Ray’s gender, so the reader is kept in suspense for several more chapters on that front.