Will Osborne has spent most of his school years being bullied. As the only gay kid in town, he dreams of finishing this school year and escaping to one of the universities in New York and starting fresh. What he wasn’t planning on was having his senior year starting off with a bang when the new transfer student manages to get him a week’s detention before the end of the first day.
Lennox McAvoy is a train wreck. He’s done a stint in juvenile detention. He was kicked out of a boarding school after throwing a sex party. He wears an ankle bracelet to track his movements. His last chance to turn his life around is in a back woods town several hours from home where he is expected to finish his senior year of high school. Meeting Will the first day of school, Lennox realizes that maybe everything about this town isn’t so bad.
Forced to work together on English assignments, Will is appalled that he is expected to work with the crude, obnoxious, yet fascinating Lennox. When Will’s dad becomes seriously ill, Will begins to realize that Lennox isn’t who he thought he was.
I was shocked to learn this was the author’s debut novel. It was well written and held such realism that one felt as if they were transported back to the halls of their high school. The good, the bad, and the ugly of being a high school student are there for everyone to see. Eastern High School in Leon could be any small town school in America where the students create their own pecking order. Yet, like most small towns, there are those connections between one another that when the going gets tough, they band together.
Will spent most of his school years being harassed by the other students because he was the only gay kid in town. His mom died when he was young, too young to remember much about her. His dad tries to keep her memory alive, but for Will these are just stories about a person he doesn’t know. To say his dad and step-mother are overprotective would be an understatement, but their love for him is evident in their acceptance of his sexuality and their attempts to protect him from the bullies who plagued his life.
Lennox, on the other hand, has had no one on his side since his dad dumped him and his sister off at his grandparents. Mixed race, his grandparents saw him as redeemable until he came out as queer. With his grandmother washing her hands of him, his grandfather decides to give Lennox one last chance to make something of his life by offering him a chance to finish high school, though the conditions he expects Lennox to survive in are appalling.
Will was not expecting his senior year to be any different than any other year. Then Lennox walked in and began flirting with him in front of everyone! Unfortunately, Lennox comes with an attitude of not caring what people think of him, and tends to be very crude. As Will continues to rebuff Lennox’s attempts to flirt with him, Lennox begins flirting with the girls in an attempt to gain Will’s attention… and it works.
Will has always been judged by the other students because of who he is. When Lennox arrives, he finds he’s traded places and has placed judgement on Lennox without really knowing his situation. Once he begins to uncover the secrets Lennox has been hiding, he gains a new appreciation for the person Lennox is, but can he change how other people (including his dad and step-mom’s) think.
I was impressed with how the author handled the sexual interactions between Lennox and Will. Will, whose never had a boyfriend, doesn’t initially know how to handle his attraction to Lennox, especially when most of the time he can’t stand to be around him. Considering how crude Lennox is, and how his interactions with Will always border on sexual harassment, one wouldn’t have expected him to show this tender side as the two begin exploring their sexuality together.
The only thing I didn’t particularly like about the story was the ending. It felt like a TV cliff hanger, one where you don’t know if the show will be back the following season for you to get any answers. I understand that these are two high school seniors, so giving them a happily-ever-after would have been a bit over the top, but I was hoping for something a bit more than what I got. Whether it be a teaser for a second book, or whether it be an epilogue six months down the road, I just wanted something more.
Overall, I thought this was an interesting read. It really made me think of how each and every one of us makes assumptions about people without really knowing the person we make those assumptions about. I think this book is a great addition to the YA genre!