It is the summer between high school and college and Malcolm Small feels like he is all alone. His parents barely notice him and certainly make it clear they have nothing but disapproval for him. After being bullied for years, Malcolm has no friends and isn’t even sure quite how to make one at this point. He is facing a long summer of loneliness until a family moves in next door with a son about his age. Malcolm desperately wants to meet him, hoping maybe with a new neighbor the slate will be clean and he’ll find someone who won’t either bully or ignore him. But getting the confidence to talk to this charismatic boy is not easy.
It turns out Wes Kinney is friendly, outgoing, and is totally interested in being friends with Mal. At first Mal can hardly believe it, since no one at school would have anything to do with him. Mal feels awkward and nervous and pretty much certain he is constantly messing up, but Wes seems to really like him and enjoying being with Mal. Things are easy and comfortable between them and Mal is happy in a way he can hardly ever remember being. Of course, he has to keep his friendship with Wes as a secret as his bigoted father hates the neighbors on sight, and finding out Wes is gay will certainly make him force Mal to stay away. But since his parents barely even seem to notice Mal, that is fine.
For years Mal has been beaten and bullied by kids who called him gay, even though he is not. Or at least, he didn’t think he was. But being with Wes is suddenly opening Mal’s eyes to that fact that maybe he is interested in men after all. He certainly finds Wes amazing and Wes gives Mal confidence to really be himself for the first time. As Mal finally becomes a bit more comfortable in his skin, he begins to realize that he is interested in Wes, maybe is even falling in love with him. But Mal still has a lot of challenges to face, including starting college and dealing with his homophobic parents. But with Wes by his side, Mal may be able to handle more than he thinks.
Ok, let me start this review by saying I absolutely love this book and have loved it (or a version of it) for years. The original version of My Summer of Wes was one of the first m/m romance books I ever read and it has always had a special place in my heart. Young love, virgin hero, coming of age, and a young man who blossoms under the love and care of his new partner. So many things that I love here and I reread the story many times. Missy Welsh has now revised and expanded the original version of the book, adding quite a bit of content that was originally intended to be a sequel. It is both longer and also much tighter in its new iteration. The story covers more ground and takes time to develop things that happened a little too quickly in the first version, such as Mal coming to terms with the fact that he is gay.
So I’ll be honest here. I love this story and I am probably not totally objective about it. You know those books that you love so much that they just give you a clenchy feeling in your stomach just thinking about them? This is one of those books for me. Just thinking about this story gives me warm feelings. It is sweet and sexy and such a beautiful coming of age story that I just adore it. And again, this new version just takes things even further. Welsh does such an amazing job capturing Mal in all his insecure, anxious self. He has grown up with absolutely no sense of self worth. He is terrified of doing the wrong thing and is often a mess of anxiety. He has had no one care about him for years, or even really talk to him or touch him. So it is so beautiful to watch him come to life under Wes’ care. The thrill of knowing someone really likes him, even loves him. The confidence that he can be a person who makes Wes happy. Mal changes so much over the course of the book, from a timid, terrified boy, to a man who can start to stand up for himself and can face challenges because he knows he finally has people in his corner. Welsh does such an amazing job with his character and I loved watching him grow.
If you like romantic, sexy, coming of age stories, I think this is a can’t miss book. Wes is the perfect hero, there for Mal but also giving him the confidence to learn to handle things himself. And Mal is endearing and adorable as he figures out who he is and what he wants, and learns that he has the strength inside of him to reach for it. There is enough fun and lightness here to keep things from being overwhelming during the more intense times. And this book just makes me happy. I totally love it and definitely recommend it to you guys.
P.S. This story releases on November 19th but is currently available for preorder.