Eight-year-old Milo is not pleased that his family is moving to Cape Cod, but he has to keep his emotions in check or his abusive father will see. When he meets Andrew, the friendship is instantaneous, as often happens between young boys. Milo and Andrew build a relationship throughout the years based on a bond that few ever experience. Andrew is Milo’s safe haven and link to sanity when his controlling father is just too much and their secret fort in the woods is where all of their dreams for the future are planned.
Andrew comes out to Milo, but it isn’t until Andrew kisses him that Milo confirms to himself that he is gay as well once he kisses Andrew back. But, it becomes the kiss that is rarely spoken of. Even though Andrew has been in love with Milo for years, Milo’s abusive life makes him feel he is not a good fit for anyone, especially Andrew who he thinks deserves so much better.
Even at different colleges, Andrew keeps Milo grounded and when Milo returns home after his father’s unexpected death, he gets one night with Andrew. Andrew is the link to Milo’s childhood and with that the life he has tried to escape for years. The guys are in love, have never been brave enough to face it, and there are miles of co-dependency between them. Milo knows Andrew will always relate to him as the broken boy, and they sever all ties. When both men return home years later the chemistry, the friendship, and the long held love is still there, but the men have to first navigate their past to even think about a future.
Childhood friends-to-lovers is one of my favorite types of stories to read and when angst is added in it can be a perfect storm. But the way this story was presented and then unfolded, the angst wasn’t as quite as intense as expected.
Milo’s father controls every aspect of his life and Milo lives in constant fear and anxiety that ramps up through the years. Most of the scenes with Milo’s father are off page and not explicit. Andrew is Milo’s confidant and quite simply the reason Milo survived. The guys form an intense bond based on Milo needing shelter and grounding and Andrew wanting nothing more than to be that person that puts Milo back together and its years before the guys will admit out loud how truly intertwined they have become. During their younger years there was not a lot of depth to their emotion, which was appropriate for their age, but there was just enough to feel it all and there was a great balance using just the right words.
When Andrew kisses Milo it opens up a whole new insight for Milo but Milo can’t be gay, he can’t be anything except exactly what his father wants at that moment. But even when Milo accepts it, he knows he can’t have Andrew. Milo is so scared and conditioned that he has no idea how to properly love someone or even let himself be loved. There was an intense lead up to the guys finally admitting some of their feelings, getting together, and realizing what they had was so much more than simply first love. This was then where the story began to let me down and many important events were off page. The first time Andrew and Milo are together is off page and it’s not even the lack of explicit content that I am referring to, it’s that the entire emotional scene is off page. Then in the light of day, decisions are made that have life altering consequences and most of that is off page as well.
The lack of explicit content could have offered more time for character development, but it was not to be at least where Andrew and Milo were concerned. Seven years pass and that too is off page. The guys perfected missing each other, but we are only told about it. When we catch up with them again, Andrew is in a relationship and living with his boyfriend and we spend quite a bit of time with them and their relationship. The areas of Andrew and his boyfriend were areas I would rather have been told instead of shown and the areas involving Andrew and Milo that we are told about I would rather have been shown. My feeling was that the author really knew these characters well, but didn’t convey all of that onto the page and, while I really did get a lot of what they were going through, it took almost until the end of the book for the entire picture to come together. And then once again, some big moments were off page and I would have really liked some more time to see them together as a couple.
This book is a journey of childhood friends put into unique circumstances and illustrates that sometimes when something is broken you have to take it apart to fix it.