Nicky is powering through his swim meets as a college freshman. Academics aren’t his strong suit and he got into college on an athletic scholarship. Nicky grew up in small town South Dakota and life in Florida is way less sheltered. He’s getting it done though, putting in his time, and he has his sights set on the Olympics as he makes it to swim practice before sunrise. Nicky has never had a boyfriend before and college is definitely the place to look for one, yet his eyes keep coming back to Coach Philip.
Coach Philip was an Olympic swimmer until tragedy struck. He saw the potential in recruiting Nicky as he tries to build up the swim team. He also notices Nicky’s lean body, but Philip has issues and secrets that he can barely keep contained and everyday life is a constant struggle for him. When a hot summer night has the men crossing boundaries, falling in love seems to be the easy part, but a relationship between a coach and his star athlete will be anything but easy.
Sometimes you start a book and immediately know that the style isn’t for you and that is most certainly the case here. The style of the narrative voice, the choppy writing, the often amateurish, robotic, and sometimes derogatory language didn’t work well for me from the start. The way that the overall story itself played out did not offer anything further.
The first issue I had with this book is that for the first quarter, it did not depict the story that the blurb presented. The blurb focuses on Nicky and Philip and the idea of a forbidden coach and athlete relationship. While that is part of the book, sure, this book also has an ensemble cast that gets plenty of page time.
We meet Nicky in his first year of college and he is quickly becoming the star of the swim team. He is from a small town and Coach Philip was a little more attractive to Nicky than the school itself. Nicky is having all kinds of new experiences, including his first time seeing a naked African-American man while in the showers. The descriptions here could border on lewd and this was how we first met J.B., who is from the inner city and lives at home while attending college. His father is absent, his mother works two jobs, and he has siblings that need looking after. He swims on the team, but his goal is to get his business degree, marry his girlfriend, and give his family a better life. To accomplish this, his thoughts are as follows:
He believed that if he assimilated himself within the white culture, he would have the exact opposite of what he saw happen to others in the black community. J.B. believed that the white community had some sort of secret on how to succeed and was purposely keeping it to themselves.
That is the basic introduction to J.B. and his thoughts continue on in that manner throughout the book. There were also stories of some of Nicky’s other teammates that only had the effect of pulling the story in too many directions. Then we have a virgin MC having unprotected sex with a random stranger and then we get to hear about the condition of his bowels the next morning. At this point, there was no part of the story that had me engaged.
Then there is Philip. Philip was an Olympic athlete until a devastating accident ended his career. He now has a hidden addiction to pain killers. He’s attracted to Nicky and, while he already had an inappropriate and disastrous relationship with a student several years ago and he knows it’s frowned upon by the university, that doesn’t alter his course. The men hook up after a party where there is alcohol clouding judgment, a pretense of being asleep, and the whole thing had a creepiness factor to it. To add to that, on their first official date, Nicky is still referring to Philip as Coach.
Besides the fact that Philip was a swimmer and is coaching the swim team, he came off as having absolutely no qualifications to work with students. First, the full story and all of the details regarding Philip’s prior relationship with a student was disturbing. Also, while there were racial issues presented throughout the book, there was suddenly unrest on the team due to these issues. The issues hadn’t been shown as being pervasive on the team until well into the book and Philip stated that he would rather spend the day in meetings than deal with these issues, which then only had the situation escalating to the breaking point.
As for the relationship between Nicky and Philip, due to Philip’s position, he has Nicky sneaking around, hiding, and lying. He’s irresponsible as a faculty member and as a lover as he shows no concern for Nicky’s health when he knows he could be at risk and takes zero precautions, all while stating how in love he is with Nicky.
This book was an uphill struggle to read the entire way. There were comments that ranged from being mildly uncomfortable to highly flammable and some had the air of satire around them. The style, the dialogue, the main characters, the large ensemble cast, and the wandering narrative all played a role in this book not working for me at all. This book will be memorable, but just not in the way that offers a recommendation.