Connor lives in a small town in Wisconsin, with his father and younger sister. Connor likes being in a peripheral friendship group at school and is sure that he is the only gay person among the small population of Mendips. Connor’s love is music, which also connects him to his deceased mother who taught him to play the piano and guitar. In an attempt to change his life, Connor decides to try out at the auditions for Singing Sensation, the latest reality TV show. The journey to success is going to be a long one for Connor as he fights for his father’s approval and struggles with his feelings as his first sexual relationship begins.
Derek Folsom is the school bully; he is cruel with a tough guy exterior that hides painful secrets about his upbringing. After singling Connor out with nicknames like “fire crotch,” Derek chooses Connor as his history tutor. A strange and unexpected friendship forms between the two young men and when Derek offers Connor a blow-job if he passes his history test, Connor takes it as a joke — but is there a side to Derek no-one in town is aware of?
Life in a Nowhere Town is not the first book I have read in which the main character is involved in a national singing competition on TV. This is not surprising as the popularity of these shows is increasing, no matter which country you live in. The aspect I like about Hanna Dare’s story is that the Singing Sensation auditions are secondary to the development of her protagonists. Life in a Nowhere Town is about who Connor and Derek are and the reasons why they seek comfort in each other and, because Dare does her groundwork here, in any subsequent novels in the series it will be easy for the reader to re-connect with the characters.
Prior to the auditions, Connor seems lost and unsure of himself. Dare reveals another side of his personality as soon as he enters the competition and I enjoyed his sarcasm, wit, and confidence.
Life in a Nowhere Town is not written in the first person, but Connor’s thoughts and feelings emanate strongly throughout Dare’s narrative. I definitely liked him more as the story moved on and by the last page, I was disappointed that I could not move straight on to the next book in the series.
Derek is a more complex character than Connor, but Dare gives the reader enough glimpses into his life that we empathize with him. There is clearly a conflict between who Derek wishes to be, his sexuality, and the person the town expects him to become. The reader accepts his relationship with Connor because Dare allows us to see behind the detached facade he wears.
Life in a Nowhere Town is a gentle and endearing novel that I enjoyed more as the story developed. I think fans of young adult contemporary gay romances will be satisfied by the first book in Dare’s Sing Out series.