Carter has Tourette’s Syndrome. On the day that he leaves school after being laughed off stage by his classmates because of his uncontrollable tics, Carter discovers that he and his parents are moving to California. Carter is understandably apprehensive, but little does he know that a whirlwind called Ethan is about to enter his world and his life is going to change — for the better.
Ethan is eighteen and lives in the house next door to Carter’s new home. Three years previously, Ethan was involved in a serious accident that resulted in a traumatic brain injury and he is now a different version of himself, needing written lists just accomplish tasks we all take for granted, like having a shower.
Though it is the fact that Carter and Ethan are both faced with difficult personal challenges that initially connects them, their friendship becomes about so much more than this. Now it is a question of whether the two young men are strong enough to support one another through the unrest that is about to hit them, or whether they will end up breaking each other’s hearts.
Ethan is a truly beautiful young adult novel and Ryan Loveless’ careful first-person narrative, written in both Ethan and Carter’s voices, reaches right into the heart of the reader. Throughout Ethan I promised myself I was not going to cry and I fought the tears until the final chapter when Ethan and Carter put their feelings into a song. It was then that the dam broke.
I am always hugely interested in novels that feature protagonists with disabilities of any sort — but wary too. However, once I read Loveless’ Author’s Note prior to the story I knew that she was going to do everything in her power to ensure that her reader sees past the Tourette’s Syndrome and Traumatic Brain Injury diagnoses, into the hearts of Ethan and Carter. Admittedly, there are constant reminders of Carter’s tics and Ethan frequently refers to himself ‘Before’ and ‘After,’ but in this novel the characters’ idiosyncrasies become part of the people they are, rather than defining them.
Carter has a habit of isolating himself because he feels self-conscious, but Ethan brings him out of his shell, with his straightforwardness, blatant — and at times shocking — honesty and his acceptance. Even if the reader has no prior knowledge of either TS or TBI, Loveless guarantees that we understand both young men and for me, I think it was more important that we do not just feel sorry for Ethan and Carter. I loved them both because of their intelligence, strength, and raw emotion, and not just because of what they contribute to the story, but because of the way that they change each other’s lives, and those of their respective families. Both the Stevenson and Hart families are vital within Ethan and provide solid foundations for the two protagonists. With both sets of parents being so heavily involved in their sons’ lives we are reminded that yes, this is a young adult novel, but also that support systems and love are essential to anyone’s growth and success.
Loveless relies on her portrayal of Ethan and Carter to engage the emotions of the reader, and in my opinion, she is undoubtedly successful at this. There are some really tough moments for both characters that will tug heart-strings, but there are also more lighthearted moments, especially those involving Ethan and his lack of filter, which would make anyone smile – and then perfect scenes like the kiss Ethan and Carter share post-show in LA when I just wanted to jump up and punch the air shouting “YES!”
Ethan and Carter have left an imprint on my memory and though Ethan is classed as being young adult fiction, there is an inspiring message within its pages for any reader. This is one novel you don’t want to miss out on!
Note: Ethan is a young adult retelling of Loveless’ novel Ethan, Who Loved Carter. It takes the same characters and features them as young adults with a revised storyline.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.