Jason is a star football player with a scholarship to state college. Before he leaves, Jason shares his first sexual experience with his best friend Beau, who is horny, but definitely straight. From this Jason learns that he loves giving blow-jobs and bottoming and he takes this knowledge to college with him where he willingly becomes a sex toy for several “straight” teammates. It is during these sessions that Jason meets Toby and from fuck-buddies they become roommates, lovers, adopted brothers, and committed partners.
Jason has been raised modestly, although, in fact, his parents are extremely wealthy, whereas Toby’s upbringing has been very different. When Toby’s father reacts violently to Toby’s admission that he is gay, Jason’s parents take Toby into their own home and accept him into their lives like another son. While their home life is settled, Jason and Toby struggle with telling their teammates about their relationship and these ties are put under more strain when the pair are assaulted – and then have to try to live and love, despite the fallout from this.
To say that Damaged Goods was nearly the book that defeated me would be an understatement. Even from 10% into the story, I was dreading continuing. I even considered leaving Damaged Goods as a DNF. I resolved to read on to 30%, which then became 50%, and eventually I finished.
The copy of M.H. Sebastian’s book I had was supposed to be clean, but it was littered throughout with typos, missing speech marks, and had frustrating changes of tense, even within the same paragraph. Being a proofreader, I understand how easy it is for mistakes to be missed, but the number Damaged Goods contained was one of the reasons I was unable to completely engage with the story.
Damaged Goods may well fall into the erotic category but, for the most part, I felt like I was reading the script for a cheesy porn movie. I have nothing against sex within novels, although I do prefer this to be an organic part of the plot. In Damaged Goods, the sex replaces any character development and I felt the idea of Jason and Toby talking about “love” was unbelievable. In my opinion, terms like “hot protein injections,” “probing tool,” “creme de Toby,” and “jerk sauce” did not appeal to me at all!
Damaged Goods is written in a first-person narrative, from Jason’s point of view. Normally this would make me engage with the protagonist, but I even found Jason’s voice strange. At times the story reads like a shopping list: “we did this, we went there, we had sex, we ate,” which made it hard to get a real sense of who the characters were and their motives (beyond being constantly horny!).
I’m sure you are reading this review and asking yourself why I insisted on finishing Damaged Goods. One, I’m not a defeatist and two, amongst the parts of the story I really disliked, there are moments of drama that draw us into Jason and Toby’s lives. Sebastian still manages to maintain a distance between the reader and his characters and at times, when other authors would have had me reaching for the tissues, I remained indifferent. Sebastian does give us a glimpse of the people Jason and Toby could be, though, and I genuinely liked the parts of Damaged Goods in which the two young men gain strength from Jason’s parents.
Damaged Goods was unfortunately a problematic novel for me and because of these issues, my rating for Sebastian’s novel is a low one and I will not be reading any more of his novels.