I am so torn over the review of Jason Collins’ release, Committed. To say that I had issues with a major twist in this novel is underplaying my distaste for how the two very likeable main characters chose to change the course of their lives. I found it particularly hard to fathom and agree with given that one of our guys was already imprisoned for ten years for a crime he didn’t commit. However, to say much more on this issue would be to give away way too much of the story and I would prefer that you read this novel and draw your own conclusion as to how it ended. So let me begin again. Jason Collins is a new author for me and I can safely say that the characters he writes are likely to both peak your interest and draw you in to their story emotionally. While his style and language choices were a bit stilted and, at times, way too proper for young men like Corey and Dustin, there is no denying that there was palpable chemistry between the two and their relationship was endearing and sweet.
The story begins with Corey (a high school teacher on summer break) taking on the teaching of a GED course to prison inmates. It just so happens that one of the convicts is Dustin Sutton, a well known and rather tragic figure in their small South Bend community who took the fall for a drug bust so that his then boyfriend would pay off his mother’s mortgage. Dustin was carrying drugs in his car, but had no idea they were there until the police found them in a routine speeding violation pull over. Dustin’s ex made a deal with him that he would make sure Dustin’s mother’s mortgage was paid off if Dustin refused to give him up to the police. That deal meant Dustin spent ten years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Right off the bat let me say that this was the first problem I found in this plot. I have been pulled over for speeding—yes, I shamefully admit it—but my car was not searched and I certainly would not have allowed it given I am fairly sure the police have to have some pretty hefty probable cause to do so. Given that Dustin was so well liked in his community and only seventeen at the time, I was surprised that the police would search his car. But my unease with the story overall only deepened after that.
We now learn that Corey knew that Dustin was set to be paroled in a matter of days and was hoping he would be in his GED class. In fact, he asks pointed questions to this class of convicts to see who is indeed getting free soon and there Dustin is, raising his hand. From there we go forward a few days and Dustin contacts Corey to see if he will meet to help him with the final prep for his GED. Here is where you had to stretch your disbelief because these guys instantly were attracted to each other—so much so that Dustin invites Corey for lunch at his mother’s house where he is staying and in the course of that meal the two plan to go away that weekend to a neighbor’s cabin on the lake. Yes, it was fast—very fast and had the two men in question not been so appealing personality-wise I would have been shaking my head in disbelief, especially since Dustin’s mother was practically throwing the two of them at each other. Here also was the first of a few times when the author really projected what was going to happen in the story. In this case, it was mentioned repeatedly that there was no insurance on the cabin and the two men had to be very careful. At the same time this is happening and they are trying to have lunch, Dustin’s ex shows up like he owns the place and offers Dustin a job—while he doesn’t say what it is, it’s fairly obvious it’s going to be illegal and drug related. Dustin turns him down and then foolishly mentions that he is going away to the lake for the weekend. I am leaving that right here—suffice it to say that the cabin does not come out of the weekend unscathed.
In a matter of mere days, several catastrophes occur including the damage to the cabin that Dustin feels he must pay back, Corey losing his job over supposed parent complaints that he is seeing an ex-con, and next to no prospects for Dustin work-wise in the near future. As you can see, it is a perfect set-up for the ex-boyfriend to step in and offer to save the day. Now the only question that remains is just how far are Dustin and Corey are willing to go to have a future life together that is not mired in debt and uncertainty.
There was so much to like about these two young men. Despite ten years in prison, Dustin manages to retain his own humanity and a gentle spirit that really draws Corey to him. Corey, himself, has a family for once in both Dustin and his mom. They are warm and inviting and think the world of him—even though they barely know him. These aspects of the novel were just right—well crafted and beautifully written even though the delivery was sometimes stilted. It was the trajectory of the plot and the small things that derailed this story for me. For instance, at one point in the story Corey discovers that Dustin has not one, but two guns in his possession. Now I realize that is a definite no-no given his probation, but when you read the story and realize why he has them it makes perfect sense—at least for one gun to be in existence. But two? It turns out that was just way too convenient and not at all plausible since the situation Dustin finds himself in when he reveals the first gun was meant to find him to be alone—Corey was not supposed to be with him so the need for a second gun simply wasn’t justified. I can’t explain that any further without giving away a major plot point, but again suffice it to say that it just didn’t ring true.
Then there was the entire last third of this novel, which just had me shaking my head. I could not buy it—I could not be okay with the decisions that both Corey and Dustin decided to make—especially since the ex-boyfriend was painted as vindictive and dangerous. If that were the case, these two, particularly given what Corey does at the end of the novel, got away with a major thing that had absolutely no repercussions. Again, it was just so farfetched that I could not stomach it.
In the end, there were far too many times I had to stretch my disbelief to the breaking point in order to enjoy this novel. Committed by Jason Collins had some great characters and a sweet romance element, but so many other glitches that I had a truly difficult time enjoying the novel.