Narrator: Jesse Cota
Length: 6 hours, 17 minutes
Author Anna Martin combines a coming of age, first love, and sweet romance in the audio release of her novel, Five Times My Best Friend Kissed Me. Following the story of Scott Sparrow and Evan King, the author takes us on a journey of five different moments in the lives of two best buddies from the tender age of six to the near future, twenty five years later. Told from Evan’s perspective, the story relates how he knew that Scott was the guy for him from a young age and how the flame that was lit in a makeshift tree fort when two little boys professed how they should marry each other continued to burn despite misunderstandings, distance, and fear of commitment.
The story is so tender and even though it jumps around chronologically, you are never lost in the how and where. Two constants, Evan’s unabashed crush on Scott and Scott’s near oblivion to that crush, are always present in every chapter. We watch as these two boys mature through a series of flashbacks and highlighted memories and we also watch as Evan comes to terms with the fact that Scott can never be his—or so he thinks. But Scott has hidden something from Evan for quite some time and he may not be able to be explain away some of those kisses as a drunken moment or a rash decision.
Both characters were so beautifully written—Evan so naïve at first, and then so crushed when he realizes his affections for Scott may be all one sided and seemingly destined to never come to fruition. We watch him grow into an artist in his own right who refuses to compromise either his sexuality or his dreams. Just when we think he has come to terms with the fact that Scott will never return his feelings, the impossible happens and we are thrust into the middle of a relationship that will not only be long-distance, but perhaps impossible to maintain and there is Evan risking his heart again for the best friend he has never stopped loving. Scott has grappled with his feelings for Evan for a long time, running from them as he tries to find love with both men and women and finally realizing that not only is he bisexual, but that the man he wants, who may possibly hate him after all those years, is still available and willing to give him another chance. You wait on tender hooks to see what will become of these two men and the love both have held for the other for so very long.
If this story is marvelous, then the audio by Jesse Cota was outstanding. It married together both a crisp and richly intonated delivery of the prose passages with a mixture of different voicing for the various characters. From the slightly breathless young Evan who has found a brand new friend, to the gravel tones of a fully mature Evan and Scott who are rediscovering their friendship, Cota uses his talented narrative skills to create a vast array of emotions and gorgeous interactions between the two men. His pacing was spot on and carried us swiftly into each encounter. I was so impressed by his ability to create atmosphere and tension with just the varying rate at which he narrated and by using different tones to emphasize critical lines of text in order to heighten the mood. Narrator Jesse Cota did this beautiful book a real service by adding his own flair and nuances to an already well-written story.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.