M4M is a novel made up of three parts — VGL Male Seeks Same, NEG uB2, and Status Updates (the first two were previously released as separate stories). For me, reading M4M as a whole is perfect, taking the reader from the beginning of Ethan’s foray into online dating and his meeting with Brian in VGL Male Seeks Same, to the moment he is diagnosed as being HIV positive and begins writing a blog in NEG UB2, and finally, Status Updates in which Ethan deals with his grief at losing the love of his life, while a Facebook friend request challenges Ethan and brings possibilities.
As I expect with any book written by Rick R. Reed, M4M is thoughtful, sensitive, and relevant. Each section of the novel is based on the growing popularity of different forms of social media and Reed is constantly able to make stimulating comments about the way in which modern society relies upon technology.
As someone who has recently had her own experiences with online dating, I felt particularly connected to Ethan in VGL Male Seeks Same. I could relate to Ethan’s feelings of disappointment and low self-esteem after receiving no messages on wingpeople.com and I like how Reed does not ignore the issue of ‘catfishing’ that is so prevalent in real-life. Yet, I was also drawn into the romance — the deliveries of bouquets and shared emails — and though for the most part of this section, Ethan and Brian do not meet, Reed still gives his reader that sense of anticipation.
However, the tone of Reed’s writing shifts completely in NEG uB2. The reader is present when Ethan receives his crushing diagnosis and I shared his disbelief. Reed effectively communicates Ethan’s confusion and I love the fact that Ethan’s introspection is channeled into a blog, brilliantly titled “Off to see the Wizard of Poz.” Apart from these blog entries, Reed’s narration in M4M is third person and though this works in terms of the story, I also think the first person blog posts allow the reader an insight into Ethan’s jumble of thoughts and emotions, and this is an astute choice by Reed.
I honestly have never personally received a diagnosis of this magnitude, but it appeared to me that Ethan’s blog posts were carefully thought out by Reed and I think the fact that he recognizes there are still people being diagnosed as HIV positive is important, though he also addresses the use of drugs to control the disease.
In Status Updates the reader sees a different Ethan again and it is this part of M4M that frequently brought tears to my eyes. This time, Reed uses Facebook to help his story develop, or as Ethan refers to it: “the world’s great time waster.” Every reader of M4M will probably recognize Ethan’s feelings at receiving a friend request from someone he hasn’t seen for years, though when we realize who this person is, there is a sense of familiarity. It has been difficult in NEG UB2 and Status Updates, watching the protagonist in pain and feeling helpless, but with this new development, the reader snatches at the hope Reed hands us. M4M does not end on a concrete HEA, but I found myself unable to shake thoughts of Ethan and his story, many hours after I had finished it.
I was not at all disappointed by M4M but when I saw “erotic” in the description I did expect something else. There is one sex scene that I can recall in VGL Male Seeks Same and yes, this could be said to have mild themes of BDSM and is explicit to a degree, but M4M is much more than an “erotic” novel. M4M deals with being a 40-something-year-old man in the modern world, faced with uncertainty and issues beyond his control. As always, Reed combines story-telling with the human experience and I would highly recommend M4M.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.