Living in the manager’s apartment with his newly single mother, photography is Micah Jaeger’s one escape from a life steeped in pathetic mediocrity. He pedals around Long Island Sound on his bike looking for locations where he can shoot whatever captures his imagination, where he can lose himself in his art. Photos help him cope with the mostly benign neglect of his parents, who divorced after Micah’s elder brother was killed in action in Afghanistan. Clearly, anyone who dares interrupt Micah when he’s in the “zone” is going to end up on Micah’s bad side.
When a guy in a sailboat pesters Micah as the latter is shooting along the shore one day, the last thing Micah expects is to have his imagination captured by that blond haired, blue-eyed monied guy. Yet that is exactly what happens…and it all started with boat shoes.
An unlikely friendship grows between Micah and Walker, the guy with the boat. Even as they get to know one another, both Micah and Walker exceed the other’s expectations. Alone together, Micah appreciates the cool, collected confidence Walker exudes both in dealing with people (like a waitress at a local eatery and Micah’s tetchy mother) and when at the tiller of his sailboat. Despite Walker’s rich lifestyle, however, Micah quickly learns it’s not all easy living for Walker. Walker has a sister who detests him and a cousin who antagonizes Walker simply for being who he is—yet Walker takes it in stride.
For Walker, Micah is a bit of a puzzle. No stranger to people wanting to be friends with him for the sake of having access to all the material things Walker has, Walker is cautiously optimistic Micah is different. Walker goes so far as to test Micah and is pleased that Micah’s responses demonstrate that Micah values Walker the person not Walker the rich guy. Except there is a bit of a hitch and Walker knows he can’t leave Micah in the dark…especially not when Walker starts to have feelings that go beyond friendship for Micah.
Not wanting to ruin what could potentially be a very good thing, Walker reveals to Micah that he is intersex. Neither young man knows exactly how the revelation will affect their relationship and before they have a chance to find out, Walker—at the behest of his mother—backs off to consider his sexuality, his sexual identity, and the life he’s lead.
Waiting for Walker only helps drive home to Micah that he is falling for Walker the person, however they come. As he tries to wait patiently for Walker to grapple with his mother’s wishes, however, there are tectonic changes in Micah’s own family. With all the upheaval, neither Micah nor Walker can be certain their fledgling relationship with stand the test of separation.
This story was an absolute joy to read. Reardon’s characters popped right off the page and enveloped me in their world. I love the balance struck between maturity and naivety with each of the main characters, which clearly include Micah and Walker, but I’d also say Micah’s mom qualifies as well. The supporting cast of Micah’s father, his brother, his brother’s wife, Walker’s sister, and the rest of his family also complement the various elements of the story. One particular strength is how even a relatively minor character like Walker’s sister passes the believability test (which has an actual name that I cannot recall)—basically, she clearly is not simply thrown on-page as a foil to Walker and even undergoes a little developmental journey of her own despite how little she actually appears on page.
As far as the plot goes, this book offers so much more than a sweet, racy first-love story. To be sure, it’s biggest hitter is the romance we see develop between Micah and Walker. Yet when that takes a huge pause as Walker is made to evaluate core aspects of his existence (is he male or female? is he gay or not? how far is he willing to bend for the sake of his very Catholic mother?), I had no sense of the book waffling away the pages with fluff about Micah and his family. This is due in large part to the careful relationship Reardon builds—and most importantly shows—on page for the reader.
With Walker on the fringes, we see the depths of despair into which Micah’s mother has fallen. She turns to a “psychic” and that alone lends a faint touch of paranormal to an otherwise wholly slice-of-complicated-life story…but it turns into so much more. I appreciated how consistently and how subtly the psychic’s thread weaves between Micah and his mother…first pushing him towards his father, then bringing all three of them together in the most unanticipated way (I don’t want to spoil it or make it sound more paranormal than it is).
This book touches on so many themes and handles them all with aplomb: Micah’s coming out to his parents without knowing if they will accept it; Walker’s revelation that he is intersex; a hint of otherworldly capabilities; what unconditional love means; religion in various forms; physical deformities; overcoming your fear. Perhaps it sounds ambitious, but all these various elements flow to and fro so smoothly, it felt entirely believable to me. I think part of what helps keep each of these different elements relevant is how they connect various characters to each other. None of these themes is entirely exclusive to one single character or even a pair of characters. This matters to me because often, the events in our lives don’t happen in a vacuum…they have repercussions that can and do reach beyond just ourselves. Reardon captures this quality wonderfully in the story.
If you’re looking for an engrossing book filled with amazingly three-dimensional characters figuring out some of life’s less often tackled social norms, this would be a great book. The human element runs strong with deeply felt emotion shining on every page, while also keeping things exciting with some intimate scenes between Micah and Walker and a shark attack or two (yes, seriously and literally, shark attacks…and even THAT gets woven seamlessly into the narrative). I highly recommend this book to everyone!