Author Nash Summers was my choice for self-published writer in this week’s Self Published Book challenge category. I have read only one other story by this gifted author and I am thrilled to be indulging in another of her works. This story, Maps is the first in her Life According to Maps trilogy and I can tell you right now I will be scooping up books two and three immediately. Summers has that singular gift of being able to craft incredible depth of character and plot into a mere novella length story. Maps could be read just by itself and as any good writing should do, it would leave you wanting to know the next chapter in the lives of these high school boys because it is that compete in one sense. There are no dangling plot points; you are given a chapter in Map and Lane’s lives and are able to delight in it and feel as though you did much more than just scratch the surface of these characters. That is clever and richly detailed writing and you should expect nothing less from this gifted author.
Our story opens with Maps bemoaning the fact that his best friend Benji is moving away—not far, just a few blocks– but that means no best friend right next door where Maps can literally see him from his bedroom window. It also means strangers and Maps does not like change or strangers so essentially he is an unhappy camper. Maps is a scientist at heart and spends much of his time devising ways to discover answers to those pesky questions that rock about in his scattered brain. He is also fairly brilliant and rather the odd man out. I could hazard a guess here and say that Maps seems to have aspergers (a very high functioning form of autism), but that would only be a stab at defining someone who defies any sense of definition. He is Maps—and he is adorable. What Maps doesn’t plan for is the appearance of the equally cute jock, Lane, who is his new neighbor. Normally Lane would hardly register on Maps’ radar, but something peculiar happens to his stomach every time Lane smiles at him and, before long, Maps understands that odd feeling is tied directly to his heart.
To say that Maps was a quirky character with a unique personality and voice is making an understatement. He is more than different and describing his intellectual curiosity as simply nerdish behavior is to really underrate both his smarts and his tenacity. This is where Nash Summers’ clever writing ability really shines. You see we are given crumbs of clues here and there by Maps himself that so often there are things his brain fixates on—questions or puzzles that make him almost itch to unravel and until he does, his mind cannot let it go. It’s these moments when Maps stops being this whirling dervish of energy mentally and we see glimpses of the sensitive young man hiding inside this seemingly unruffled exterior. It’s just these tiny sparks that make you fall in love with Maps. He’s not just some science nerd who overanalyzes most things and both reacts and speaks like someone years beyond his own age, he is a boy on the cusp of adulthood who is scared of things he doesn’t understand, a sexuality that surprised even himself, and who hides his yearning to be liked by the new boy next door very deeply. Maps is, in a word, gorgeous. You want to wrap him up and keep him safe much like Lane does himself.
This story was just so much fun to read. It is most assuredly a YA novel, but Nash Summers creates a boy that will resonate with so many readers. His world is not always a safe one. He alludes to fear of bullying when he sees that certain look on Lane’s face that he misinterprets as the one that many get right before they want to punch poor Maps. While there is one incident in the book where Nash is actually bullied, it is very quick and fairly downplayed in the interest of moving to a more important moment in the story, so if you’re thinking that this novella is dealing with some darker theme you are wrong—it is lighthearted, sweet and really well done. I thoroughly enjoyed Maps by Nash Summers and highly recommend it to you.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Self Published Book Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of seven fabulous prize packs from an amazing group of self published authors. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Self Published Book Week here, including a list of all the prizes being offered this week. And check out our prize post for more details about the awesome prizes offered this month!