Elijah Tucker made it out of the South Side of Chicago and has money and a career as a realtor. The South Side stills calls him home as his sister lives there and he helps her out as much as he can. It’s during one of these visits that he runs into Gideon Valsecchi in a modern meet-cute as Gideon mugs Eli.
Gideon doesn’t want to resort to violence, but he gets desperate sometimes. His home life is deplorable, he’s hungry all the time, and he’s trying to make it through the last few months of high school. The only bright spot is playing on the high school soccer team and there is the smallest gimmer of hope that Gideon can make it out with a soccer scholarship.
Eli has been out for years while Gideon tries to deny who he is at every turn. He has no idea why someone as good looking and successful as Eli would be interested in him, but he is. But Gideon is inexperienced and scared, and it is going to take patience from Eli to show Gideon that he can reach for a better life and that it can include Eli at his side.
This is the second book I have read from Riley Parks and her tone offers a raw and street wise experience. The book centers around Eli and Gideon, who both have ties to Chicago’s South Side. It’s during one of these visits to see family that Eli encounters Gideon, and as he tries to track him again once again, it changes the course of both of their lives. While they grew up in the same place, Eli and Gideon are different. Besides the racial differences, Eli has mental health issues that sent him in on a different path years ago and while Gideon likes to present himself as the bad boy, his experience of the world is limited.
I liked both of the characters and the overall story that was being told here, but a few things didn’t quite work for me. There is an age difference here and while nine years on paper isn’t that much, Eli is 27 to Gideon’s 18. This particular age difference didn’t work in every aspect for me with these characters. Eli is a successful realtor with an overflowing bank account and he takes an interest in Gideon. There is the physical attraction at first, along with Eli wanting to help Gideon as he buys him food and other items to make him more comfortable. It does come out that Eli himself, in some ways, still feels like a lost teen, but there were times it was more difficult to see what Eli was getting from this relationship.
Gideon is closeted—well he doesn’t even want to admit that he is gay. He’s young and thinks only of himself for a lot of the book. He comes across as thinking that Eli has it all together so Gideon doesn’t seem to consider Eli’s feelings in all this and a lot of their relationship came off as one sided. Gideon lives in a run-down house with his brother and sister. It is briefly mentioned what happened to his father, but his mother is never discussed. It is mentioned that his brother uses drug money to buy beer instead of food and it is never discussed how there is money for any of the basics of life, including Gideon’s ever-present cell phone.
Given the basic outline of the story I was expecting there to be at least some relationship angst, but there wasn’t much. The story focuses on the relationship between Eli and Gideon and while it takes time for Gideon to accept being in a relationship with a man and there is internal tension, the story progresses at a reasonable pace without much turmoil at all. Until the end when there is a flurry of activity and the story is left in a “to be continued” status. It’s not a cliffhanger, but the story of Eli and Gideon is left unfinished. I would certainly be interested to see where their story takes them next and how their world and their relationship continues to change.