BreakThroughRating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novel

Seb has been abandoned by his mother, neglected by his father, and preyed upon by Stephen. His only escape from the heartbreak and misery of his life was his music and the band he formed with Martin and Noah… until he met Jay. Jay, who didn’t care how rich his father was, Jay who gave Stephen a black eye, Jay who is his first, truest, and only love, and Jay who he left behind when his father promised Seb money for his band and the chance to pursue his music career if he went to America.

Jay hadn’t known he was gay until Seb came crashing into his life. He only knew that he loved Seb and didn’t want to live without him. And then Seb left. No matter how many times Seb calls, Jay can’t bring himself to answer the phone, can’t bring himself to even feel. Instead, he focuses on his football where he can vent his frustration and pain. He’s playing the best he has been since… forever, and when he’s scouted by the West Ham United, it seems like his life is finally working out. Until he learns that the team is headed to New York, where Seb lives.

Jay can’t pass up the one and only chance he’ll have to see Seb again. He means it to be a goodbye, or a “thanks for the fun,” but once he has Seb in his arms, he doesn’t want to let him go. Seb gave up everything he had for what he thought he needed, but now that he’s with Jay, he has to wonder if the price he’s paying is worth it. Does he really need his father’s money more than he needs Jay’s love? Is Jay willing to take Seb back, even if it means saying goodbye to his chance at playing in a premier league?

This is the second half of the District Line series, following Kick Off, where we first meet Jay and Seb. While this book can be read on its own, you would miss much of the nuance and depth of the characters without reading book one. The first book dealt heavily with Jay’s growing realization of his sexuality and how he handles coming out to his brother and his friends. In this book, we’re more in Seb’s head, following along as, a year later, the two of them have to deal with the choices they made in the first book.

Seb has issues stemming from parental neglect, abandonment, and a deep-seated lack of self-worth. His mother left when he was ten, his father has only wanted him to be useful, and Stephen — his father’s assistant — befriended him, seduced him, and has been using him since Seb was 18. It was a rough, aggressive relationship that only ended when Stephen got a girl pregnant and Seb realized Stephen didn’t actually love him and he didn’t actually love Stephen. Not that it stopped Stephen from wanting to pick up where they’d left off. Seb began to act out, using endless one-night stands and alcohol to fill the void with music being his only healthy and sane addiction. And then he met Jay.

Seb loved Jay, even though he knew he wasn’t good enough for the other man. And now that’s he’s left Jay behind, he finds himself trying to make himself a better person. He’s given up the one night stands, even though he lies to Stephen and tells him he’s still out carousing, determined to be faithful to Jay. He’s paying attention at work and trying to go a good job — not for his father, not for Stephen, not even for himself. He still holds out hope of seeing Jay again, somehow.

When the two meet again, they pick up right where they left off, falling into bed with an urgency and need that shakes Seb. He hasn’t been so close, emotionally, to anyone other than Jay for a long time and it shocks him how much he doesn’t want to give it up. So, in typical Seb fashion, he decides then and there that he’s not going to. He doesn’t need his father’s money, money that never made him happy. What he needs is Jay. Jay makes him feel whole, and Jay makes him feel alive. If Jay will still have him.

While I think the first book was more about love and sacrifice, this book is one of redemption. Seb, seeking to be a better person and willing to sacrifice the comforts of his life — his father’s money and the safety of a secure future — for his own soul and happiness. Jay has to decide if he’ll be in the closet or come out, choosing his own identity over the one PR agents and mangers would make for him. Seb’s mother has a chance to face the son she walked away from and show him that every story has two sides to it. Even Stephen, vile though he is, has a moment of … not so much redemption as humanity. What he did and kept trying to do to Seb is unforgivable, but even he is a person beneath all of the monstrosity and, yes, he manipulated Seb at every turn, threatened him, hurt him, used him as insurance against his father, but that’s not to say that, in his own broken, dysfunctional way, he didn’t care at least a little. The only person who doesn’t have a moment to either be seen in a different light or a chance to reconsider their actions is Seb’s father who is always off-screen. His presence is lessened to the point of insubstantial in this book as Seb drifts away from him and in to adulthood.

There were a few scenes — where Jay was confronting his team, coach and managers about whether or not he was going to be in the closet about his relationship with Jay — that I wish we’d seen more of. Instead, we were with Seb and his emotional growing pains as he waited, concerned and resolute and willing to do anything Jay needed him to do. Seb is still far from being over the damage done to him as a young man, but his relationship with Jay is one of mutual love and respect and he’s going to fight for it, tooth and nail, so long as he thinks Jay wants him.

The ending of this book is perfect as both Jay and Seb stand at the cusp of something great without any guarantee that they will succeed. Both of them have to work to get what the want, both of them have to earn their rewards, but they have each other and that makes it worth every struggle. This is an adorable story with conflicted characters who grow in maturity throughout the two books. I love Seb and Jay, I hate Stephen, and I highly recommend this book. It’s the perfect ending to this series and I do urge you to get them both.

elizabeth sig