Bigger Love is the second book in the Big Love series, but can easily be enjoyed on its own. It features a young adult romance, while the first one, Big Love, was adult. I adored both books and highly recommend them. I’m honestly afraid to say too much about Bigger Love because the things I loved about it might be spoiler-ish.
Truman Reid is an out-and-proud high school senior in tiny Summitville, Ohio, just across the river from West Virginia. He’s grown up a lot since his freshman year when his frustration over bullying and a badly broken trust nearly ended his life. With the unflinching love of his mom, Patsy, Truman has grown into a sassy, gender-bending queer, and he stands up for himself now in ways he wouldn’t have before.
The books starts with Truman’s first day of senior year. Patsy, unexpectedly, has a new man-friend and Truman gives her a little ribbing over it. He’s not used to her sharing her time with anyone but him. Truman’s a little unsettled, but this fades when he sees a new student that he finds tremendously attractive, Mike Stewart. As the year goes on, Mike becomes part of the tech crew for the senior musical Truman ends up assistant directing. They are performing “Harvey,” which is a classic about a man who sees and invisible rabbit, and whom the entire cast think is nuts. Turns out that Patsy’s boyfriend is Mike’s father—and sometimes Mike is nice enough to drive Truman home from rehearsals.
It’s not just niceness, though. Mike is attracted to Truman—and a bit inspired by his fearlessness. Not enough to come out, despite already having had a secret boyfriend he left behind when moving to Ohio. Mike’s dad’s not a fan of the gays, though he likes Patsy enough to overlook Truman’s outre personality. Truman thinks they might actually become friends, but Mike—despite being a big brute of a man-child—fears what people might think.
Just as production for the show is gearing up, there’s a problem with one of the leads—and the best replacement is Truman, who knows all the lines and the stage directions inside out. Trouble is, Truman will have to “inhabit” a character that ends up being extremely controversial. So much so that the bigots come out to hate.
We get both Mike’s and Truman’s points-of-view here, so we can see how deeply troubled each of these guys is at different points in the story. Truman dominates the narrative, but Mike’s vignettes help round out the experience. I wanted to dislike Mike, at first, but only because he’s selfish and inadvertently hurts Truman. He does make decisions, however, that support Truman in ways Truman can’t see and doesn’t know about. When the controversy over the play begins to bubble over, we get to see the vulnerability, and fearlessness, of both Mike and Truman. I was overjoyed, honestly, watching this drama play out. There are some bittersweet moments, especially when Truman feels like a cast off, but the pace didn’t let me wallow. Truman is such an exuberant character, it’s tough seeing him shut down in any way.
The climax is magical, with love and support coming from unexpected parties. Mike’s experiences and decisions are pivotal here, and his support gives Truman the boost he needs at what seems to be his darkest moment. Their romance has fits and starts, and problems that stem from Mike’s unwillingness to come out. When he gets past his issues, Mike becomes a partner worthy of Truman, and they both find more happiness than they anticipated. Despite being YA, there’s a bit of sexytimes; both Truman and Mike are 18 and have healthy sexual appetites. Expect a slow burn, though.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.