Nathan Bartlett is no stranger to loss. His parents died when he was an infant and he was raised by his grandmother. His older brother is a father figure to him and more loss leaves Nathan searching for answers. It’s Nathan’s first year of college and he has to decide who he wants to be. He was not out in high school and now Nathan has a lot of choices and a lot of new things to experience.
Nathan has not had a relationship yet and he falls for a straight guy who also reminds him of his brother. But then there is Alden. Nathan isn’t sure if Alden is flirting with him and isn’t sure how he feels about Alden, but when Alden makes a move, Nathan is ready for his first experience. But college life, drugs on campus, an ill-planned hiking adventure in the snow, and devastating family news will give Nathan more than he was ever ready for during his first year of college.
On Chocorua starts the Trailblazer trilogy and the journey of Nathan as he begins college. I would not classify this book as a romance. While Nathan does have a relationship of sorts in this book, it does not carry with it the weight typical in a romance novel.
In the beginning of the book, we get the key detail of the devastation that will forever change Nathan’s life, but then we go backwards in time. The story then moves from his first year in college to what Nathan considers key points of his life growing up. Nathan doesn’t remember his parents, as they died when he was one year old. He was raised by his grandmother and his older brother was everything to him. He has a sister, but they never got along well, and his brother is one of only a few people that know that Nathan is gay.
This is the kind of story I generally like, one that takes us through the character’s life at key points. But I can’t say that I enjoyed this one all that much. There is a lot that happens to Nathan, from being out at college, to living with a roommate, to crushing on the straight guy, to his first sexual experience and first sort of relationship that he finds confusing, to dealing with a drug situation on campus, to a misguided and treacherous hiking trip, and to a final devastating blow. But it all came off as flat to me as lacked the emotional punch that this story needed.
Nathan is also on an emotional journey as he tries to sort out addictive behavior, whether it’s addiction to drugs or addiction to a person, and by the end of the book, his experiences have plotted out the course for the next step in his life. Nathan has much further to go as he moves on in college and life, as well moving on as he hikes trails that increase in difficulty. It’s all made out to be a part of a plan, the part that Nathan has a say in, as well as the part of life that happens to him. The secondary characters here make up a huge part of Nathan’s journey, but we never get to really know any of them and since this book is all through Nathan’s eyes, all these characters read as similar and any nuances that should have been special to each of them instead blended together.
On Chocorua is a coming of age story that introduces us to Nathan and the key moments in his life that will forever impact his future. Nathan is what carries this book and you have to really enjoy how he is written and what his story is to enjoy his book, and most likely his journey, as a whole.