Seth Arnold had a rough start to his young life. His mother died when he was a small boy and then his father moved them to another state. His father doesn’t handle his mother’s death well, but turns himself around with the help of the Cruz family that lives upstairs from them. The Cruz’s have a big family and Seth becomes immediate friends with brothers Matty and Kelly. But it is Kelly who will always be his soulmate. When school offers the boys violin lessons, Seth finds that music also makes his soul feel complete, and offers him opportunities, but Seth has no interest in leaving Kelly behind.
Kelly has a lot of responsibilities at home. He has younger sisters that he helps care for, an older brother that Kelly doesn’t recognize anymore, and when tragedy strikes again and again, Kelly has to step up as well as heal. His one safe space is his “dreamy boy,” Seth. Kelly knows Seth is destined for greater things and his music will let him fly while bringing joy to all who hear him. But the boys refuse to let each other go, even when Seth can’t come back and Kelly can’t leave. Seth and Kelly are counting down the years until they can have their forever, but it may never truly be their time.
String Boys is filled with moments. Moments of friendship and the awakening of first love. Moments of brutal terror and violent thoughts of revenge. Moments of tenderness and selflessness. Moments of standing by family under the most impossible of circumstances. And moments of knowing who you belong with. I have read only a few books by Amy Lane and have had some uneven experiences in the past, but the blurb on this book captured my attention and it held up in the execution.
The book opens in the present, but then takes us back when Seth, Kelly, and Matty met in grade school and I always like that moment when the past and present overlap and then move forward. Matty and Kelly protected Seth and the boys were the closest of friends. Kelly always knew he was in love with Seth, even before he could name it, and these boys are meant to be together always. The boys were given violins in school and Seth could make his second-hand violin sing to beautiful heights. Life moves in unexpected ways and Matty becomes the enemy, fracturing their bond and fracturing Kelly’s family and nearly taking Kelly out for good in the process.
This book is tender at times and brutal at times and filled with rage and the deepest of sadness for this cast of characters. While nothing is easy for these guys, the book wasn’t as blindingly harsh as some others with the same themes. Some of the scenes were tempered and not as graphic while still being able to convey the desired emotion. The love Seth and Kelly have for each other and the tender care they give each other comes naturally, but they endure long separations. The guys need each to survive and while Lane makes you understand the need for the separations, the guys fray at the edges and unravel just a little bit more each time. The longing is palpable and the tension throughout the book is thick from one scene to the next. However, even when they can’t be together, they are constantly in contact with each other, and there is never a doubt where they belong.
The book is filled with so many things the guys must endure, from lack of money, to domestic violence, to homophobia, to rape, to family death, and to family obligations that never seem to take a break. The characters go through so much in their young lives, but never give up the dream of one day being together forever.
String Boys is an intense book that will make you want to keep reading to see Seth and Kelly get the happiness they deserve. While their ending didn’t go quite as far as I would have liked, it is hard won. This is the book you will want to read if you can make it through all of the injustices the men have to overcome to call each other their own.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.