Oskar is a 22-year-old medical student in Oslo, Norway. He’s an introvert with crippling social anxiety and he can’t manage crowds or noisy people. Oskar does his best to ensure no one notices him, yet he’s always quietly helping people. He lives in student dorms below a cluster of other noisy and partying students—the “plastic people,” as one of his suite-mates calls them, because they are so shiny and perfect. There’s a pre-Christmas rager party happening upstairs, which upsets Naomi, a friend of Oskar’s who also suffers anxiety and OCD. The banging noise drives Naomi to damage her skin scrubbing their community kitchen with bleach. In the time it takes Oskar to clean up Naomi and the bleachy situation, a drunken stranger has passed out in Oskar’s bed.
Oskar’s father is a VP at a mattress company, so Oskar’s king-sized plush bed with the down comforter and deluxe pillows is like an oasis in the desert. Oskar can’t seem to rouse his uninvited guest and spends a very uncomfortable night on the edge of his own mattress. In the light of day, he meets Erik, whose bedroom is directly upstairs from Oskar’s. Oskar believes this event to have been a drunken mistake, but in vino veritas, Erik has long been enamored of Oskar and has kept (maybe a bit of creepy) tabs on his “Disney prince.”
At 25, Erik thinks he should have his life figured out, but he’s working through his attraction for Oskar. The tall, slender, compassionate, intelligent man with the golden curls and fair skin has more than captivated him for nearly a year. Erik has seen Oskar taking off for long runs at all times of day and night, and wants to somehow get to know Oskar, but can’t work up the nerve. Passing out in his crush’s bed is unexpectedly fortuitous, because it brings them together—however awkwardly. Though unsure of coming out, Erik’s confessed his deep attraction to Oskar to his loving family and he dreams of bringing Oskar home to meet them. These dreams may be happening in Oskar’s bed, because Erik continues to return for more cuddles in the wonder bed. As school winds down for a brief Christmas holiday, Erik learns that Oskar plans to stay alone in the dorms for the break. Erik can’t believe his chances, and convinces Oskar to join his family’s celebration.
I loved both of these guys and their quirky ways. Erik’s confident façade shelters a heart of mush—sure he’ll be ridiculed and terrorized if he does come out. Oskar has never been kissed, and barely can function in the real world, but he’s captivated by handsome Erik and unexpectedly charmed by Erik’s loud, boisterous, and loving family. They take Oskar right into their bosom—in the literal and figurative sense—and I enjoyed watching Oskar’s anxiety abating under the adoration of Erik’s whole family. I loved the tender conversations in the relative quiet of Erik’s childhood bedroom and experiencing their timid explorations into physical love. The story isn’t always linear, but I liked the parts where Oskar gets unsettled and Erik’s POV explains his backstory to fill in the gaps. I also truly enjoyed the descriptions of everyday Norwegian life and the cultural celebrations around Christmas.
Getting back to Oslo and the dorms puts both Erik and Oskar under stress, but they make it through with some help from Erik’s friends. I really liked how Oskar adapted to this intense camaraderie, as it showed a lot of growth. Meanwhile, the time spent with the Nost Hansen’s helped Oskar determine his path in medicine. Their story has a totally happy ending with a future-years epilogue imparting the sweetest of connections.