Rating: 4 stars
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Stefan Holt never had a stable home life. He never knew his father, and his mother has been a drug addict all his life. Home was never a safe place for him and now that Stefan is nineteen, couch surfing is his best option. But being homeless certainly isn’t easy. He winds up on the couch of his old friend, Megan, and they decide to put their band back together to try and leave their small Appalachian town behind. While neither Stefan nor Megan are lyricists, the hot librarian, Han Westfall, is.
Han should be thinking about grad school, as his adoptive parents are expecting, but Han is okay working in the library and recommending poetry to the cute guy with the guitar that spends his afternoons in the library. The guys click and their chemistry, both musical and personal, has them spending all their free time together. Their band, Virginie, becomes a symbol for them and their music and appearances start to gain local recognition. But not all recognition is good recognition and when a band member becomes unhappy, and Stefan’s mother won’t leave him alone, and Han’s mother isn’t accepting, it all threatens to unravel the small progress the group has made to get on with their lives. But this band is looking to rise up.
This was the first book I have read by Katey Hawthorne and the first pages drew me in to Stefan and Han’s story. Their lives have been completely opposite and Stefan is currently homeless. Han was adopted and raised by a preacher father and mother he felt only wanted to show off that she adopted an Asian baby. But Han’s life has been fairly stable, while Stefan’s has been anything but stable.
The book takes a look at where Stefan came from and where he wants to go. He wants out of the small town he grew up in, which has a known opioid problem. Stefan has many underlying issues, but being homeless doesn’t exactly lend itself to getting help. Han skipped grades and graduated college at a younger age and although he’s supposed to go to graduate school, writing lyrics and playing in a band with Stefan sounds like the best plan for right now. The guys get off to a rocky start as Han is shy and inexperienced and can’t possibly understand what Stefan sees in him, but once they get going, they are a great fit for each other.
The book also addresses the drug issue in town and how Stefan has been viewed all of his life because of his mother’s addiction. This area is a topic that the author seemed passionate about as there are resources given at the end of the book. However, the opioid issue was a little too on the surface for me here and since Stefan’s mother wasn’t as well developed, she came across as a caricature for me, as did a spiteful band member. I liked the story that was being told here, but there were many areas being addressed and it wasn’t as tightly woven together as I would have liked.
The book only takes them to the beginning of their future as the band and the guys are rising up, in keeping with the theme of the book. Overall, I did enjoy getting to know Stefan and Han and the great connection they had between them.
“We were good today. Really good.”
“What, like in the studio, or in bed?”
“Yes. Yes, we were.”