As a junior in high school, misfit David is the victim of bullying for being gay. Connor, a nineteen year-old senior, doesn’t hesitate to step in to protect him. Connor has a reputation for being a psychopathic monster with crazy eyes and a nasty scar running from his jaw down his throat. Even David believes the rumors, still intimidated by Connor even after being rescued by him. But soon Connor becomes David’s daily protector, driving him to and from school and looking out for him between classes. As they spend time together, David learns the truth behind the cruel stories. Eventually they learn the other is gay and soon become boyfriends.
Neither boy lives an easy life. David’s mom left the family for another man and his father is too focused on David’s future to notice his loneliness, unhappiness, and fear of Chuck the bully. Connor’s father is addicted to prescription pills so he can block out the anguish of driving drunk and causing the car accident that scarred Connor. After the accident, Connor missed so much school he had to repeat the year and now everyone mocks him because of his appearance.
Connor takes David away for his birthday and they begin to make plans for the future. Connor needs a fresh start somewhere new, and David just wants to escape Kansas and his high-pressure dad whose sole focus is getting him into a top-tier college. But when they return from their trip with plans in place, something goes terribly, terribly wrong and their future is thrown into chaos. Will they recover?
Kamikaze Boys – has there ever been a more apt title? These boys are on a figurative suicide mission from the start, with one poor decision after another. I love the young adult sub-genre of MM romance, but I swear, it’s going to make me die young(er). When I read this novel, I had an impending sense of doom and anxiety from the beginning. Maybe it’s because YA books so often have a BIG BAD THING happen that tears the teenage couple apart. Sometimes, it’s because they’re minors, so their parents have control over then. Other times, it’s the circumstances of growing up with different goals for after high school graduation. In Kamikaze Boys, the ugly occurrences are big and bad, cover the last forty percent of the book, and create a great deal of tension. Complicating the situation is a truly irrational decision made by David’s father. It’s so improbable, it took a half star off my rating .
Each MC is given enough depth for the reader to understand the motivation behind his actions, regardless of how ill-advised they are. The book is rich in secondary characters, too. There are nearly two dozen who impact the story. Connor’s little brother, Tommy, and David’s best friend, Gordon, are two of my favorites, but we also meet parents, classmates, doctors, co-workers, criminals, and little old ladies. (But not criminal old ladies.) Connor and David do get their happy ending, but as with most YA, because of the ages of the MCs, it’s probably more aptly labeled Happy For Now. We’d like to believe they’ll stay together, of course, but they’re so young. (I should remind myself that I started dating my husband of twenty-eight years when I was only seventeen.)
I have mixed feelings about Kamikaze Boys. I enjoyed the plot and the well-developed characters, but there are numerous improbabilities that were off-putting. From a lack of consequences for criminal behavior, to a restaurant manager leaving the door unlocked every night, to Connor never getting caught for frequently climbing through the window and sleeping with David — these plot holes and others are distracting. As is the insta-love, but perhaps it’s indicative of youth.
Overall, I did enjoy the book and was able to put some of the niggles aside. I recommend Kamikaze Boys to readers who enjoy young adult drama and can overlook the incongruities. This is not the book, however, to cut your teeth on if you’re a first time YA reader.