Rating: 3.75 stars
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Phoenix Michaelson has been looking forward to AP Philosophy for years. His father was a philosophy professor and even though his father died when Phoenix was a young boy, the lessons he taught Phoenix have stayed with him. The death of Phoenix’s father left a huge hole in his life and the profound sense of loss has never gone away. One the first day of class, however, the teacher Phoenix was expecting is not there and Sebastian Wicked introduces himself as the new teacher.
Phoenix recognizes the sadness he sees in Sebastian and with their houses bordering each other, Phoenix is able to glimpse some of Sebastian’s private moments. The men connect on a philosophical level and then lines are blurred and then crossed. Phoenix has never even had a boyfriend before, but in Sebastian he finds friendship and intrigue and obsession that goes both ways. A forbidden affair ensnares them both, but it’s only a matter of time before they both go down in flames.
This book opens with Phoenix writing a letter and it was clear to me from the start who the intended recipient would be, but then all of the pieces have to come together. Phoenix was ten when his father died and his father was everything to him. They spent much of their time together and Phoenix’s father filled his mind and heart with all of the love and dedicated attention he needed. His mother cared for him, but it wasn’t the type of physical love that Phoenix needed and craved and the opening of the book displays the emotional loss Phoenix feels.
Phoenix carries a love of philosophy gifted from his father and Sebastian takes interest in Phoenix’s knowledge and then in him and it’s exactly the type of attention Phoenix craves. Sebastian is double Phoenix’s age and although Phoenix is 18, they know their relationship is not allowed. Sebastian is also unhappily married and he and his wife separate before he begins a physical relationship with Phoenix.
There is a lot to unpack here and only some of it gets fully addressed. Sebastian has a past that has shaped his life and Phoenix recognizes the sadness that mirrors his own at times. Phoenix is forever looking for a father figure and the story steps in and out of negotiating that. Both Phoenix and Sebastian are exactly where they want to be, but from the start, you have to acknowledge the power imbalance that is inherently there.
The voices of Sebastian and Phoenix did sound too similar to me at times. They both have emotional turmoil to wade through, they both have a love for philosophy, and their introspective nature did overlap. Both men are also overly dramatic and that added to them sounding similar; it also fit the age of Phoenix’s character better than did for Sebastian. Phoenix is also able to see many private moments featuring both Sebastian and his wife because they always leave every shade open in every room in their house and that became a little too convenient as a plot device.
Sebastian becomes possessive of Phoenix and lingering notes of obsession are there on both sides. The full-on emotion and having this entire story come together was just a bit out of reach for me and I was still looking for that something extra.
The Boy Who Loved Wicked would work if you are looking for a book featuring a teacher/student relationship with a more emotional storyline to carry it through to the end.
I’ll confess that Wicked in the book’s title had me thinking there would be a character who loved the musical Wicked! Nope. On reading your review, Michelle, I wondered if there was indeed an AP Philosophy exam as exams do come and go. Answer: not to date, but there is interest. Thanks for the review!