Milo Lionetti feels like he has made a mess of his life and he is determined to do better. That means fixing his past mistakes, including moving on from his toxic friends and figuring out a new direction for his life. But right now, Milo needs to find four rare Odyssey game collector cards, after losing his brother’s set in an ill-advised (and drunken) bet. Milo knows he is out of his depth, and the only person he can think to call on is Jasper Quigley. Jasper, his former best friend, who now hates him after Milo’s friends bullied Jasper in high school and Milo just stood by silently.
Jasper wants absolutely nothing to do with Milo. Jasper was hurt when Milo dumped him for his seemingly cooler friends, even more so when Milo never intervened when those friends bullied Jasper. When Milo shows up at the shop where Jasper works looking for help, Jasper’s first instinct is to send him away. But Jasper also needs some help and Milo may be just the right guy for the job. Jasper and his friends do Odyssey cosplay at the local hospital and they just lost their Prince. Jasper agrees to help Milo if he will fill in with the group at the hospital.
Milo is definitely anxious about the whole thing, embarrassed about the costume, awkward about fitting in, and nervous knowing how tense things are with Jasper. Milo feels deep remorse for the way he treated Jasper back in high school and he is sincere in his apology. Jasper isn’t ready to let the past go after so much pain, but he is willing to give Milo a chance to prove he has changed. The two start spending time together, both doing cosplay at the hospital, as well as searching for the rare cards Milo needs to find. The guys get to know each other once again, this time as adults. It is clear to Jasper that Milo has sincere remorse for his past. He is also clearly struggling with his own life, not only in coming out, but also in moving forward away from the mistakes of his past.
Soon Milo and Jasper are falling hard for one another and there seems to be a chance for something real to develop between them. But Milo also needs to get his life together, and that includes facing up to his mistakes with losing the cards, coming out to his family, and finding a way to be a better man than he has been in the past. However, with Jasper’s support, Milo is well on his way to sorting out his life, as well as having the man he loves by his side.
Out of Character is the second book in Annabeth Albert’s True Colors series. I really loved the first book, Conventionally Yours, so I was eagerly anticipated this second installment. While Jasper does appear in the first book, and some of the side characters cross over books, this story stands alone quite well and you could easily jump in here. The real connecting plot thread is the Odyssey game the characters play, but this story has a lot less focus on the gaming itself than the first book. We see a few matches, but mostly it is about the cosplay, as well as the search for the rare cards that Milo lost.
I find that stories of reformed bullies (or bullying bystanders in this case) can sometimes be dicey, as it can be hard to find respect or appreciation for a character who has behaved so poorly in the past. But I think Albert does a nice job here, not only showing us where Milo is coming from in terms of his past, but also showing his genuine remorse and attempts to be a better person. His journey spans the book and deals with many issues, including owning up to his mistakes with both Jasper and his family, dumping his awful friends, and finding a new path forward in his life. I could understand why Jasper is able to forgive him and so I was as well. That said, I know this can be a difficult theme for many readers, so be aware that this is a key part of the story.
I found I really liked Milo and Jasper together and enjoyed watching them find that friendship again that they had lost years before. Jasper is a caretaker and he can’t help but want to be there for Milo, to introduce him to his friends and to help him find the cards. At the same time, Milo is determined to finally get his act together, to move forward and take accountability for things. So there is some tension there as Jasper wants to step in and save the day, while Milo needs to take his own action. I was quite pleased with how things play out, as I expected the conflict would go one specific direction, so I enjoyed seeing it come together in a way I didn’t anticipate. I found there was good balance to their relationship between Milo moving forward and really evaluating himself and his life, but with Jasper there to really help him through things and to be a soft place to land as Milo works through everything.
As with the first book, I enjoyed the gaming aspect of the storyline and continue to be amazed at this rich card game Albert has created. I would swear it was real with all the detail and depth that she has brought to it and the Odyssey elements really round out the story nicely, as well as help develop a great group of side characters who play together. So I found this one really entertaining and a lot of fun. This series is definitely one to check out.