Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
This is an absolutely spectacular YA queer romance. I honestly cannot recommend it enough.
Sebastian “Bash” Villeda is a senior track star whose mother died recently. She had been sick a lot and he has been adrift without her. Bash lives with his white stepdad, Del, who is a decent enough guy, just not really clued in on how to deal with a moody, bi-racial teen boy. He works nights, and Bash works days, so he and Bash don’t see each other often. Del’s not abusive or mean, just grieving too, and confused about his role in Bash’s life. Bash spends most of his awake time running or hanging with his loud-mouthed best friend, Matty Silva. Bash is pretty tired of Matty’s BS, causing fights and being homophobic. It’s all so tiresome, honestly. Bash wants to get away, but he’s not sure how. The only thing that makes sense is running as fast as he can, so he does it all the time.
Allessandro “Sandro” Micelli is the youngest son in his family of screaming Italian-Americans, and too quiet for his huge body. He’s a field team captain, throws an awesome shot put, and struggles with his ever-ranging body hair and lack of parental involvement. His overworked parents are currently propping up his elder brothers in careers and managing their young grandchildren. Sandro hasn’t had a private conversation with his mom in years, and his dad has little use for him. He’s gay, and closeted, because he knows they won’t accept him. Sandro can’t wait to get away from his loud, embarrassing family, for good. But, it’s hard because, at the moment, he’s injured. He broke his ankle falling off his house roof, where he’d been sleeping to avoid the chaos of his family. And, the foot didn’t heal right in his cast because he walked on it too much–miles and miles daily to get around. There’s no public transit, and his parents and brothers were too busy to bother driving him anywhere. His family isn’t abusive, per se, but they are definitely neglectful, and casually homophobic. Mostly, they are too busy with their own lives to take interest in Sandro or his needs.
Bash and Sandro know each other from school and track. They aren’t friends, but they connect one night at a big track/athlete drinking party. The cops come, and Sandro can’t really escape with his boot, but he knows a hidey hole–somewhere he’s been chilling in the summer heat to escape his home life. While hiding, he and Bash have a good conversation, a real one, that ends in Sandro unexpectedly revealing his sexuality in a way that shocks them both.
Sandro’s sure he’ll be the target of homo hate, but that doesn’t happen. In fact, Bash and he grow tighter, working together on school projects and experiencing mutual attraction. Because Bash is bisexual, though, he’d not really acknowledged his attractions much in the recent past. He dated his longtime friend and neighbor, Lucy, but she broke things off since he was so emotionally and physically unavailable. As a friend, though, she counsels him well, and Bash and Sandro’s down-low experimentations grow in intensity and frequency.
This is a coming of age, coming out story that takes place over senior year. Bash and Sandro have simple lives, and simple dreams. They have complicated interactions with their friends and families that felt both genuine and relatable. They grow to love one another and trust each other, as Bash takes the time to support Sandro, and Sandro helps Bash find his purpose. There are difficulties–reasonable ones–that expose each others’ vulnerabilities in honest and understandable ways. I ached for both Bash and Sandro. They are well-written and fully fleshed on the page, and I fell into their quandaries just the same as they had. Their teen-boy Jersey speech was an incredible dialect to get lost in. I loved how hard they rode one another, how fearlessly they trashed themselves, how hard they worked to get things right. I could have read ten books on Bash and Sandro and pined for an eleventh.
Expect swearing, fighting, alcohol, and casual drug use. Expect bad behavior and good sports. Expect to cry. Expect your heart to break and be reforged stronger and more capable. Expect a strong ending, and a hopeful outlook.
This sounds wonderful, Veronica. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.