Rating: 2.75 stars
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Josh is a boy who lives in a house with his mother, his stepfather, and his father — who sits primly on the mantle in his golden urn. Josh endures school, where he is bullied and friendless until Sharon, a girl he shares a bus with, invites him to visit her drama school where Josh meets Michael. Michael is a year older, taking singing, dancing, and acting, and he and Sharon soon become Josh’s friends.
Even so, life is hard for Josh. While he loves his stepfather, who is more of an older brother to him, his mother has no time for him. When the house is broken into and the golden urn with his father’s remains is stolen, his mother is more upset that there’s nothing in the room to match her expensive drapes than she is that her late husband’s remains have been stolen. Josh does find love with Michael, and even gains the confidence to come out. But Josh’s mother is not happy to learn Josh is gay, and finding a way to move forward with her is not going to be easy.
While reading this book, I had often felt that Josh was several years younger than the purported 17. Something in the simplistic world view, the stilted and highly formal delivery of lines, and the overall shallowness of the character just didn’t feel like an older adolescent. This, combined with the lack of character personalities across the board, and the telling rather than showing of just about everything, made this book a tedious read for me.
The book states that Josh is bullied at school, but more time is spent with Michael talking about an event he endured at boarding school. I don’t even know in what way Josh is bullied, by whom, or even why. Is it because of the way he talks or dresses, his sexuality, because he’s unpleasant or makes scenes at school? No idea. It’s never discussed or dealt with, nor does it feel impactful. It’s just something that’s stated without development.
Josh’s mother is a caricature of a shallow, materialistic person who isn’t very nice or very interested in her son. She’s a bigot, a racist, and it’s implied heavily that she’s a terrible person. She even slaps Josh for being gay — and the police threaten to charge her with assault. But after that she goes to therapy and has an epiphany and changes her ways. This is, again, something stated, not something observed or shared with readers.
In the same way, we’re just told Michael and Josh are now boyfriends, though there’s a hint of more complexity between them as they decide to be together. Then there’s the fact that Michael had a life before Josh, which is something that Josh almost has both a feeling and an opinion about. Much as when Josh and Michael’s parents meet, there are statements, observations, and stilted conversation, but I felt no emotions or depth, as the characters just don’t feel developed. I can’t really state — other than Josh’s mother, painted with a heavy handed ‘villain’ brush — anything about any person in this book as a character. They all seem to talk the same, with the same formal delivery; they all share the same opinions, feeling more like mouthpieces than people. Josh has no character arc, no growth (and no personality.) The story feels like something that happens around him and he, like a dutiful puppet, plays his role, but seems to have no opinion on his own.
All in all, I don’t recommend this book. It was blandly adequate and, in my opinion, is a solid pass.