xoxo coverRating: 3 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Lark Levitt is in the college dance program he’s always dreamed about, but the other students at the private university don’t exactly let him fit in. Most of the students are from wealthy families and Lark takes the bus every day to school from the trailer park where he lives and he barely makes ends meet with his scholarship. Lark has overcome a lot, as he beat cancer at a young age, and he’s shocked to see Henry on campus—the same Henry who was a cancer patient at the same time he was.

Henry Albrecht has been in remission from cancer for years, but it drastically impacted his life. His parents don’t want anyone to know he ever had medical issues and his father has his reasons, but the secrecy is strangling Henry. Henry also has other secrets and, as captain of the football team with a controlling father who is best friends with the coach, Henry can’t come out. He can barely acknowledge to himself who he is and what he wants.

Although Henry and Lark haven’t seen each other in years, their childhood bond remains strong. And, seeing each other again only sets ablaze the early sparks they felt years ago. But they run in different circles and Henry can’t be exposed, so they decide to keep their distance. It’s easier said than done.

I was intrigued by the sound of this one and the early set up as Lark and Henry meet in the hospital was cute. Although I do like the story this book is telling in general, this book never really caught on for me after that.

There are many familiar tropes and common threads in this book with Henry and Lark being opposites, friends to lovers, coming out, having controlling parents, and more. Much of the story involves the college the guys go to and the college was not an enjoyable setting. At times, the college felt like high school or even middle school with the students having a dress code and bullying Lark over his jacket and being a “scholarship kid,” and parents’ weekend being treated like a middle school parent/teacher conference. Besides making the setting seem overly young, I didn’t enjoy the location or any of the side characters.

Henry has to hide everything about his life from his friends. His father forbids him to talk about his illness and he can’t even come to terms in his own mind with who he is. Lark has taken his share of bullying over the years and hoped college would be different, but he knows he doesn’t fit in outside of his dance class.

The guys start a tentative relationship that continues to grow, even though their circumstances have one or the other at any given time saying they should stay away from each other. So there is the push and pull of wanting a relationship and Henry being scared of being found out. The story then wraps up so easily, as almost all of Henry’s fears are relieved with little work. The dialogue often felt forced and Henry and Lark had no natural ease together for me. While this book was not the best match for me, if you know you like this author’s work, this might work better for you.