Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Greg Boudreaux
Length: 4 hours, 8 minutes
Charlie Yates and Gavin Bloomburg met the summer before high school when Gavin moved to Norwalk, Connecticut. Charlie was his neighbor and closest confidante. It seemed there would be something more between them, but everything fell apart after the young men shared some kisses — and later that day, Charlie caught Gavin kissing a popular girl at a party, tearing a hole in Charlie’s heart and soon ending their friendship. Their lives diverged greatly during high school, with Gavin dating the popular girl, while Charlie devoted his time to helping his family care for his younger sister, Ava, who has leukemia.
While both Charlie and Gavin have now ended up at colleges near San Francisco, Charlie has never forgotten the pain of Gavin’s betrayal, and Gavin has finally embraced his sexuality. Now, winter break has begun, but Charlie can’t make good on his promise to Ava to return home in time for Christmas. Bad weather across the country has flights grounded for days. Terrified by an irrational fear that missing Christmas will cause Ava’s health to take a downturn, Charlie will accept any transport he can find back to Norwalk, even sharing the last available rental car in the area–which has just been hired by Gavin.
Gavin won’t be the cause of letting little Ava down, so he lets Charlie share the car. And, as they spend hour after hour driving, both Charlie and Gavin find a way to confess their struggles and problems with each other. Their mission to return home takes some unexpected turns, but nothing is more unexpected for Charlie than learning that Gavin had loved him all those years ago–and still might, if they can just be honest with each other.
This audiobook is delicious. I love me some Greg Boudreaux, whose voice acting absolutely transported me through Charlie and Gavin’s angsty plight. Having read the book when it was published years ago, I was nervous the story would sound dated listening to it now in audio. However, that wasn’t the case at all. Charlie’s anxiety over missing Christmas is so raw, and his lingering hurt and anger with Gavin only take a slightly smaller space in his brain. Gavin’s struggles with his sexuality and his family are palpable. He’s so dejected, feeling like he’s lying to everyone, but his joy at finally being able to share his truth with Charlie goes a long way to healing their friendship–and more. The pacing is awesome, and that ticking clock to Christmas really stoked my excitement.
I love enemies-to-lovers and reconnection romances, so this one was a big hit for me. While the protagonists are both eighteen, they each have a maturity that adds gravitas beyond the usual YA/New Adult romance. Expect to enjoy a sexy reunion, as well as many happy moments.