Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Benji Wilder’s pro-football playing dad died while he was just an infant. His grief-stricken, centerfold mom fell into drinking and prescription drug abuse, and couldn’t properly care for him. A cross-country move parked Benji next door to the Sterling family, who basically adopted him. His best friend, Kellan Sterling, ended up becoming his college roommate, and Kellan’s mom and younger brother, Milo, were always there for him when his own mom couldn’t be. Kellan’s father, however, openly opined that Benji and his mom were trash, despite their wealth. Kellan made Benji promise to never date Milo, once Benji came out as bisexual. Benji agreed, not thinking much of it at the time, as he was barely 15 and Milo was 12.

The night before junior year spring break, Kellan and Benji went to a party. Kellan wasn’t acting right, and he seemed to have a seizure. Despite Benji calling for immediate help, Kellan died, and the fallout severed Benji’s connections with the Sterlings. While Benji didn’t supply any drugs, he thought maybe Kellan was slipped something, or scored some, at the party Benji pushed him to attend. The survivor’s guilt has eaten Benji alive for a year. He’s been pursuing more and more reckless behavior, so much so that the college has asked him to take a leave of absence and not return until he’s shown definite growth with intense therapy. So, Benji’s going home–and nothing’s the same.

Milo lost both his brother and Benji, his lifelong crush, the day Kellan died. Milo reached out to Benji so many times, with no response. Milo’s parents have separated, and Milo is staying in the house with his dad, because he fears his dad will die if left alone. The grief in this family is so toxic, it’s not an unfair assumption. Milo only has a few months left in high school; he’s hoping to get accepted to a prestigious dance conservatory, but his dad’s balking at this career choice. He is denying tuition money unless Milo attends his alma mater, which is where he thinks Kellan should have gone instead of following Benji’s path.

Milo and Benji connect unexpectedly at a cafe near Milo’s dance school where Benji takes a job. It’s awkward, and Milo calls Benji out for abandoning him. Benji’s guilt can’t get much more suffocating. He’s barely managing, trying to keep his mom from drinking herself to death and not connecting with a new grief counselor. But, that wake up call really does kick Benji in the pants, especially when he recognizes that Milo’s father is pushing him into misery, just like he had with Kellan. Benji couldn’t save Kellan, but he won’t leave Milo–sweet, innocent, beautiful Milo–to get pushed around by his bully of a father. And, well, Milo’s longed to have Benji in his corner…forever.

This is a twist on the best-friend’s brother trope, as the BFF is no longer living. And, there’s a lot of animosity between Benji, Milo’s father, and Milo for different reasons. I was honestly really surprised at how much I dug this story. It was deep, dark, and well developed. Milo is an angel, honestly, and I could see how Benji couldn’t help falling so hard for him. He is so pure in his desires, essentially dancing and Benji, and he sees the best in everyone. David is a terrible father to him, and a bad husband, to boot.

Benji tries so hard to be good, but he’s human and makes mistakes, but none that actually warrant the kind of emotional suffering he’s endured. I loved how Milo loved him through his trauma, and how they help each other heal. It’s not easy, it’s not pretty, but it felt human, raw, and relatable.

This is a New Adult romance and it has first times, cuddling, steam, and struggle. I really loved the book in the end, but it kind of tore me up in the reading. You are not going to find light or fluffy here, but expect a richly deserved, cathartic, happy ending.