This review is the last of our Gay Writes celebration. Don’t forget to comment on the original post for a chance to win one of those prizes as well as commenting on this post for a chance to win a copy of this book (bundled with a novella).
I can’t stop raving about this book. I really can’t. It’s a perfect book. A sublime book. Every time I thought I had an issue with it, you fixed it and in such a way that made me realize it couldn’t have been any other way. I can’t get these characters out of my head, but, more tellingly, I don’t want to. I just want to turn right around and start the book over again. (This, in fact, is precisely what I did.)
As the book starts:
Ryan has a thing about one-night stands. They"re easy, anonymous, and they do the job. The wide-eyed romantics can keep their relationship bullshit, their dates and one-month anniversaries, and their shared fucking potted plants. Ryan wants to get laid, not shoot himself in the head out of sheer, mind-numbing boredom.
He goes out with his friend one night, finds a guy to hook up with, but then sees Jayden. Jayden is huge — tall and built — and refuses to follow any of Ryan’s hook-up scripts. He refuses to get picked up properly, he tops, and he refuses to leave after they’re done:
“So…” says Ryan, staring up at the ceiling. Jayden"s warm and spent beside him, taking deep, satisfied breaths. And Ryan does what he always does: makes the guy think he wants to leave, when really Ryan"s the one shoving him out of the door. It doesn"t matter that it"s Jayden. It doesn"t. “I suppose you wanna head out now.”
“Nope. I"m staying here tonight.”
“What?” Ryan sits up, exposed in his nudity, as if his nudity is all of a sudden an issue. “Jayden, no. I have this rule-‘”
“No sleepovers? Yeah, I figured. Thing is,” Jayden drawls, reaching up to trace a shiver down Ryan"s spine, “I"ve decided I"m not paying any attention. Where"s your bedroom?” He hops to his feet and heads over to investigate the doors leading off the room.
Ryan stares after him, somewhat dazed. “You can"t just invite yourself to stay in a stranger"s house.”
“Dude, I had my tongue in your ass. You"re way past being a stranger.” He opens a door, pokes his head through. “Oops,” he says, pulling the door shut again, “wrong room. There"s too much pink, and you"re not that gay. This is a girl"s room. Your roommate"s a girl?”
“Is she gay?”
“Uh. No. She"s straight. Why?”
“Just wondering,” Jayden says breezily, heading to the next door. “You know, prying into your personal life. Oh, this is the one. Big bed. Good.”
“Jayden, I"m serious here. This isn"t what I do.”
“I know. You"re all about random one-offs.” He disappears into Ryan"s bedroom, and with a mild prickle of fear, as if maybe he"s slowly suffocating, Ryan gets up and follows him. “I get it, dude,” Jayden adds. “No need to keep going on about it.”
And when it comes to Jayden, Ryan doesn’t follow his own script either. They have a second round, Jayden becomes friends with Ryan’s friends, and they have a third round. All this is freaking Ryan out, so he refuses to consider a relationship at all. Jayden finally accepts this, refuses to continue to let Ryan beat him up emotionally, so starts going out with someone else. Which makes Ryan realize what he’s thrown away and he has to work to get Jayden back, a prospect which terrifies him.
The book also breaks most of *my* rules about what I usually like: I don’t like present tense narration. We only see things from Ryan’s third-person perspective and I usually like to see both sides. The final parts of the story are made up of a Misunderstanding, which usually bug the crap outta me. But you make it all work so perfectly and so brilliantly.
For example, as soon as I got to the point of thinking, “okay, Ryan’s cute, but his I-am-an-Island act is a bit much–what’s his deal?” you start hinting at his problem. Then the fact that he HAS a problem becomes part of the story, until he eventually tells Jayden what it is. Because, really, a guy trying to avoid his own emotional issues would, well, avoid them, even in his head, so it WORKS that he avoids them until he’s forced to admit to them. Ditto the Big Misunderstanding at the end of the book. If a guy who has NEVER had a relationship before, has NEVER learned to communicate, sees something he misunderstands, he wouldn’t know how to deal with it. And THAT becomes an issue as the characters work it out. All the things that would be flaws in the hands of a less-skilled author become part of the solution in this book. And that’s just brilliant.
And there is lovely lovely angst all over the place. That’s the part I really loved because I likes me some angst and this is an angsty book. Ryan is just full of it and in beautifully delicious ways. I actually had the thought (after being burned by Zero at the Bone) that the characters’ names, Ryan’s “rules” about one night stands, and Jayden’s inability to take no for an answer were close enough to the first season of Queer As Folk to potentially be fanfic. But on further consideration, the characters are distinct enough from QaF’s characters to be their own characters with their own stories and back-stories and issues. And all that remains is the lovely lovely angst hinted at in QaF’s Brian’s character, but with full explanation and life and solution with Ryan’s story.
A friend of mine who read it at my recommendation sent me a response that included this lovely, evocative analysis: “Overall, it wasn’t a comfortable book. It was the cad reformed to a new level. Instead of a genuinely decent person beneath the facade of a cad, Ryan really was an ass. And he grew by being in love. And on that level, it was a successful book. A great book. But it still wasn’t easy to read.” And I think that’s why I liked this book so much. It’s not an easy book. The best ones aren’t easy. They make their characters and their readers work for it.
I googled like hell to finally find your website. Please write some more, write soon, and let me know when it comes out. I can’t wait to read more from you.
L.M Turner herself has donated two DIGITAL copies (no geo-restrictions) of Resistance which will be bundled with a digital copy of her novella, The Subtle Build of Perfection. Comment by 11am EST Saturday to win! (One win per person for the week of our Gay Writes giveaways.)