Release Date: February 17, 2014
Published by Carina Press
Review Copy from NetGalley
I love coming of age stories, and this is no exception. Jaime’s a quiet, shy guy whose potentially fatal heart disease caused him to miss his chance at many “normal” dating and other teen experiences. As a gay man those chances would already be limited in small town Perch Creek, but being too busy fighting for his life means he has a lot to catch up on. I enjoyed getting to know him and seeing the world through his inexperienced, unassuming eyes.
Alessandro’s returning home to Perch Creek to help his foster mother after the sudden death of her husband. His fierce loyalty to his family is one of his most endearing qualities, and I appreciated how intensely devoted he is to doing the right thing. Alè’s past isn’t pretty – he’s a delinquent with a history of crime and drug abuse. His broken past is something he’s determined to overcome, making a better future for himself. When he finds a job waiting tables, he considers himself lucky to have a way to support and help out.
When Jaime and Alessandro meet, it’s pretty innocent. Their difference in experience is obvious in the way they view their friendship, but it isn’t long before they find common ground. Things between them start out sweetly, but I have to admit I was unsure of the “tutoring” relationship they agree upon as an excuse to be involved. I suppose it’s a safe way for them to admit and indulge their attraction, but I had the sense it would eventually be treacherous for Jaime. He’s so much more vulnerable than Alè, and he seems to be less secure. I wasn’t sure he’s capable of maintaining the distance necessary for that type of arrangement.
A.M. Arthur achieves a flawlessly growing intimacy between these guys that had me cheering for them. What starts off as purely physical slowly evolves into companionship and sincere connection. Being with Alè helps Jaime grow into a more confident, self-assured guy, and Alè’s character grows as well. One thing I truly appreciated about these guys is their great communication. Their relationship could have easily deteriorated into angst and frustration if they hadn’t taken the time to consider each other. So many times authors ramp up the tension by removing this link, and it’s so crucial in these stories. They may have had some uncertainty over where things were going, but the road was more easily navigated because of their willingness to be open.
Rather than simply a story of self-discovery, No Such Thing includes darker, more complex topics such as homophobia, discrimination, rape, and hate crimes. As the complex tale unfolded, I was completely riveted. Arthur handles each issue delicately, and instead of overshadowing the sweeter love story, the serious components enhance the personal connection and conviction of the characters. Tragedy draws people together and strengthens bonds; nothing could be truer here. Unfortunately such ugliness is a real part of our world – I look forward to the day when people don’t have to live in fear of just being themselves.
I’m thrilled to see this story is part of a two-book series from Carina Press, the sequel due out Summer 2014. That story features Ezra, someone we meet in a just a few scenes. I’m pretty curious what his story is…should prove very interesting. If it means we eventually get more of Jaime and Alè, well, then I’m definitely all for it.
RATING: BAD ASS BOOTS