Author: Eli Easton
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Characters: Jordan Carson, Owen Nelson
Sub-Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Erotic Romance
It’s not easy for a young gay artist like Jordan Carson to grow up in Jefferson, Wisconsin, where all anyone seems to care about in middle school and high school are the sports teams. But Jordan was lucky. He met Owen Nelson in the second grade, and they’ve been BFFs ever since. Owen is a big, beautiful blond and their school’s champion wrestler. No one messes with Owen, or with anyone close to him, and he bucks popular opinion by keeping Jordan as his wingman even after Jordan comes out at school.
Their friendship survives, but Jordan’s worst enemy may be himself: he can’t seem to help the fact that he is head-over-heels in love with a hopeless case—his straight friend, Owen. Owen won’t let anything take Jordan’s friendship away, but he never counted on Jordan running off to find a life of his own. Owen will have to face the nature of their relationship if he’s to win Jordan back.
Told in first person but from both boys’ point of view, this story is about childhood friends who know from the beginning they are best friends for life. Only… Jordan figures out he’s gay and hopelessly in love with Owen, his straight best friend. They share a single kiss as boys, but nothing comes of it. When they are teenagers they are still friends, but things are changing. Their life and career goals—art and wrestling—seem to take them down different paths, and Owen finds a girlfriend, Emily. Like Three Musketeers, Jordan, Owen, and Emily form a friendship. As much as Jordan loves Owen, he likes Emily—and he knows he can’t ever have what he wants. One night of experimentation and morning after regret is the first of many tears that threatens to split them apart. Finally, Jordan makes a choice to abandon his lifelong unrequited love and start college life anew elsewhere. What is Owen, the Pin Man, to do without his trusted Pencil Boy?
The story shifts between Jordan and Owen’s POVs, and we get to know both guys very well. Jordan is sure of himself, and he wants to be out, tired of hiding and being alone. Owen is caught between friendship and deeper love, between his girlfriend and his best friend, and he doesn’t understand what he’s feeling. Yet the one thing they have in common is wishing the other to be happy. That was sweet and heartbreaking. The pressure to conform and to please adults, especially parents, puts a huge weight on young shoulders. I wished the adults here had behaved better, and I was hurting for Jordan and Owen both when even their friends turned on them.
The writing is fluent and evocative. I was swept away, unable to stop reading until I reached the end. Ms. Easton is an excellent writer. The pace moves quickly enough, but pausing in just the right moments, in between heartbeats and heated breaths. The plot is composed of the coming of age theme, and the complications arise mainly from internal conflict. Trying to understand one’s own inner workings when the outside world demands strict categories and defining labels is never an easy task, least of all for teenagers. I felt for the guys the whole time, rooting for their happy ending. But… there are always compromises and sacrifices, and that made this story realistic, though gut-wrenching, too. There aren’t many side characters, and they stay mostly in the shadows, looming with their judgment. Emily is a strong character, giving an interesting juxtaposition to Jordan and Owen, depending on whose point of view we’re given. I liked her all the way to the end.
I recommend this story wholeheartedly to everyone who likes friends to lovers themes, coming of age tales, and being true to oneself.
Reviewed By: Susan