Title: You Belong With Me
Author: Jeff Erno
Publisher: Harmony Ink
Characters: Wesley Harris, Brad Johnson
Sub-Genre: YA, Contemporary Romance
High school junior Wesley Harris is a stereotypical shy, soft-spoken nerd. He is obsessed with crafts and art and doesn’t even need to come out of the closet to become the target of antigay bullying. Though he has the support of close friends and liberal-minded mother, he finds it hard to believe in himself.
Brad Johnson, Wesley’s new neighbor, is Wesley’s age—and his complete opposite. A popular jock and hero of the school’s baseball team, Brad has an outgoing personality and a reputation as a ladies’ man. When he and Wesley are alone, away from their classmates’ scrutiny, they become friends despite their differences. But when Wesley confesses to wanting more than friendship, Brad walks away, unwilling to risk their romance being exposed.
Though devastated, Wesley resigns himself to accept that they were never meant to be. The next time he runs afoul of bullies, school counseling empowers him to report them. Encouraged by his new confidence, he decides to attend the school dance and face Brad….
Once in a while you’ll come across an author that really seems to know how their characters tick. In my opinion, Mr. Erno’s characterization is always spot on. I’ve read almost all of his books and every one of them are on my keeper shelf. He writes likeable, humanly-flawed characters that really live and breathe off of the written page. By the end of his stories, I always feel like his characters do a lot of personal growth as well as becoming more self-assured men. They are people I’d proudly call a friend in my own life, and so darn easy to love. In You Belong With Me, Mr. Erno once again swept this reader into the realistically written world he created as well as made me love these two heroes.
The story is told in first person through Wesley’s eyes. Wesley is a junior in high school who is really coming into his own person. Although he’s never announced that he’s gay to his classmates, almost all of them suspect he is. Because he’s a smaller teenager and because of his sexuality, Wesley is picked on by several bullies in school. Wesley really tries to take this in stride and keeps telling himself that things will get better, but sometimes the cruelty from the bullies does get the better of him. Wesley is a typical teenager. He hides his pain from being bullied from his parents, but he does have a few friends that he’s learned to rely on.
When popular jock, Brad, moves in next door, Wesley is both thrilled and terrified. Wesley has always noticed the handsome, nice boy and has a crush on him. Before he knows it, Brad is being nice to him and taking him under his wing. Even better, Brad seems to like Wesley as much as Wesley likes Brad. But the stress of being labeled keeps Brad from revealing his feelings for Wesley, and soon both teenagers are faced with the harsh reality of loving someone that many bigots do not consider normal.
I loved this book! I loved both Wesley and Brad and highly enjoyed all of the moments they spent together. They truly fit together very well and before long, I found myself really rooting for them to be together. Both Brad and Wesley go through a lot of personal growth and make some very mature and strong decisions. As a reader, I appreciated how Mr. Erno did not sweep some of the difficult issues both boys had to face; instead they had to deal with them head on.
Inspiring, lovely, realistically written and an all-around wonderful read, You Belong With Me is a must read! It’s a great book for both teens and adults and a realistic look of how hard life can be for a teen if they are considered different than others. I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to see what Mr. Erno has in store for us in the future.
Reviewed By: Gabbi