It's 1986, and what should have been the greatest summer of Nate Bradford's life goes sour when his parents suddenly divorce. Now, instead of spending his senior year in his hometown of Austin, Texas, he's living with his father in Warren, Wyoming, population 2,833 (and Nate thinks that might be a generous estimate). There's no swimming pool, no tennis team, no mall - not even any MTV. The entire school's smaller than his graduating class back home, and in a town where the top teen pastimes are sex and drugs, Nate just doesn't fit in.
Then Nate meets Cody Lawrence. Cody's dirt-poor, from a broken family, and definitely lives on the wrong side of the tracks. Nate's dad says Cody's bad news. The other kids say he's trash. But Nate knows Cody's a good kid who's been dealt a lousy hand. In fact, he's beginning to think his feelings for Cody go beyond friendship.
Admitting he might be gay is hard enough, but between small-town prejudices and the growing AIDS epidemic dominating the headlines, a town like Warren, Wyoming, is no place for two young men to fall in love.
©2016 Marie Sexton (P)2016 Riptide Publishing
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"Low on steam high on feels"
This is a very unexpected book. Marie Sexton definitely knows how to write some angst – and this has it in spades! – but she also knows how to give us the warm feels to make the angst less painful.
She gives us two boys in rural Wyoming in the 80s. Not a gay friendly time or place. UGH! There’s no internet to help them figure things out, no community to help, and lots of scary AIDS information out there.
In addition, we also have some distinct class issues and then there’s the individual family dramas playing out as well – like there’s not enough to angst about!
Nate, stuck in Nowhere Wyoming from the relative hip and large town of Austin, TX is stuck in his last year of high school – who does that to a kid? – having to make new friends. He can take the “easy” track and stick with the “upper class” kids in town or stick with his gut – and hang out with the town pariah – the guy who is actually interesting. Luckily, Nate’s a great guy and he makes the right choices.
Cody’s mom is all alone, doing what she can to make ends meet. Sometimes things she doesn’t want to talk about. The town knows about Cody and his mom and then… there’s the gay thing. Somehow the little town finds out Cody’s most hidden secret and they won’t let it go. (This is the state that killed Matthew Shepard in 1988.)
Cody and Nate become friends over the summer, but trouble starts when school begins. Nate has to make some decisions, but Cody has to let him in, too.
The ending is surprisingly decided and sweet – a bit more than I was expecting – but I’m so, so glad for it.
This book hit me on a personal level because that small town in Wyoming could have been my town. I was a child of the 80s (not gay) but definitely not in the “popular crowd” and small town politics are the same everywhere aren’t they?
I know exactly how it feels to live in a town and your only fantasy is about the day you graduate so you can leave and never look back.
I thought Marie did an amazing job of letting the fear be real but not crushing for these boys. She gave them some real hope in a way that felt plausible and authentic. We don’t get a lot of smexy times – but that felt appropriate and the HFN feels like a potential for a solid HEA – and again, it felt appropriate.
I guess this book just really made me think and be thankful we live in a “different” world now… at least there’s more information out there and resources and less? fear… I hope so at least. If nothing else, there’s an alternative to the fear.
(On a lighter note – all the 80s references were great – phone books, no MTV, no internet, Pretty In Pink… loved it!)
John Solo is a solid narrator. He has a lovely voice quality, no sound errors and a great grasp for timing and emotion. He gave Nate a smoother, more cultured voice and Cody the rougher – suiting their characters. I think this was a great way to enjoy this book and I enjoyed listening to it.
I highly recommend it and give it 4.5 of 5 stars
(PS Isn’t the cover wonderful?!)
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