Saturday, October 22, 2016

Ethan by Ryan Loveless

Carter Stevenson is looking forward to a fresh start in a new high school on the other side of the country. It’ll give him a chance to escape his reputation for twitching and stuttering. He’ll have the summer to himself in his new home in California, and in the fall, he won’t get involved in any activity that puts his Tourette’s center stage. He won’t stand out as different.

But his new neighbor, Ethan, isn’t just going to change his plans. He’s going to change Carter’s life.

Ethan Hart is recovering from a traumatic brain injury, but it doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm or love for life. As soon as he sees Carter, who moves like the music Ethan sees between the clouds and the grass, he’s determined to become his friend, and then his boyfriend. And even if his parents say their romance can’t get physical, Ethan won’t let it stand in the way of falling in love.

Stepping into the spotlight was the last thing Carter ever wanted, but Ethan, along with a group of friends who like him just the way he is—tics and all—starts to change his mind.

Adapted as a YA edition of the award-winning novel Ethan, Who Loved Carter by Ryan Loveless.

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Harmony Ink

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4 Lovely Stars.

Ryan Loveless is a new-to-me author, and I found her writing style to be endearing, drawing out the important emotions in her character development, and life-centric, without any bells and whistles and unnecessary shock-value.

I had requested this book a few weeks ago – truthfully, I read it next as my reviewing schedule dictated, going in blind, not even knowing what genre Ethan belonged to, totally forgetting the blurb and whatnot. So it was a surprise from the start for me. Until two minutes ago, I didn't even realize this was a reinterpretation of sorts to Ethan, Who Loved Carter. So I'll have to check that book out in the future.

Ethan is narrated by Carter and Ethan. Carter is suffering with Tourette's Syndrome, and is bullied and mocked at school. He doesn't have many friends, all of them older, and mainly keeps to himself. Carter and his family move from the Midwest to California to start a new life, or maybe it's more like Carter decides to start living life and finally accepts who he truly is.

Ethan is Carter's neighbor, suffering from brain damage. There is a sense of grief surrounding Ethan's family over what they lost, as Ethan was destined to be a bright star. But Ethan isn't the same guy as Before – together, Ethan and Carter prove they're who they are now, and that's just as good, if not better.

Truth be told, seeing life through the lens of two boys suffering with their brains not functioning properly was a new perspective, one the author handled with compassion and plenty of research for accuracy.

The story itself revolves around both boys coming to terms with who they are, while Ethan deals with past demons. I don't want to give the plot away, but it's 100% focused on our narrators, heavy on the character development. The entire cast of characters are in a supportive role, realistically written, patient and understanding, and lend a feel-good vibe to the book.

I do need to point out something that may make some uncomfortable. While Ethan is 18, and Carter is a newly 16, some may find the sexual content difficult to swallow. At 15, Ethan had an accident that left him brain-damaged, no longer with a filter. He has needs, and he speaks freely about such needs. I have no doubt this is a common issue with this type of injury, but some readers may not be comfortable when they perceive Ethan to be a grown man with a child's mind (he doesn't truly have a child's mind – he just thinks differently than the societal norm). Some readers may see this as Ethan being taken advantage of, but I need to stress that Ethan is 18, and these are his decisions, and he is the initiator. Even I, who could wrap my mind around it, had a difficult time with this portion of the storyline – I understood it, tried to empathize with it, but still had a tough time. So just be warned.

Recommended to MM romance fans, particularly those who enjoy a story featuring characters outside of what society considers 'their' normal, with a hurt-comfort vibe. This is a young adult, coming-of-age storyline, with a supportive unit of family and friends, focusing more on overcoming/accepting mental disabilities rather than LGBTQ issues.

Young Adult age-range: 14+ but with parental discretion, as the novel does involve minimal sexual content/suggestions, and topics include past violence leading to disabilities, and bullying.

About six months ago, I listened to the audiobook edition of Ethan, Who Loved Carter, the adult M/M contemporary romance upon which Ethan is based. Having worked with persons with stutters and tics similar to those of Tourette’s Syndrome and individuals who have suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), I recall thinking were it not for the sexual interactions, that Ethan, Who Loved Carter would have been a wonderful book for teens to read because it was not only a sweet romance, it was also a much needed lesson in diversity that’s often overlooked. While it’s a fictional tale of two men who find love because of their differences and not despite them, Loveless does a wonderful job of portraying Ethan’s Tourette’s and Carter’s TBI in a realistic fashion, thus providing the reader invaluable information in an entertaining way, making it more likely they’ll retain it. I applaud Loveless in reworking the story to make it appropriate for young adult readers and Harmony Ink for making such a beautiful tale available to them.

Ethan opens with one of Carter’s most embarrassing moments – his tic-riddled performance in a school-wide talent show. Carter considered the incident humiliating because singing and playing his guitar was one of the few times his tics were somewhat controlled, yet having the entire student body as the audience put more stress on him than he expected and resulted in an increased level of tics that interfered with his performance. Needless to say, he’s not all that upset when he learns that he and his parents will be moving in two weeks, as soon as he finishes out the school year. While getting to know new people is difficult for Carter, especially when his tics cause him to stutter, he sees a light at the end of the tunnel when he learns that his next door neighbor isn’t “normal” either – and he’s cute. Despite getting off on the wrong foot by inadvertently offending his neighbor, Carter befriends Ethan and soon finds himself caught up in Ethan and his family’s life. And what was intended to be a summer spent adjusting to a new place becomes so much more as Carter is quickly absorbed into Ethan’s life, introduced to Ethan’s music, introduced to Ethan’s friends and forming bonds with them, and learns that what he thought was love before, wasn’t even a pale imitation of what he feels for Ethan.

I absolutely loved Ethan. I said it before and I’ll say it again, Loveless has done an outstanding job in reworking Ethan and Carter’s story into a young adult romance. The issues of sexuality are still addressed, but done so in way that is appropriate for 16-year-old Carter – the dreaded sex talk with his father (hysterically awkward, by the way). Even better is that conversations about sex between Ethan and Carter are very open because that’s how Ethan is, straightforward and honest about what he wants, yet willing to listen to and respect Carter’s feelings about it, despite his lack of impulse control. One of the things that really struck me about Ethan is how the maturity level between Carter and Elliot (Ethan’s younger brother) were so different even though they were only a few months apart in age. Although Elliot has his moments of understanding beyond his years because of adjustments he had to make after Ethan’s TBI, he still has more of a teen mindset than Carter, whose Tourette’s has likely forced him to grow up quicker and develop a thicker skin so that most of the taunts and insults can be ignored. Even though I’d already experienced parts of their journey before, I loved being able to take this journey again with a young Carter and young Ethan as theirs is a beautiful story, no matter the intended audience.

Young adult age recommendation: 12 and up. As someone who has worked with people with TBI and tics and stutters similar to Tourette’s, I’d love to see teens read this book sooner rather than later. There are a couple of instances of bigotry, but the most severe occurs off the page and is relayed as a memory several years after the fact. As for sexual content, it’s limited to kissing, one scene of mutual masturbation, and some rather frank talk about bodily functions because of Ethan’s inability to recognize social mores.

RYAN LOVELESS is a farmer’s daughter. She has a BA in English from a private college in Illinois and a master’s degree in library and information science with an archival certificate from a university in New York. Raised in a conservative family, she was shocked and relieved when her coming out was largely uneventful. She has been writing since she could read and has always drifted toward M/M because she enjoys the relationship dynamics. It’s possible that her first story was about GI Joe. She wishes she still had that story.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Ethan by Ryan Loveless to read and review.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Turn the World Upside Down by Nyrae Dawn

Hunter Donovan’s life always seemed perfect, but there was something rotten beneath the shiny surface. When the truth comes out and his dad is sent to prison, Hunter can only react with anger. His rage boils out of control, leading to a violent incident at school, and then to Hunter being sent to a mental health facility—Better Days.

Hunter doesn’t see how therapy can help him. If it can’t change the past, what good is it? It’s not like he can go back in time, see the horrible things going on right under his nose, and put a stop to them. No, he should have found that strength when he had the chance, and now it’s too late.

There is a ray of light at Better Days, though, in the friendships Hunter forges. Anxiety-ridden Casey, uninhibited Rosie, recovering bulimic Bethany, and Stray, a self-harmer who’s never had a home, lighten Hunter’s feelings of isolation.

Despite the connections he’s forming—and even the love blossoming between him and Stray—Hunter can’t escape his shame and remorse. If Hunter can’t open up and find a way to deal with what happened, he might end up another casualty of mental illness, just like one of the friends he’s grown to love.

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Harmony Ink

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4 Emotionally Compelling Stars.

Turn the World Upside Down was a difficult book to read, as well as review. The dark subject matter was handled with compassion and from a different point-of-view meant to open minds and widen perceptions. I applaud the author for tackling such subject matter in the manner in which it was handled.

When bad things happen in a family to a singular person by another family member, usually everyone rallies around the victim, leaving the rest of the family to be in the supportive role. But, the problem with this, while the victim needs the attention and compassion, the entire family was the victim as well, leaving other siblings in the dark – forgotten.

Turn the World Upside Down was the voice of those usually forgotten in the shuffle – not the direct victim, but still someone affected by the events, but nonetheless forgotten. I appreciate this differing viewpoint, and it was refreshing to read how the author enlightened readers on how this devastates an entire family, each member in a different way.

Hunter is the older brother of a little sister who was abused. He feels responsible because he was the brother, and it's his job to take care of his sister. He feels responsible for not hearing his sister when she asked for his attention as a buffer, even if the only way to interpret her words were afterward because Hunter was not a mind-reader. His guilt is eating him alive because he loved the abuser – idolized him – instead of seeing what was subtly hiding beneath the surface. The truth.

Angry at the world, but mostly himself due to misplaced guilt, Hunter rages, unable to release the tension on the only person it belongs. I understood Hunter, because I, too, don't believe in burdening others with my feelings, as their feelings are more important and I feel my emotions are private – none of their business unless I feel like sharing.

This rage built until Hunter could no longer contain it, causing his mother to send him to a camp for children with mental illness. Not only is he raging, he feels abandoned, but also understands how his behavior is taking away from the attention his sister needs. But Hunter needs attention too, because he's hurting in a different way.

On the pages of the novel, the reader is taken on a six-week journey as Hunter comes to terms with his emotions, learning he has no fault in what happened, and makes friends with other teens who are struggling.

Even with his new friends, Hunter feels as if he needs help the least, worrying about their issues more than his own, in a place where the teens all have an equal voice and need for help.

The difficulty with the novel is the tough subject matter involving not only Hunter's past and present, but the friends he makes. All have tragic mental illnesses. I couldn't help but feel that the last thing these kids needed to be around were more tragedies they would internalize and devour as if it were their own pain – it didn't feel healthy to me that Hunter would have to be in a place to heal with other children who were hellbent on making his wounds worse, while he dealt with everyone else's issues instead of his own.

While I understood the why of it, and applaud the author for showing this side, the entire situation didn't feel healthy to me. Forging connections and helping one another is fantastic, knowing you're not alone with your mental illness is a comfort, but making and losing friends due to their mental illness, while their illness writes its signature on your psyche is not healthy, especially with the bullying behind the scenes by other teens. Hunter shouldn't have had to deal with everyone's issues when he should have been dealing with his own, compounded by the devastation of losing new friends and being bullied/beaten, all of which were new stressors added on top of 'his' issues. It felt worse, not better.

It just felt as if the child didn't have the fortitude and family Hunter had, they didn't have a snowball's chance of healing due to the influences and pressures from the people in the very place they were placed in order to heal. Counterproductive, trying to find positivity in a negative environment.

The saying 'misery loves company' doesn't mean they ban together and find happiness – it means they dwell together in their misery, making it worse. I understand it, appreciate the angle the author provided, but I don't believe this type of environment is healthy for anyone – anywhere, even if it's reality for so many.

All of the characters were compelling, heart-breaking, and innocent in their mental illness, yet also manipulative and toxic as they tried to keep their issues alive. The friendships forged were inspiring, yet sometimes enabling and destructive to one another. The romantic relationship between Hunter and Stray was innocent and sweet, filled with hope for the future for those who made an attempt at getting better.

All-in-all, Nyrae Dawn created a novel which will make the reader think for a long time after they finish the book, but I can't say I 'enjoyed' it.

I do recommend it to those who won't be triggered by the subject matter, and to those in the right emotional mindset to tackle the story. However, I don't think it's a book for everyone – not that any book truly is. I particularly recommend to those who need the comfort of knowing others are going through similar situations they may be in, and to see a differing viewpoint via the victim who wasn't the direct victim of the assailant.

Hunter had a voice, and I'm glad I got to hear it.

Young adult age-range: 14+ due to bullying/violence, abusive subject matter, mental illness and the effects, and kissing.

This is a powerful and difficult story about a group of teenagers with a range of mental health problems. The story is told from the perspective of Hunter, a boy who has not been able to deal with a horrific family crisis.

Hunter is a flawed, often self-centred narrator and his observations of his friends and peers in a rehabilitation centre give readers glimpses of each character in the centre without ever fully revealing their problems, emotions, and experiences. Hunter is crippled by guilt and his temper is focused inwards. I found it impossible not to care for him, but his destructive behaviour made him very difficult to like.

Hunter’s small group of friends become real characters once Hunter starts to take interest in the world around him. I found it fascinating to piece together each character through Hunter’s observations, even when Hunter himself doesn’t understand what he is observing.

This is more of a young adult story with gay main characters than a gay romance. The romance between Hunter and Stray is sweet and complicated, but it really isn’t the focus of this story. The focus is Hunter’s experiences as he struggles to deal with the responsibility he feels for the incident that shattered his family. His relationships – both romantic and platonic – are part of his recovery.

This isn’t an easy story with a simple happily ever after. There is a raw honesty in this writing that I found very difficult at times. It is a beautifully written story. The author never talks down to her teen audience and she refuses to offer easy platitudes. It is an important and moving book.

This is a story about teens struggling with mental health issues, told through Hunter's time at the Better Days clinic. Self-harm, bulling, sexual assault, and suicide are among some of the issues dealt with in this story. At times it makes for difficult reading and I shed plenty of tears, but I loved these characters and this book with all my heart.

I, like many out there, am presently experiencing my own issues and this book hit the spot. In her dedication Nyrae Dawn says "This book is dedicated to you. To anyone who needs it." Well I needed it. Thank you Ms. Dawn.

NYRAE DAWN can almost always be found with a book in her hand or an open document on her laptop. She couldn’t live without books—reading or writing them. Oh, and chocolate. She’s slightly addicted.

She feels a special pull to characters in their teens. There’s something so fresh and fun about the age that she adores exploring. Her husband says it’s because she doesn’t want to grow up. She doesn’t think that’s such a bad thing. Luckily for her, he doesn’t either.

Nyrae gravitates toward character-driven stories. Whether reading or writing, she loves emotional journeys. It’s icing on the cake when she really feels something, but is able to laugh too. She’s a proud romantic, who has a soft spot for flawed characters. She loves people who aren’t perfect, who make mistakes, but also have big hearts.

Nyrae is living her very own happily ever after in California with her gorgeous husband (who still makes her swoon) and her two incredibly awesome kids.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Turn the World Upside Down by Nyrae Dawn to read and review.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Guyliner by J. Leigh Bailey

Seventeen-year-old Connor works his butt off to maintain the golden-boy persona he’s created. He has the grades, the extracurriculars, the athletics, and a part-time job at his dad’s shop… every detail specifically chosen to ensure the college scholarships he needs to get the hell out of the Podunk town where he lives. The last thing he needs is an unexpected attraction to Graham, an eyeliner-wearing soccer phenom from St. Louis, who makes him question his goals and his sexuality. Sure, he’s noticed good-looking boys before—that doesn’t have to mean anything, right?—but he’s got a girlfriend. There’s no room on the agenda for hooking up with Graham, but the heart doesn’t always follow the rules.

As he and Graham grow close, other aspects of Connor’s life fall apart. Family pressure, bad luck, and rumors threaten to derail his carefully laid plans. Suddenly the future he’s fighting for doesn’t seem quite as alluring, especially if he has to deny who he really is to achieve it.

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Dreamspinner Press

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

5 Angsty, Young Adult Stars

J. Leigh Bailey is a new-to-me author, and I could seriously fan-girl right now. I do plan on checking out the author's past works ASAP. I love the innocence of the young adult genre, and I believe this book would be a comfort to both children who are contemplating coming out, and to their parents to get their child's perspective.

Connor is his rural mid-western town's Golden Boy, with his sights set on playing baseball in college as a way to get out of his hometown. He's dating the couch's daughter, has a 4.0, a hard-working family, and is the oldest of five siblings. His entire life implodes when, while working out in the weight room for practice, his eye catches the school's new eyeliner-wearing soccer star.

Connor's characterization was accurate and realistic, how he is so hyper-focused on his future, trying to make his father proud, he barely notices the present. The way of life makes it possible for Connor to live in denial about his sexuality, when he never realized in the first place.

Graham is a complex character to Connor's open book. Graham has a tragic past, with its bits and pieces of information doled out at a steady pace to keep a mystery surrounding it. Graham is what Connor is not – confident in knowing who he is and owning it, even if no one else accepts it. But Graham is patient when it comes to friendship, as long as he's treated with respect when it comes to more than friendship.

I don't want to give the plot away, but there are ups and downs and a ton of delicious angst in this page-turning, young adult read. After reading the book in one sitting, I was satisfied with the ending, but wanted more from other characters in the book's universe, as I wish to know more via other's narration on our couple. Sadly, however, I do believe this is a standalone. But my voracious need for more is a sure sign on how much I enjoyed the story.

Recommended to fans of MM Romance and Young Adult MM.

Young Adult age range: 14+ Kissing. Bullying/bigotry. Past violence (not shown)

Wow. This is such a wonderful story. Connor and Graham are both fantastic characters. The golden boy and the beautiful, leather-clad outsider are right out of one of the best Eighties high school movies but the m/m romance is a very 21st century twist on a classic teen romance.

Full of angst and seemingly insurmountable problems (both real and perceived), Connor and Graham’s story feels real and honest. The central conflict is Connor coming to terms with his sexuality and Graham rebuilding his life after a terrible experience. Most of this conflict is internal, but Connor’s fears are realistically debilitating at times and his resulting behaviour is self-destructive. Connor isn’t always easy to like, but the author makes him feel real. I enjoyed his friendships and his relationship with his family. I loved the way the adults surprised both boys at times and the way the author refrained from unnecessary conflict between the generations.

Graham is brave and fabulous. As a star athlete, he challenges stereotypes and pushes boundaries. And while it is easier to like Graham in this story, the author makes several interesting observations about Graham’s wealth and privilege allowing him more opportunities than are possible for blue collar, small town Connor.

As a young adult story, this book is light on sex and the romance is sweet rather than steamy. But I loved the connection between these two boys and I loved the classic high school romance themes in this book. If you loved Footloose or The Breakfast Club, you will enjoy this modern classic.

This book was freaking fabulous! I am beside myself with how much I enjoyed it. My only complaint about Guyliner is that I believe calling it a new adult romance is limiting its potential audience. I found it to be more of a young adult, coming of age story and really hope that it receives enough word-of-mouth marketing (i.e., by stating it my review and by telling my friends), that it finds its way into the hands of teens who may be struggling with their sexuality. Yes, there are some rather harsh realities in the book when it comes to the hate that some teens (and adults) face simply because of their sexual identity, but I still feel it’s an extremely appropriate read for teens of all sexual orientations.

Connor is a hometown boy hoping to escape his small town on both his educational and athletic merits. The oldest of five and in his junior year in high school, he’s been dubbed the Golden Boy by his peers because he works hard at school and baseball, is involved in extracurricular activities, treats his girlfriend with respect, works part-time, babysits his siblings, and the list continues. Yet a rainy day brings a glimpse of bright blue eyes accentuated by guyliner, and Connor soon discovers chinks in his carefully constructed facade – a wall so well fortified that it allowed Connor to ignore that niggle in his brain that there might be more to him than he wanted to admit. So as Connor begins to question who he is, all while being pressured by his dad to focus on school and baseball, Graham is adjusting to a new school, a new soccer team, and a new town, just hoping for a fresh start as he continues to recover from a horrific hate-fueled attack. But as paths collide (literally) and the boys are thrust into a situation where they are working together and getting to know one another, they each experience a huge shift in their respective worlds. As their friendship begins to develop, Connor finds himself asking harder and harder questions and is afraid of what the answers will be and how they will affect his family.

There is so much that I loved about this book. Coming from a small town, I understand Connor’s fear over coming out. Even if the majority of his classmates are accepting of his new “identity,” prejudices among adults can mean that his classmates who see him as a target to be taunted and attacked are provided opportunities to do so as there is little fear of reprisal. Fortunately, Graham understood this and tried his best not to push Connor into coming out, but based on his own past, Graham’s refusal to be Connor’s dirty little secret was understandable also. I liked how, once Connor came out to his girlfriend, Allyson didn’t get angry or end their friendship, instead, she admitted that she may have been using him a bit too because having a boyfriend who wasn’t part octopus and wasn’t pressuring her to have sex, made dating and high school easier. While Connor’s best friend, Marc, reacted well to the news as well, Bailey didn’t whitewash Connor’s coming out by painting everyone with an accepting paintbrush – not at all, there were the requisite bigoted jerks whose personal self-worth seemed to be measured by their ability to put someone else down. While I disliked the setup for the scene – and I mean the events, not the writing – I was glad when Connor was finally able to express his frustrations with his father and clear the air. Of course, the truly best part of Guyliner was watching the relationship develop between Connor and Graham, especially when Connor makes his grand gesture towards the end. Guyliner was an absolutely delightful read and I cannot wait to read more of Bailey’s books.

Age Recommendation: 13 and up for kissing, bullying, and recounting of hate crime.

J. LEIGH BAILEY is an office drone by day and romance author by night. She can usually be found with her nose in a book or pressed up against her computer monitor. A book-a-day reading habit sometimes gets in the way of… well, everything… but some habits aren’t worth breaking. She’s been reading romance novels since she was ten years old. The last twenty years or so have not changed her voracious appetite for stories of romance, relationships, and achieving that vitally important Happy Ever After. She’s a firm believer that everyone, no matter their gender, age, sexual orientation, or paranormal affiliation, deserves a happy ending.

She wrote her first story at seven which was, unbeknownst to her at the time, a charming piece of fanfiction in which Superman battled (and defeated, of course) the nefarious X Luther. (She was quite put out to be told later that the character’s name was supposed to be Lex.) Her second masterpiece should have been a bestseller, but the action-packed tale of rescuing her little brother from an alligator attack in the marshes of Florida collected dust for years under the bed instead of gaining critical acclaim.

Now she writes about boys traversing the crazy world of love, relationships, and acceptance.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Guyliner by J. Leigh Bailey to read and review.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Run for It All by Carolyn LeVine Topol

When both his moms take an offer for a year of employment in Europe, fifteen-year-old David Martin has no choice but to head to Connecticut to stay with his dad and his dad’s partner. Not only is he leaving behind the life he loves in New York City, he’s unsure how he feels about staying with a father he barely knows, one who has been far from supportive during David’s life.

If he doesn’t have enough on his plate, David is also confused and wrestling with his burgeoning sexual feelings… toward other boys. Running with his dad’s partner takes the edge off, but training with the hot—and openly gay—track team captain, Kevin Ringer, produces a different kind of rush.

An assault on David and Kevin in the locker room gives David a new perspective on his own identity, his feelings for Kevin, and his relationship with his dad. Life is very different from what David is used to, but he’s determined to carve out a place for himself.

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Harmony Ink

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Run for It All was a very enjoyable M/M young adult romance. I liked watching the transformation that took place in David as he went from the sullen teen who reluctantly agreed to spend a year with his father in a small town in Connecticut to a confident young man who embraced life with two dads, developed a love of running, and fell in love. Admittedly, I doubt that many 15-year-olds are capable of falling in love, but Topol has created a believable romance between David and Kevin by not making it the focal point of the book, but rather giving readers a look at David as whole – as a son, as a friend, as a runner, as a teammate, and, eventually, as a boyfriend. So as David grows as a person, it makes the feelings he develops for Kevin and the progression of their relationship believable.

Even though it’s clear at the beginning of the book that he agreed to it, David is unhappy with his new living arrangement. But as he is being raised by two moms and his biological father is also gay, he understands the importance of what his mothers are doing for gay rights and the need for him to spend the year with Rob and Steve (his father and father’s partner), so he plans to grin and bear it, all while hoping that he won’t die from boredom as West Hartford has almost nothing to do, especially when compared to New York City. Considering his age, David does an admirable job of not taking out his dissatisfaction with the situation on Steve, who David doesn’t know very well despite being his father’s partner of seven years. Oddly enough, it is Steve who makes the transition go smoothly and plays a vital part in David’s growth over the course of the year.

One of the things I enjoyed about Run for It All was the supportive attitude and reasonableness of the parents involved. Granted, David and Kevin demonstrate repeatedly throughout the book that they’re both responsible young men who have goals they’re willing to work hard to achieve. But rather than trying to block their attempts to have time alone with one another, both David’s fathers and Kevin’s parents make it clear that their son’s safety is the most important thing to them – so they insure the boys have some time alone in their respective homes occasionally. The parents are realistic enough to understand that there’s little they can do to prevent the boys from being together when they decide to take that step and, instead, chose to concentrate on providing a safe environment for them. In my opinion, it not only sent the message to the boys that their safety was important, but that their parents trusted and respected them enough to know that they wouldn’t rush the physical aspects of their relationship. Fortunately, Kevin and David validated that trust by taking their time to get to know one another before taking that next step, and when they’re relationship did become physical, neither of them allowed it to interfere with their other responsibilities – then again, training for long-distance running events didn’t give them a lot of time to get into any trouble. While there’s not an athletic bone in my body, I enjoyed how the running stayed central to the storyline as it was what played an important part in David’s growth. I quite enjoyed Run for It All and look forward to reading more of Topol’s writing.

Age Recommendation: 14 and up. While it is obvious that the main characters eventually “go all the way,” it occurs off the page with a fade-to-black setup. The on-page sexual contact is limited to kissing and mutual masturbation.

Born in Brooklyn, CAROLYN LEVINE TOPOL grew up just outside New York City. Three passions dominated her life: reading, writing, and theater. Having always dreamed of writing her own version of The Great American Novel, it took her many years to discover her most heartfelt stories took their form in the creation of M/M romances. Sharing her writing with a small circle of online friends, Carolyn received advice, encouragement and joy from their feedback. Spending her days working as an executive assistant in a synagogue, Carolyn relishes the quiet wee hours of the morning to lose herself in writing of the loves, passions, and adventures driving her characters. With the backing of a supportive husband and two young adult children, Carolyn continues to explore the fabulous world of gay romance with the philosophy “Every person deserves their happy ending.”

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Run for It All by Carolyn LeVine Topol to read and review.