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Porker, Fatty, Tons-of-Fun: Crowley Fredericks has heard it all. He’s dropped a lot of weight since his high school days, but he’s still a big guy, and the painful words and bullying follow him. Rejected—again—because of his size, Crowley is starting to think that maybe love just isn’t meant for huskier men.
Averell Lang and his twin are so different they might as well not even be related. So when Rell’s brother brings his roommate home to snowy Susset for the holidays, Rell expects the worst—another uptight, pretentious hipster. What he discovers instead is Crowley. Nerdy, fascinating, attractive, Crowley. Rell never expected to look at a man this way, and what he sees in Crowley Fredericks is something he didn’t even know he was looking for. If both men can overcome their hang-ups, they might unwrap more than presents this holiday season.
Crowley just wants to have a nice Christmas with his family. But, after recently coming out to them, he’s told not to come home – no one will be there to pick him up from the airport.
He’s crushed, but he’s got a great friend in the form of his roommate, Tyler Lang. Tyler invites him to share Christmas with his big family upstate and even buys him the train ticket. The problem is the only available seat will actually put Crowley there one entire day before Tyler. No worries, Tyler tells him, just hang with his dumb twin Avrell and try not to be too bored.
Though he’s a little shell-shocked, he makes it to the train station and to Tyler’s hometown of Sutten. He’s a bit dismayed when someone vaguely resembling Tyler comes crashing over the curb – late – ready to pick him up, and sparking his romantic interest.
Crowley “knows” that there’s no way someone as good looking as Averell could be interested in a “fatty” like him, and Tyler never said he was gay so… he just quietly crushes on him… but is amazed by how easy they get along. Crowley’s pretty shy, especially in the face of someone he’s attracted to, but the conversation flows and the two end up having a ball!
Averell (Rell) is “in between jobs”. More or less permanently. He’s never found that “perfect” job and stumbles aimlessly looking for it. He’s currently living at home again and doing chores for room and board. He can’t believe his hipster-snob of a brother actually has a cool friend and he’s psyched to be actually “forced” to room with him while he’s here.
As the story progresses we see Crowley (nicknamed Owl by Rell) falling for Rell and surpisingly, Rell (who identifies as straight) falling too. Tyler tries to keep them separated – knowing how Crowley has been deeply hurt in the past and unwilling to see his “loser” brother “use” Crowley for either experimentation or worse.
But — the attraction can’t be denied and on Christmas, Owl and Rell exchange a mind-blowing kiss that shakes them both up a bit. When it looks like they might want to do more than kiss, Owl freaks out at being naked and we begin to learn just how deep his body issues go. (Both boys are “virgins” in this case – making things doubly difficult.)
Fortunately, Sondra, the boys’ cousin, is there and she has an absolutely amazing idea for helping Owl to love his body – and it works!
Now the only obstacle left to overcome is Rell and his feeling of unworthiness due to his lack of direction. Again – the best ideas come from loving family members and we leave Owl and Rell with a decidedly HFN that will completely have you sobbing tears of joy.
There are those of us who will so closely identify with this story, it’s not even funny. The horrible, horrible things society can do to young people – making them hate themselves – is not just for girls anymore.
This story handles the issue with loving care. It’s realistic, touching, sentimental, heart-breaking, tender, sweet… just amazing.
Even if you never had body “issues” you can clearly identify with childhood trauma and the feelings of isolation caused at the hands of a bully. When Crowley shares his experience and how it not only happened to him but was then broadcast on Facebook – I couldn’t help but think – Thank God I was a kid before Facebook! What an evil tool that little social program can be in the wrong hands!
My heart absolutely broke when Owl confessed that his guidance counselor was of no help and he didn’t dare tell his family about the incident because it would “out” him as well as show him as a weakling. So there he was, 15, feeling all alone, and having to face his bullies every day with no sense of power or any ability to feel good about himself. (It makes me tear up just thinking about it!)
I wanted to hug Rell and Sondra. God – what amazing healers these two people were. They were able to reach in a see what needed to be done and were brave enough to do it. (Sure the time frame was a little quick, but I don’t think it was out of the realm of possibility. Let’s face it – the chance for sex is a great motivating factor!)
The other thing that I appreciated from this story was that Owl went through a probably fairly normal “slimming” down as he went through puberty and grew up some. Sure, he did have some crazy diet ideas (and those were handled so very well in the story) but at no point did anyone suggest they’d help him “look better” or be his “work out buddy” in order for him to feel good about himself. The message was – you are beautiful As. You. Are.
Isn’t that a freeing thought?! (I fear corporate America will never let us (as a society) truly accept this as a concept – but one can hope!)
There are not enough hearts available to me to tell you how wonderful this book is.
Everyone who has ever thought “I am worthy not enough unless I …” should read this. The message is universal.
My applause to Raine O’Tierney and my appreication for tackling this issue so well.