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Adam Hemlock rules the elite New Harbor Academy. With his mother in Paris, he throws hedonistic, alcohol- and drug-fueled parties for his equally rich, desperately bored classmates. How’s a guy who lives life to the extreme to stay entertained? Take on a challenge, of course, and hope the exhilaration of the play-by-play fallout chases away the indifference. At the big pre-senior-year bash, Adam’s offered a dare—seduce the new kid. Adam initially laughs off the idea but changes his mind when he sees Jared.
Jared Rawell has spent the past two years at a Texas military school, where his father sent him to “pray away the gay.” He sees the academy in more liberal Washington as a chance to start over and achieve the grades he needs to get into an Ivy League school. When a beautiful but terrifying girl offers Jared a deal—don’t sleep with Adam Hemlock and she’ll help Jared get through senior year—he sees no reason to say no. But nothing is as simple as it seems.
With layers of hidden agendas, backstabbing, lying, cheating, drugs, and entitled teenage egos, Jared and Adam must navigate a high school minefield while waiting for the inevitable explosion.
Adam is a senior at an elite school outside Seattle. He’s rich and one of the “leaders” of the school (read: spoiled rich boy who leads a group of other spoiled rich kids). His dad died when he was young, his mom is awesome but travels a lot. He’s gay and has had sex with every available boy at the school, so he’s forced to go to the city if he wants any action.
Jared is from Michigan, but was recently sent to a military school in Texas by his ultra conservative father to “work the gay out of his system”. It failed, so Jared went to finish out his schooling with his ultra-cool aunt in Washington.
Clare – super mean rich girl – makes a bet with both Adam and Jared. To Adam she challenges him to get Jared’s virigin anal sex cherry. To Jared she challenges him to resist Adam’s seduction. (Neither knows of the other’s bet.)
Fortunately, Jared is no dummy, and though he still wants to keep his virginity for someone that matters, he has no problem hanging around with Adam. In fact, he likes the guy and they have some pretty intense chemistry. He’s even considering “giving in” when Jared learns of the bet and is crushed by the betrayal.
Adam, meanwhile, has also “fallen for” Jared and was in the process of trying to get out of the bet when Jared overheard.
Some weird stuff happens (too spoilery to tell here) that makes all the “cool kids” very confused, including Adam, but still keeps Jared and Adam apart.
In the end, Adam convinces Jared to give their relationship a try – for real – and we get a pretty satisfying HFN that looks like a HEA.
So… I am torn about this review. On several levels it was a really good book. There are aspects that feel very real – bullying, peer pressure, drugs, cliques, high school sex (it happens whether we want to believe it or not, these boys are over 18 in this story at least), miscommunications, etc. The writing itself is excellent (as is the editing). The characters are well developed and the storyline makes sense even if it is extremely frustrating.
However… I never “fell” for either Jared or Adam. They were not likable enough for me to root for them. Sure – Jared was basically a good guy who got suckered into doing things for the wrong reasons, but there was never that “hook”, that thing that makes him vulnerable and loveable. He was nobody’s hero. He was just a kid who had a little bit of a rough time before we met him, but by the time we see him he has it pretty good. His aunt is loving and pretty awesome. He’s got a great future mapped out. He’s pretty self-possessed (way more than I’d expect the average 18 year old to be) and he knows where he’s going.
Adam is the “poor little rich boy” you see in many stories. He’s “forced” to do things to stay “safe” in the horribly cliquey group at his school, and he’s very jaded. Sure – in the end he makes himself vulnerable to Jared, but it was hardly a hardship. He never “loses” anything to gain Jared’s love.
Together they have tremendously hot sex. The chemistry is scorching. But the emotional part… lacking.
I just never liked anyone in this story. Perhaps it dredges up too much past feelings of my own, but honestly I wanted to wash my hands of each and everyone of them and tell them to grow the eff up and be grateful for what you have and quit being so selfish and evil. The only person with any redeemable qualities was Jared’s tutor Dylan and had he and Jared hooked up I may have liked this story more.
Even the parents were ridiculous. Jared’s mom and dad were stereotypical: too soft mom lets the overbearing ass-hole dad send Jared to Texas. But then he gets this lovely aunt who “fixes” everything. And Adam’s Dad was awesome but dead, but his mom loves everything about him and though she’s gone a lot still showers him with love and makes him healthy. So why did he turn out to be such a douche? No real explanation is given, at least not one that satisfied me.
So… though I love Anna Martin stories and was excited to read this, I can’t give it high marks.
I’d give it 5 of 5 hearts for writing, 2 of 5 hearts for the romance, 2 of 5 hearts for the storyline and 4 of 5 hearts for the World Building. Overall 3.25 hearts