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A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title
In his junior year at a public high school, sweet, bright Casey Minton’s biggest worry isn’t being gay. Keeping from being too badly bullied by his so-called friends, a group of girls called the Queen Bees, is more pressing. Nate De Marco has no friends, his tough home life having taken its toll on his reputation, but he’s determined to get through high school. Zander Zane’s story is different: he’s popular, a jock. Zander knows he’s gay, but fellow students don’t, and he’d like to keep it that way.
No one expects much when these three are grouped together for a class project, yet in the process the boys discover each other’s talents and traits, and a new bond forms. But what if Nate, Zander, and Casey fall in love—each with the other and all three together? Not only gay but also a threesome, for them high school becomes infinitely more complicated and maybe even dangerous. To survive and keep their love alive, they must find their individual strengths and courage and stand together, honest and united. If they can do that, they might prevail against the Queen Bees and a student body frightened into silence—and even against their own crippling fears.
I had avoided this title for a long time because the subject of bullying is such a hard one. When I saw the sequel had come out I just knew I had to put on my big-girl panties and read it and boy am I glad I did.
Casey is a small, effeminate boy who gets tortured by the popular GIRLS at his school. The opening passage happens his freshman year and it takes him one and a half years before he’s comfortable attending public school again. It’s hard to read, no doubt about it, but only because you just know stuff like this happens EVERY DAY – or worse.
We meet Casey again as a Junior. He’s still the object of subtle bullying almost every day but his sincere and honest faith and hope in humanity keeps him from giving up on high school all together. He’s taking a French survey course and is assigned two very disparate partners to work with on a project.
Nate is a “loser, burnout, druggie” who is barely holding on to his family and struggling not to drop out of high school all together. He doesn’t talk much but when he does it always leaves an impact.
Zander is a jock. He’s a great soccer player with a fairly absent mother and a beloved older brother who is away at college. Zander knows he’s gay but is deathly afraid of being out. As a result he feels complicit in the bullying that Casey (and others) face simply because he doesn’t stop it.
When the three boys get together something about them clicks. Both Zander and Nate feel protective of Casey. He’s this bright and shiny beacon of hope and it hurts them to see him so pummeled by the mean girls in school. They have a wary respect and attraction for each other as well, but neither knows what to do with all these feelings.
As the weeks progress it becomes clear that in addition to being friends, these boys mean something to each other in a way far deeper. Casey, surprisingly, is the instigator and glue that drives the relationship.
Their first call to action is to simply be together as partners in class and face the hostility of the popular girls on that front. Later, this expands to protecting Casey (and themselves) from jealousy and hate on many fronts.
So much happens that it can’t really be summarized easily. The boys finish their project, proceed delicately forward on their romantic relationship, begin to fight for Casey and later to fight for the bullied everywhere.
In addition to that, both Nate and Zander have to deal with their own home lives and this, too, is difficult.
Finally, after Casey faces a climactic and nearly crushing blow, the boys and the school rally together to do what’s right and we end up with a very solid HFN which leads us to book two.
I won’t lie to you. This is a hard book to read. I found myself rushing through the painful passages because they are just SO painful to read. But when you get to the other side it is so beautiful.
I was skeptical of a three-way relationship in a high school setting, but it just works for these boys. They are all absolutely integral to the relationship’s success and for the success of the anti-bullying campaign.
The other part I really liked, and we see in the subsequent sequel, is how the relationship also strengthened each boy individually and gave him strength to fight on the home front as well.
I absolutely adored Casey’s family. At first I was so frustrated with them, but as the story progressed I realized their naiveté is what makes Casey the pure shining light that he is and if they’d been different so would have he. When they rally around the boys and their relationship at the end it just made me want to cry it was so sweet.
I applaud Mia Kerick for the sex in this book. It felt honest and real and touching and was absolutely age appropriate.
I was so glad to have the sequel on hand because I was NOT satisfied with the ending. Yes – it is hopeful and leaves the boys in a good place, but I was dying to know what happened next. As a result I had to dive into book two and ended up with a book hangover because I couldn’t put that book down either!
I highly recommend this book and the series, even if you aren’t a YA fan, you will find you can appreciate this book for what it is.
5 of 5 hearts