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Back from summer basketball camp and starting at Hoosier State on an athletic scholarship, Billy is looking forward to playing basketball free of pressure from his overbearing, bigoted father. Too bad he’s trading one set of problems for another. His boyfriend Jonah dumps him, expecting he’ll want to spread his wings now that he’s away from home, and the basketball program at State proves harder to navigate than he imagined.
Despite his hurt at Jonah’s treatment, Billy is not ready to give up on a relationship with the out-and-proud musician. Their geographical distance isn’t Billy’s biggest problem, since it makes it easier for him to stay in the closet. In fact, when the press starts sniffing around the basketball team, it turns out he’s not the only one with a secret. Every member of the team must choose where, and with whom, they stand. The success of Billy’s season may depend as much on the depth of his character as his physical endurance.
This is book two in a series, but is a standalone. (I didn’t read book one.) However, you do first meet Jonah in book one, a young gay man being bullied in the halls of his high school. From there he meets his soon-to-be boyfriend, Billy, the star of the basketball team. (Nickname Billy Goat.)
Billy is a year older than Jonah, so when he sets off to college after sharing their first an only kiss, Jonah plays the martyr and breaks things off “so Billy can be free to explore other relationships”.
Billy is a far more simple guy than all that. He knows what he wants and he wants Jonah. So after some time passes, and Jonah realizes what a bad idea that was, the two agree to be friends with the possibility for more.
The rest of the book is played in three parts. Jonah alone, Billy alone and the two together. When Jonah is alone he has to face decisions about his own university career, being hit on by another boy at school, the continued grief he feels for his father’s suicide and wondering what to do about Billy.
When Billy is alone he has to deal with: being hit on by another teammate, possibly outing himself in a league that doesn’t really support being gay, missing Jonah, his parents disapproval and what to do with himself post college.
Together they navigate being a couple at a distance, exploring sex for the first time, and practice being each other’s families when times are tough.
Far more of this book is about navigating the world of being gay and in high level college sports than the relationship between Jonah and Billy. Their relationship – while acting as a catalyst for many things – is not the central focus for much of the book. There is a lot of drama going on all around these boys and their love life is only a small fraction.
There are many secondary characters who steal the lime-light: the parents of both boys, the pseudo parents Jonah has adopted from book one, the team mates and their sexual orientations, classmates, friends – you name it, they are all very well developed characters in this coming of age drama.
In the end, we get a sweet HFN that leads us to believe it will be a HEA for these guys and a very nice story about the pains of growing up gay in a not so gay friendly world.
I am sure if you liked book one, this will delight. Coming into this without book one as a guide, I still found the story engaging and never felt confused by not having read book one first.
I loved the text messages, the phone conversations and Billy’s Stats at the beginning of each chapter. (Although it took me a minute to realize the stats were for what happened in the coming chapter not the past chapter!)
I also appreciated that neither boy was the “stereotypical” embodiment of either the music geek nor the jock. Both boys had surprising elements that made them truly unique characters. I commend the author, too, for navigating the parental role in handling a sexual relationship between college age boys. It felt authentic and natural and was very well done.
What I didn’t love was the drama. There was so much happening all over the place that the love story got a little bogged down for it. I really wanted to spend more time focusing on the boys and their relationship but everything around them was a bit distracting. If you want a more “coming of age” type story – this will really fit the bill. That’s what it felt like to me. The romance part, though strong and important, was maybe not as emphasized as it could have been.
The writing was excellent and the humor fantastic, I enjoyed this book a great deal.
3.75 of 5 hearts