Reading the blurb about this friends-to-lovers and bi-awakening story taking place in the 1970s, I really thought I would love this book. But sadly, I ended up feeling slightly let down by it. It had so much potential, but due to the writing style, the immature and manipulative characters and the unnecessary drama it didn’t meet my high expectations.
The story follows the two college students Troy Larson and Jessie Smith, who have been best friends forever, always spending their annual summer vacation together with their families at a Northern Minnesota lake resort. This summer though, things are feeling off between them. Jessie is angsty, and clearly hiding something. When Troy accidently stumbles upon Jessie in an illicit act with another man, he suddenly understands the reason for Jessie’s behavior. But he also starts to question his own feelings and has to deal with jealousy, confusion about his own sexuality and the fear of losing his best friend.
The story about two friends starting to have feelings for each other, the historical backdrop with the rise of the gay movement and how being gay would make it impossible for Troy to become a teacher, had such potential to be a truly gripping and engaging story. But sadly, the main characters felt so immature and the telling was a bit too plain for the story to meet its full potential. It was as if the author had to tell us how much Troy loved Jessie, since his actions didn’t show it. It sure didn’t seem like true love in the way Troy got attracted to almost everyone he met, boy or girl, thinking they were “a fox”, nor how he manipulated drama just to force Jessie to confess his feelings. Troy felt so shallow and selfish that I couldn’t root for him at all. I appreciated the way Jessie felt more fleshed out and more mature in the way he understood the consequences of a gay relationship at that period of time, but the romance part with him and Troy never gave me the right feels.
In the book, there were several episodes where the characters played truth or dare / spin the bottle games. The first one of those was fun and a great way to get the main characters to act on their feelings, but to repeat this idea multiple times was a bit over the top. I also really had an issue with the way Troy enjoyed watching his sister kiss another girl, that scene didn’t sit well with me at all.
But all in all, it was a fast-paced and enjoyable story and I really appreciated the love and support Troy’s father and siblings gave him. I also very much enjoyed the parts with Troy discovering gay life and how he was so open to admit his feelings and try new things. So even though this book didn’t meet my expectations, please don’t let this discourage you from giving it a try!
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