I love finding new authors who's writing works for me and I'm happy to say this one did. When Joel was a teenager he was in love with his best friend Diego. They lived in a small, rural town so they kept their relationship hidden. This all ends when Diego dies in a car accident and his phone is found and all their sexts are released to the public. Joel's entire life crumbles around him and the poor kid is put through horrible times.
The start of this book catches up to him three years later. He's gone away for college, changed his name and he never tells anyone his story. He has few friends and only has meaningless hookups. Joel is drowning in grief. He hasn't moved on at all. And maybe, most importantly, he doesn't want to. He loved Diego with all his heart and his memories and grief are all he has left of him and he's not ready to give those up.
Joel meets Paulie in one of his classes and circumstances lead them to being friends. Over time they start to have feelings for each other. It's not an easy road though. Because as much as Joel cares for Paulie he still holds on to Diego. It's a road of self discovery and unfortunately Joel hurts Paulie and himself more than once. (the author makes these boys Work for their hea).
I loved Paulie as a character. He was such a nice, sweet guy and his patience and understanding of Joel's issues were touching. I also really liked Joel. I didn't always like the things he did but I understood them and I think the author did a very good job showing his grief. He was not only grieving Diego's death but he was grieving the loss of his dreams, the future life he wanted. The positive relationship with Paulie also serves to highlight how his relationship with Diego was lacking by them having to be in the closet and due to Diego's self hatred (due to his parent's religion). It makes Joel angry that he was never able to have that with Diego and that is another layer to his grief. It also leads to mixed feelings about his current relationship.
Both Paulie and Joel have complicated family relationships and the story showed how things are not always black and white. Sometimes you hurt the one you love on accident. (That being said I still think both sets of parents were jerks)
This book was very emotional and pretty angsty. It deals with a lot of serious issues and some parts were a bit painful to read. If you're like me and you love angsty reads you should check this out. I think this was really good and an excellent debut novel. I can't wait to read more from this author. (here's hoping Joel's roommate Travis gets a book)
At eighteen, Joel Smith’s life fell to pieces. His boyfriend died in a car crash while reading a sext from him, the local newspaper outed them both in the aftermath, and his parents got a divorce. Joel did everything possible to outrun his past: he moved to Oklahoma for college, legally changed his name, and started over.
Since then, he hasn’t let anyone get close—not his classmates, not his roommate, and definitely not his hookups. The strategy has served him well for over three years. Why would he change it now?
But Joel doesn’t plan on the articles about his boyfriend’s death being used as a case study in one of his classes. And he doesn’t plan on Paulie McPherson, who is sweet and giving and fun. In Paulie, he finds a home for the first time in years.
But love isn’t simple, and lies have a tendency to get in the way. Joel must figure out if he’ll allow his grief to rule him, or if his connection with Paulie is worth letting all of his walls come tumbling down.