(I don’t normally plan to have two book reviews in one week, but the Anxiety happened, so I felt I needed to get my reviews out early).
I received an ARC from NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
High schooler Matt’s father is rich, powerful, and seemingly untouchable—a criminal with high hopes that his son will follow in his footsteps. Matt’s older brother Luke seems poised to do just that, with a bevy of hot girls in tow. But Matt has other ambitions—and attractions.
And attraction sometimes doesn’t allow for good judgement. Matt wouldn’t have guessed that when he makes a new friend, one who is also carrying a secret. The boys’ connection turns romantic, a first for both. Now Matt must decide if he can ever do the impossible and come clean about who he really is, and who he is meant to love.
First of all, there is an old summary on GoodReads/Amazon/etc that spoils a huge twist in the book that is only revealed 80% through the book. I made sure the version isn’t spoilery, but please be aware of that before you dig too deep into this one.
This book had all kinds of potential for a Romeo and Juliet type love story, but it didn’t reach that potential. A lot of the book read like a normal romance between two boys where they have a minor secret, as if being a part of one of two major crime families in a city isn’t a big deal.
Speaking of, the ball was really dropped on the mob family part of the book. There are about three total scenes where typical mob stuff goes down (beyond just meetings) with the majority of the book being the romance. I feel like there could’ve been a lot of that “juggling illegal activity with being a normal kid stuff,” but for a book marketed as “part romance, part thriller,” I was barely thrilled.
Most of the characters were pretty flat, which led to rough, stilted dialogue. Matt was the most fleshed out character of all of them. That being said, I feel like the chance of character development was dropped. At some point, he starts acting like he wants to be a part of the crime family, but then just as quickly stops doing that, and I think it could’ve been explored better.
Matt and Jason like a lot of the same stuff, like the same exact video games or movies, which kept being pointed out to the point of being slightly irritating.
One thing I will say was positive was Matt’s inner thoughts. I’m sure they will hit some gay teenagers out in the world as he discusses coming out but not being out to everyone and unrealistic body standards.
I’m not going to fault the author for this, but I have issue with the cover. For the life of me, I never saw any mention that either Matt or Jason were people of color. I highlighted two instances where they were described as “pale.” It was, however, my assumption based on the cover, that one boy would be white, and one would be a person of color.
One star. It hurts to give a book such a low star, but with a rough writing style, flat characters, none of the thrills promised, and the last 20% of the book that utterly ruined it for me, I can’t give it any higher rating. To truly articulate why I’m giving this book such a low rating, I’m going to have to give spoilers for the last 20% of the book, if you don’t wan to be spoiled, stop reading here.
So here’s my problem with the ending. At the very end, Matt’s dad decides to go through with basically planning a massacre against the other crime family. Matt is, understandably, horrified, and has no idea what to do. He goes to Jason, who by this point, they have broken up because of the cop thing. Jason’s suggestion is to just leave the crime business, which would potentially lead to family members being killed. And Matt goes through with it. Just like that. Even though it was already established that he got angry at the death of a family member he didn’t even like. This felt so out of character for him. The only reason the massacre doesn’t go through is because off page, for no clearly plotted out reason, the dad calls off the massacre and a semblance of peace is established between the two families.
One more thing, Jason explicitly emotionally manipulates Matt into sharing family secrets because he’s the son of a cop. They never really address that part, even though Jason says he is sorry, and it’s just a time skip away that they get back together.
Had these issues been unpacked and addressed, I would’ve been way more on board, but they weren’t.