The 80’s, small town, opposites, broken homes, coming of age, coming out…
And blended together this made for a heartwarming, thought-provoking story of bittersweet young love. I was excited for the era, the setting, and the situation and was not disappointed.
Nate Bradford thinks his life has hit bottom when his dad and mom divorce, his dad moves them to nowhere Wyoming, and he is forced to start over his senior year. His senior class back in Texas was bigger than the entire student population in Warren. And what is he supposed to do for fun? There’s no movie theater, mall, arcade, or MTV. What’s the point of having an allowance? It’s the length of the school year and then he’ll be free. He’ll graduate and head off to college and somewhere else fast.
Cody has grown up hard and lean. Alone always. He is shocked when new kid Nate wants to hang out, but Cody accepts the inevitable that a guy from the Grove will go back to his kind when school starts and never look twice at the guy from a trailer park. But until then, he can enjoy hanging out and having a friend that takes his mind off his mom’s apathy, his dad’s long absence, and his worthless life going no where fast.
And Nate discovers that Cody is right, but only somewhat. Nate does end up with the preppies, but only after Cody pushes him away and stays away. The High School social castes are strong and Nate can’t get comfortable and notices that Cody fits in with none. There are rumors about Cody and Nate finds that the rumors and the truths leave him in his own private personal crisis that abruptly ends when a tragedy jerks him out of it.
Things are getting desperate for Cody when his mom disappears on one of her things, the bills come overdue and he loses the one person who stood by him. When he thinks there is nothing and nobody, suddenly Nate is back and promising to stick by him. Can he trust Nate? Does he dare to dream and hope?
Alright, this was a bit of a trip down memory lane in some ways since the time period was the 80’s. The author did an amazing job painting the setting and background for both main characters. They were in a small town and attended the same school, but their worlds and point of references was so different. There were some strong supporting elements behind this coming of age class difference romance. Cody knows he’s gay, but Nate is discovering this about himself and this was a scary time with the AIDS crisis and the general public un/misinformed and laws just starting to change. There was also the reality of their two versions of broken homes. Nate’s parents separated late in his life and he is with a parent who chose him though Nate doesn’t see this at first while Cody never had a second parent present and his mom cares a little, but life long ago beat her up and left her with nothing for Cody. The reality of life of kids in a dying small town, how they interact, and live is all so carefully brought to life. With or without the romance, the writing was superb and I connected with the overall story and characters.
But the romance was just another wonderful layer. They start out as friends because Nate believes he’s straight. Then they are separated by the gulf of ‘class differences’ and social attitudes. Cody has the stigma of being trailer trash who gets into trouble and Nate is supposed to live up to a middle class preppie. But they connect first and share deep dark places in their hearts that push aside those other things. They part and it is hard to see. Nate is the one who tries (and errs) and keeps trying to bridge the gulf. The story doesn’t get explicit just as the guys don’t get into much physical intimacy, but it’s not missed as the focus is strongly on the relationship and the much needed emotional connection.
I liked how the author kept it real, but allowed for hope. I teared up a couple of times. Cody really had it bad and I was so glad he had a friend in Logan and another in Nate. Nate’s circumstances weren’t great, but he saw just how good he had it the more he got to know Cody’s life. But the overall circumstances of everyone in that town were sad, but it rang true.
All in all, this was a fantastic book that deeply touched me. Older teens all the way through adults who enjoy coming of age and coming out small town romance should pick this up.
My thanks to Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #112 YA
Literary Pickers #93 natty sweater
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