This book has been on my TBR for a long time, was one of the few hardcovers I bought immediately after getting my first bookshelf but I never really found the right time to read it. But once I started, I just didn’t want to stop. It has made me feel so many emotions in quick succession and I really don’t know where to begin with the review.
Tanner is a half-Jewish bisexual high school senior who is trying to live in a closeted life in the small LDS town of Provo, Utah. He often thinks about his life in Palo Alto, how he was able to be himself without hiding such an important part of his life from his closest friends. Despite these issues, he is truly an honest, thoughtful person with a great sense of humor. I also loved that he is absolutely confident about his classes, doesn’t like being called lazy and is always up for a challenge.
The best word to describe Sebastian is “nice”. He is just this epitome of a good, responsible, wholesome boy who is dedicated in his faith of God, his church and believes in a life of service for his community. His struggles with accepting his sexuality, just refusing to identify as gay because that would make it real, reconciling all of it with everything that he has been taught throughout his life, questioning how he would ever survive without the church and his family – all of this was so real and heartbreaking and I just wanted to protect him from all hurt.
The first time their eyes meet, it’s an immediate connection. I agree that it is completely instalove but the writing makes their feelings seem so authentic, that I had no problem believing in them. The start of their friendship, their conversations and little flirtations are so endearing. Seb’s letters to Tann and snippets of Tann’s writing of their love story are so full of warmth and feeling that I was overwhelmed. Tann is so understanding of Seb’s conflict and he tries very hard to know more about Seb’s faith, is mostly angry for his boyfriend but never at him for being so devoted to his church and family that will never accept his true self. Their separation devastated me right alongside them and I kept hoping that they would make it.
Tanner’s parents are possibly some of the best I’ve ever read in YA. They may smother and embarrass him, but they are also loving, concerned for his happiness and completely supportive. Even when they have a problem with Tanner dating Seb, due to mom’s own bad ex-LDS experiences, they talk it out with him, give him all their logical reasoning but also respect Tann’s choice to continue his relationship. The scene where Seb shows up distressed because his family refuses to talk to him just coz he mentioned the possibility of being gay, Tann’s mom just instinctively hugs him tight and he break down – I was so conflicted because I was weeping for him but also happy that there was one adult who didn’t make him feel wrong or worthless.
Auddy is Tanner’s best friend and I liked that they were always there for each other, like a safe space. But I was also slightly disappointed because I was expecting a platonic friendship. I also couldn’t figure out if Tann was blind to Auddy’s feelings or just didn’t want to acknowledge them. I know he was heartbroken after his break up but I just can’t understand why they needed to have sex. It just stumped me and took me out of the story for a while. I’m glad that they manage to discuss it maturely and navigate their way to being best friends again.
I thoroughly enjoyed the writing in this book. The authors do a wonderful job in getting the tone of a smart, humorous high school boy right. The love, the feelings, conflicts and heartbreak are written in a very evocative manner. The Mormon religion is also depicted in a very respectful way through conversations between Sebastian and Tann and I think it was very skilled of the authors to make us feel for Seb and his struggles without making us hate his faith or his parents. I thought that the bisexual rep was very good and there are multiple times where both of them discuss about their identities and how it just is and not how they choose to be. The last couple of chapters were very agonizing but it was also indicative of how deep they felt for each other despite months of separation. I really would have loved an epilogue or a longer reunion scene but when Seb finally showed up in UCLA, I felt every bit of the joy that Tann did. I also just wanted that feeling to last a few more pages.
This book is a must read for anyone who loves YA romances and reading about sweet, amazing and thoughtful characters.