A struggling actor takes a life-changing road trip with his best friend in this novel.
A childhood accident left Otto Digmore with burns over half of his face, but that hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his dream of becoming an actor. Conventional beauty may be a more prized commodity in Hollywood than talent (Otto doesn’t lack the latter), but he’s managed to land a supporting role on a middling sitcom. Professional success has arrived, but personal happiness is elusive, not the least because the lonely, gay Otto feels pressure to keep his sexuality under wraps. When his show is abruptly canceled, it looks like his career is about to stall just as it’s getting started. An unconventional script offers an opportunity to turn things around, and Otto snags an audition with the A-list director. The only problem? It’s in New Orleans. So Otto and his best friend (and ex-boyfriend), Russel Middlebrook, hit the road. Hartinger (The Road to Amazing, 2017, etc.) returns to the familiar territory of outsiders trying to find their places in a world that prizes conventionality, though this time the milieu is high-gloss Hollywood rather than high school. Fans should be pleased to see the return of Russel, prominently featured in several of the author’s previous works, in a supporting role. But the real star here is Otto, a compelling and sensitively drawn character in his own right. He’s sympathetic but flawed, vacillating between proud self-confidence and nagging self-doubt. A few too-convenient plot developments, like a hitchhiker who teaches Otto a valuable lesson and a threatening redneck in a pickup truck, verge on cliché. But as Russel—a screenwriter steeped in film trivia—points out, this cross-country journey is supposed to evoke classic road-trip movies. In this frank and funny tale, Hartinger does an especially fine job of handling Otto’s complex feelings for Russel without falling back on a generic rom-com happy ending. At times the story feels a bit slight—more like a tale for teens rather than adults—but as a fresh take on the theme of achieving self-acceptance in a world that discourages difference, it delivers.
A heartwarming story about staying true to yourself whatever others might think.