A would-be heroic high school junior comes to terms with both his sexuality and his behavior toward others.
In this YA novel, Kerick (Love Spell, 2015) tells the story of jock Bryan, who wakes up one morning with an urge to put on a Superman-style cape and “help those in need.” He makes an effort to be nice to his mother, rescues a kitten from a tree, and even fights for environmentally friendly packaging for his breakfast sandwich—but he has no memory of something crucial that happened at a party the previous weekend or of his secret relationship with his classmate Scott. As Bryan tries to figure out what he did wrong, he also decides to reject the bullying of his basketball team friends, become a part of the greater community, and reconnect with his estranged father. As he gradually comes to terms with what he did, he develops a new maturity and responsibility and becomes someone Scott can love in return. The snappy, clever narrative voice can be grating at times, particularly early in the story (“In fact, if I wasn’t the absolute highest man on the Appleton High School jock totem pole…I was a respectable distance north on that pole”). However, the tone evolves along with Bryan and eventually becomes endearing (“You see, as a kid, I’d been secretly petrified of Santa Claus, since I’d always been confident that I was on his ‘The Very Naughtiest Boys in America’ list”). Bryan’s emotional growth and coming-out story are handled well, without an excess of sentimentality, which would be implausible in a determinedly macho teenage boy. The anti-bullying themes, though clear, aren’t presented in a didactic way and never overwhelm the narrative, making the book an enjoyable one for readers willing to have patience during the early pages.
A well-written YA novel that balances honest storytelling with a strong anti-bullying message.