A sequel to Big Love (2016), this is the next chapter in the life of Truman, a high school senior adjusting to the aftermath of coming out, who falls in love for the first time with a handsome stranger new to town.
Truman has been bullied for his genderfluid, gay identity for years, but as a high school senior, he’s finally learned to accept himself even if other people in the small Ohio town of Summitville can’t accept him. Raised by a loving single mom who works in the local diner, Truman dreams of escaping the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains for an acting career in the big city. In the meantime, he’s happy as stage crew for the school’s production of Harvey. The lead role of Myrtle Mae Simmons unexpectedly drops into his lap, and Truman accepts with trepidation: “I’ll be…the laughingstock of the school,” he tells the drama teacher. When Truman sees new kid Mike Stewart on the bus, he’s instantly attracted to his rugged, dark looks and piercing blue eyes. But Mike is closeted, and his homophobic dad has started dating Truman’s mother. Reed’s Summitville is authentically loaded with overlapping relationships, boundary issues, and working-class challenges, but he relies on cliché to the detriment of characterization. Truman’s critics are irrational and evil and, of course, closeted gays. Mike is a cardboard closeted gay man who, of course, comes out in a crowd for his true love. He is little more than his “John Wayne gait, muscles, and stubble for days,” a prop for Truman’s romantic development. Critics of the tameness of Big Love will be pleased to find more explicit sex scenes in this volume, though clinical lines like “In a very short while, both of them were dissatisfied with the skin-on-skin sensations being limited only to their top halves” don’t generate much heat.
A wan romance stuffed with clichés, best for readers who must know what happened to the bullied high school protagonist of the first installment.