Multiple narratives twist around a slowly revealed mystery in this Australian import.
In September 2018, Louise, who is of Spanish descent, watches a YouTube video made by James, a half-Filipino/half-German boy looking for Elliot Taylor. “I wanna talk to him about his brother, Ash,” he says. “Elliot disappeared right after Ash’s funeral...I’d sure as hell like some closure.” Louise’s best friend is also named Elliot Taylor, but as far as she knows he doesn’t have a brother, dead or alive. The next chapter, dated March 2017, is narrated by Ash, a bisexual teen living with an indifferent foster family. The plot whips back and forth in time, narrated mostly by Ash, who is assumed white, but at times by Louise or James. Uninspired prose matches the trope-filled plot, which reads like a long-winded original fanfiction. Ash struggles with an eating disorder, depression, and, of course, self-injury. His brother is addicted to drugs. With his mom dead and dad unfit, Ash’s one lifeline is his relationship with James, which goes from friends with benefits to boyfriends with an entirely predictable amount of melodrama. The dramatic twist at the end is laughably far-fetched, and the happy ending comes only after the author drags the queer protagonists through all manner of traumas.
Only readers who relish in hurt/comfort stories and sad gay plots will enjoy Gonzales’ debut attempt at fiction. (Mystery. 14-18)