Two West Virginia teens become as close as two boys can get—until one stabs the other.
During the course of a three-day deposition, Nate, the victim, gives the prosecutor a detailed account of how Cam stabbed him. Before it turns violent, the bromance begins when the two pair up in 11th-grade biology class. Between formerly attending private Catholic schools and losing family members young, the two share an intimate connection. As that intimacy becomes physical, problems start to arise—for one, Nate has a girlfriend. Nate’s home, run by his straight-laced aunt, is also one of rules. The newest rule is that Nate can’t see Cam anymore. But Nate still wants to. Cam does, too. So, why the violence? The first-person present-tense narrative twists between dialogue, letters, and descriptive sequences. Jolting moments of direct address heighten the drama. Though the adults read as extremes, debut author Smedley adds depth by including intimate backstories. Nate’s internalized homophobia and Catholic guilt mix, resulting in a layered, complex depiction of questioning (bi)sexuality. Meanwhile, ignostic Cam provides a more bi-positive foil. Smedley’s tight control of the structure, alternating between burgeoning romance and cringeworthy case details, skillfully results in cognitive dissonance. Most of the cast presents as white, but the prosecutor is black and uses a wheelchair.
A heartbreaking case worth revisiting again and again. (Fiction. 13-18)