Shawn Graham and Bobby Wilder couldn’t be more different. Shawn is a devout Christian fundamentalist from northern Michigan; Bobby is a street-smart latchkey kid from southern Ohio. From an early age, they are both confused and troubled by their attraction to the same sex. Shawn believes that homosexuality is sinful, and a traumatic incident of childhood sexual abuse adds to his guilt and shame. Bobby has an image to maintain and flatly denies the possibility that his same-sex attractions even exist. He’s just too cool to be gay.
When they finally connect, their preconceptions are suddenly dwarfed by what they feel for each other. They become inseparable and fall deeply in love; however, love doesn’t make life easy. Plans are in motion that will surely devastate the young couple. Painful experiences of the past overshadow happy memories, and heartbreaking obstacles loom over the possibility of a future. If Shawn and Bobby want to stay together, they will have to fight with everything they have.
Writing Style: Third person, alternating POV. 366 pages
Topics and Tropes: 1980s setting, self identity struggles, balancing religion and sexuality (warning for rape/sexual abuse towards children)
For those who enjoy: tear-jerkers, steamy scenes
What Readers Think:
A story where emotions and personal relevance definitely overrode my reactions to the writing. Coming-of-age story tackles a lot in its pages and does a good job at presenting a balanced view showing ugliness as well as beauty – Bobby and his teenage “bad boy” ways, Shawn’s struggle with his identity in the face of his religious convictions…
Lil’ Grogan, Goodreads Review
GO YOUR OWN WAY– ZANE RILEY
Go Your Own Way #1
Will Osborne couldn’t wait to put the roller coaster ride of his public education behind him. Having suffered bullying and harassment since grade school, he planned a senior year that would be simple and quiet before going away to college and starting fresh. But when a reform school transfer student struts into his first class, Will realizes that the thrill ride has only just begun.
Lennox McAvoy is an avalanche. He’s crude, flirtatious, and the most insufferable, beautiful person Will’s ever met. From his ankle monitor to his dull smile, Lennox appears irredeemable.
But when Will’s father falls seriously ill, Will discovers that there is more to Lennox than meets the eye.
Writing Style: Third person, alternating POV, simplistic. 326 pages
Topics and Tropes: Love/hate relationship, abuse, biracial character
For those who enjoy: angst, sexual tension, character driven stories
What Readers Think:
Thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It takes the wrong side of the tracks trope and knocks it around. Lennox is a fascinating boy and it’s painful to watch him make bad choice after bad choice.. As he starts to open himself up to Will in the tiniest of little pieces, you start to hope for Lennox… The characters in this novel are vividly drawn. I find myself attached to all of them. This was a beautiful start to their journey.
Ritz Bitz, Amazon Review
Theo can’t stop looking at Max. With those black clothes and piercings, and that sarcastic charm that’s enough to intimidate pretty much anyone, he’s not exactly what you would call ordinary. Especially not when Theo is as ordinary as it gets, for a high schooler, along with all the insecurity and awkwardness that comes with it.
Basically, Max is everything Theo is not, but no matter how hard Theo tries, he can’t get him off his mind. He’s honestly crushing on him so hard, that it’s not even funny.
Theo has never spoken to Max, has even tried to hate him, but when their paths actually cross, their first conversation takes a surprising turn. And before long, they both find themselves falling harder and faster than they ever could have anticipated.
‘Sweaters & Cigarettes’ is a story about first love, first times, and all the sweet thrills that go along with it.
(This book has some mature content)
Writing Style: Third person, one POV, character driven. 488 pages
Topics and Tropes: high school life, intense chemistry, banter
For those who enjoy: steamy scenes, fluff, strong characters
What Readers Think:
This book was refreshingly realistic in its depiction of two high school senior boys that find each other and fall in love. The characters and their situations seemed quite genuine and I found myself caring about them very early on in the book. There are some quite descriptive sex scenes in the book, but they are in good taste and also realistic to the story and how they are exploring their relationship.
Tony, Amazon Review
It’s not so easy being young, gay, and in love for the first time at the average high school. Senior Toren Grey cares more about his family and his grades than what brand of clothes he wears. He agrees with the majority consensus that he’s a nerd. So he’s quite surprised when resident bad boy Wesley Carroll speaks to him in the hall, stirring feelings that Toren has to hide.
Disconcerted by Wes’s free and easy ways, Toren can’t deny the attraction between them. As he relaxes and gets to know Wes better, he finds there’s more to the sexy rebel than his public image. Before long the young men are exploring new territory and falling in love, but life just isn’t that simple. After they graduate, obstacles block their relationship at every turn: Wes working versus Toren in college, the virulent disapproval of parents, and everyday trials faced by any struggling young couple. Wes and Toren have to believe in each other… and never doubt that their love can conquer all.
Writing Style: First person, one POV, relationship driven. 304 pages
Topics and Tropes: coming of age, nerd/bad boy dynamic, high school to college storyline
For those who enjoy: sweet love stories, steamy scenes, light angst
This is the ultimate comfort read for me. It’s just a sweet story. It’s long and it’s relaxed like someone taking a leisurely walk through a park on a spring day. There was a natural progression to Wes and Toren’s relationship. There was no insta-love and they don’t have sex two minutes after they meet.
Laddie, Goodreads Review
HEARTLESS – J. ROMAN
Keeping Secrets: Book One
For gay teens in the South, Erwin High School is as good as it gets. The prevailing liberalism means being gay doesn’t have to be the focus of your life—which frees up seventeen-year-old Jason Strummer to take on the role of bully. Jason understands his beauty and power and has a reputation to match his attitude. No one but his best friend suspects the cruelty Jason hides behind is a ruse to keep his hellish private life out of the public eye.
Jason has only loved one boy in his life, and that crush on Tommy Johnson ended so badly that they’re no longer on speaking terms. When an ex-lover threatens Jason and Tommy steps in to help, the heartless playboy can’t help but fall a little bit back in love with him—but Jason will have to choose between keeping Tommy or his secrets.
Writing Style: First person, character driven, one POV. 246 pages
Topics and Tropes: second chance at love, personas and masks, enemies to lovers
For those who enjoy: an atypical main character, thoughtful portrayal of difficult subjects, rocky love stories
I felt like I actually was inside a teenage boy’s head… I really enjoyed the story. Even though Jason isn’t exactly an endearing character, I felt compassion for him and am looking forward to the next installment where I hope he’ll find happiness and soften up a bit.
Madison Parker, Goodreads Review
Justin is hell on legs. He’s a self-proclaimed brat, a manipulator, and has a bit of a flare for the dramatic. While Justin might look like the picture of innocence, he leaves a path of terror wherever he goes.
His senior year starts off like all the others, him and his best friend sticking their noses up at everyone else while they bask in their own glory. But when a handsome new student catches Justin’s eye, he recruits the likes of a smart-mouthed kid named Connor to help him in his mission to capture the heart of the attractive newcomer. When Justin is finally forced to face himself and the truth behind his self¬-centered universe, it feels like the sky comes crashing down
Writing Style: Third person, one POV, prose, 44 pages
Topics and Tropes: friends to lovers, growing up, tragic backstories
For those who enjoy: funny dialogue, short stories, easy reads that also pack a punch
Lulls you into a sense of knowing the quirky characters then surprises you with unexpected depth. Great descriptions. Lovable folks.
Deborah Albee, Amazon Review
GUYLINER – J. LEIGH BAILEY
Seventeen-year-old Connor works his butt off to maintain the golden-boy persona he’s created. He has the grades, the extracurriculars, the athletics, and a part-time job at his dad’s shop… every detail specifically chosen to ensure the college scholarships he needs to get the hell out of the Podunk town where he lives. The last thing he needs is an unexpected attraction to Graham, an eyeliner-wearing soccer phenom from St. Louis, who makes him question his goals and his sexuality. Sure, he’s noticed good-looking boys before—that doesn’t have to mean anything, right?—but he’s got a girlfriend. There’s no room on the agenda for hooking up with Graham, but the heart doesn’t always follow the rules.
As he and Graham grow close, other aspects of Connor’s life fall apart. Family pressure, bad luck, and rumors threaten to derail his carefully laid plans. Suddenly the future he’s fighting for doesn’t seem quite as alluring, especially if he has to deny who he really is to achieve it.