Book Review: Just A Dumb Surfer Dude

Quick summary: Cooper’s life is fine but uneventful. He’s smart, his classes are easy, he has people who care about him, but he mostly feels like he’s waiting for his life to start. Then a new kid comes to school and everything changes.

(I tried not to spoil things but there are probably mild spoilers and hints about what happens in my review.)

What I thought: Just a Dumb Surfer Dude: A Gay Coming-of-Age Tale is a quick, fun read that would work well for reading during the summer or at the beach but can be read anytime. The “surfer dude” is less important than one might think by the title, but those who like humor, sweet romances, and romantic comedies will enjoy this story.

I really liked the narrator’s voice and liked that there were multiple love interests, that’s not always something you see in LGBTQ teen fiction. It started out a little slow for me, but I got more interested as I kept going.

Depending on how perceptive you are, there may be a fun twist or two. I am usually much better at picking out this kind of thing, but I didn’t see it coming, so I really liked the surprising direction the story went in.

The Romance: Cooper is presented as an intelligent guy, but he has no experience with relationships or dating, so there’s a coming-of-age aspect where he explores getting close to guys romantically. It’s all new and intense and scary. While this story is on the shorter side, it still tells a complete story about finding love. It’s not heavy on the angst but has a few ups and downs and isn’t completely predictable.

If you’ve been reading a lot of stories about boy meets boy and then one or both boys freak out about liking another boy, this book offers variety. Cooper already knows he’s gay, so the story explores finding that special person more fully and what makes someone “the one” without any sexuality crises.

There’s also a sequel.

Plotty Details: Cooper’s life at his all-boys school is okay, but there isn’t much going on. He has one best friend he’s close with and his relationship with his father is important to him. Both he and his father don’t enjoy being single. He’s one of the only gay kids he knows and hasn’t had any romance yet and is sort of getting impatient waiting for it. While there’s no love interest in his life, his best friend is also gay. They aren’t out to everyone, but Cooper’s dad knows.

Cooper finally gets some excitement in his life when a new student comes to school. He’s even paired up with the hot guy in one of his classes. The problem? This new boy seems to like him even though his best friend really wants to go out with the new guy.

Best Part: Cooper has great relationships with his father and his best friend Alex. If you like your romances to have a little more depth, there is also plenty of father-son moments. Cooper and his dad don’t relate to each other perfectly but love each other and that comes through. The father is an English teacher and there’s a lot of little quips I enjoyed about different books. The dialogue was at its most witty when Cooper was with Alex or his father. Cooper’s a big smart alec who loves tormenting the people he loves.

Loving Lakyn Review

Loving Lakyn

Plot: Lakyn doesn’t want to live anymore, but he grudgingly attempts to make things better after a suicide attempt. His life might be improving: he’s with family who loves him, he finds a therapist he can tolerate and then there’s a boy. Scott’s a lot more enthusiastic and optimistic, but he also has his share of problems. They might be able to get through life together if their combined demons don’t drag them down first.

My Thoughts: I’ve been around for… an amount of years I don’t entirely admit to, but it’s been at least 20. And somewhere in those years, I’ve had my fill of dramatic gay tragedies. I tend to like things happy and lighter when I want entertainment. Some angst is okay, as long as there’s also some comedy.

Loving Lakyn has a lot of heavy elements, but there was enough sweetness and jokes that the darker elements weren’t too much for me. It’s a little bleak but also hopeful, which is a vibe I actually really dig.

It was an interesting read that doesn’t sugar coat things but isn’t completely a downer either. I liked the mix of romance with personal growth story lines and there was plenty of both.

Best Part: The chapter titles were great, though Scott and Lakyn’s relationship was also a highlight. Scott seems happy and well adjusted and Lakyn seems dark and sarcastic, but they’re both drawn to each other anyway and make a compelling pair.

Outshine the Stars review

 Outshine the Stars – Nash Summers

Plot: Witty and self-absorbed Justin catches feelings and has to admit the world is bigger than himself.

My thoughts: I don’t know the right way to describe the writing in this short story. I think of it as ‘poetic as hell.’ It’s gorgeous and lyrical. The format wasn’t my favorite but I’m glad I stuck it out because it’s a good quick read with witty dialogue and a sweet love story.

Fave Part: I really enjoyed the prose, but the dialogue was good too. The conversations were a mix of how I actually talked in high school and how clever I wish I was in high school.

Sam Dorsey and his Sixteen Candles

Sam Dorsey and his Sixteen Candles is right up my alley. It’s a definite rom-com where’s there’s a bunch of zany antics that could realistically happen in real life but probably wouldn’t, especially at the same time, but if you’re someone like me who can suspend disbelief and just read about the crazy week Sam turns 16, it’s a funny, enjoyable story.

Sam Dorsey And His Sixteen Candles (Sam Dorsey And Gay Popcorn) (Volume 1)

The Plot: Misfortune always befalls Sam Dorsey or his family on his birthday, so he’s dreading the consequences of putting off the celebration he doesn’t even want and having a whole birthday week. On the bright side, his crush Jake finally seems to know he exists. But his new friend Mitch doesn’t seem to like that.

My thoughts: The narrator in this story, Sam, has a good voice that adds a lot of character and humor. The tone stands out and lets you know what you’re reading, it’s not just another book that blends in with the rest.

I feel like I should say something about the references to the Sixteen Candles movie, but as I’ve never seen the movie, I can’t. As far as I know, some characters have similar  names, but it seems like it’s more the tone of the story that’s similar than actual details.

There’s a lot of guys in this story that seem to be at the very least bicurious. Just a whole lot of queer dudes, which is something you don’t see a lot anywhere, especially in YA. I think it’s great, especially as I tend to have multiple gay characters in my stories too.

Best Part: Many stories deal with the negative fallout of coming out and while that’s realistic, I don’t think disapproving parents are a universal experience anymore, so I enjoyed the approach this story took a lot.

I don’t know what classifies as full length or a short story and what this technically ranks as. Since the action takes place over a few days and it’s around 150 pages, it feels like a short story. It’s a cute, quick read. There’s other books in the series and they all seem to be available on Kindle Unlimited.

Reasons to Love a Nerd Like Me Review

Reasons To Love A Nerd Like Me: Love Stories Book 1by Becky Jerams

The Plot: Scotty is an out, self-described geek, or I suppose I should say nerd since it’s in the title. His life is comprised of schoolwork, a type-A, bossy best friend, and a bully who lives to terrorize him. Then the mysterious bad boy Vincent Hunter enters his orbit, and both are drawn to each other.

My thoughts: This reads like a quintessential YA rom-com. There’s a cast of zany characters, lots of opportunities for drama and misunderstandings and everything feels so important and immediate. There’s a lot of fun with classic types of characters like the jealous ex and the bad boy with the heart of gold.

Reasons to Love a Nerd Like Me is an exciting, energetic read. I’m an American who doesn’t fully get the British school system but its still easy enough to follow. It almost felt like a soap opera, which I mean in a good way, there’s a lot of melodrama and high tension and it’s easy to just get absorbed and enjoy all the antics.

The best part: The two main characters are just so damn cute together. From nicknames to exchanging music to text message flirting, I loved reading their interactions and was really rooting for them. I had a smile on my face while reading, they were so adorable together. Scotty and Vincent’s love story starts slow as they get to know each other and is full of lots of sweet interactions that really make the story great.

10 Gay Opposites Attract Stories for YA Fiction Readers

Throw two characters together with absolutely nothing in common and force them to interact and you’ve got a classic rom-com. Why do opposites attract? Maybe it’s because love stories are more fun when things are a little complicated. Maybe it’s because two very different people can meet and become stronger together than they were on their own.

Or maybe Stiles is right:
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Yes, it’s possible I was a Sterek shipper at some point.

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Whatever the reason, unlikely pairs with undeniable chemistry are fun to read about. These are some of the best opposites attract stories in YA fiction involving gay romances.

ONE MAN GUY – MICHAEL BARAKIVA

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Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Why bother, when their home cooking is far superior to anything “these Americans” could come up with? Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshmen year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.

Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. When Ethan gets Alek to cut school and go to a Rufus Wainwright concert in New York City’s Central Park, Alek embarks on his first adventure outside the confines of his suburban New Jersey existence. He can’t believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again. Michael Barakiva’s One Man Guy is a romantic, moving, laugh-out-loud-funny story about what happens when one person cracks open your world and helps you see everything—and, most of all, yourself–like you never have before.

Writing Style: Third person, one POV, humorous. 274 pages
Topics and Tropes: high school freshman, Armenian culture, coming of age
For those who enjoy: music, first love stories, romantic comedies

What Readers Think:

 The story itself was very upbeat. I loved everything about the city (again, it was spot on with the attitude we get when we go into the city- we aren’t tourists, but we’re not New Yorkers). Plus, it was great to get a cute story that didn’t end with suicide or depression. I feel like a lot of LGBT books deal with those heavy topics, and while that is a very important issue, not all people face that. To have a book where the people are accepting is just nice to see.

Erin Weinman, Amazon Review

 BY THE CREEK – GEOFF LAUGHTON

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Soon-to-be high school junior David Harper hates his family’s move to the country. There’s nothing to do, and he misses his friends in the city. But he doesn’t have a choice. His mother’s job is in Mason County now, so David and his mom are too, and he has to make the best of it.

At first, the only redeeming feature of David’s new home is the swimming hole across the field from his house. Then David meets Benjamin Killinger, and suddenly life stops being so dull.

Benjamin is Amish, and cooling off in the swimming hole is one of the few liberties he and his brothers enjoy. A friendship with an English boy is not—but that doesn’t stop him and David from getting to know each other, as long as it’s on the neutral ground by the creek. After David risks his life to save Benjamin’s father, the boys’ friendship is tolerated, then accepted. But before long, Benjamin’s feelings for David grow beyond the platonic. Benjamin’s family and the rest of the community will never allow a love like that, and a secret this big can’t stay secret forever….

Writing Style: Third person, one perspective, descriptive setting. 180 pages
Topics and Tropes: boys from different backgrounds, friends to lovers, slow build, city boy and country boy, forbidden love
For Those Who Enjoy: coming of age, different cultures, inherent natural drama, unique story

What Readers Think:

Love does not know cultural boundaries, thank God. Two young men meet and fall in love, beliefs are questioned, conflicts occur. Will love be strong enough? Read and find out in a touching story of discovery. There is no need for graphic details of love making, it is not necessary, the story carries well on it’s own. I think it is a great read for young and older adults as well.

Just Relax, Amazon Review

HEAVYWEIGHT – MB MULHALL

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Secrets. Their weight can be crushing, but their release can change everything—and not necessarily for the better. Ian is no stranger to secrets. Being a gay teen in a backwater southern town, Ian must keep his orientation under wraps, especially since he spends a lot of time with his hands all over members of the same sex, pinning their sweaty, hard bodies to the wrestling mat.

When he’s trying not to stare at teammates in the locker room, he’s busy hiding another secret—that he starves himself so he doesn’t get bumped to the next weight class.

Enter Julian Yang, an Adonis with mesmerizing looks and punk rocker style. Befriending the flirtatious artist not only raises suspicion among his classmates, but leaves Ian terrified he’ll give in to the desires he’s fought to ignore.

As secrets come to light, Ian’s world crumbles. Disowned, defriended, and deserted by nearly everyone, Ian’s one-way ticket out of town is revoked, leaving him trapped in a world he hates—and one that hates him back.

Writing Style: First person, one perspective. 230 pages
Topics and Tropes: jock/artist dynamic, eating disorders, sports, friends to lovers,

For Those Who Enjoy:  interracial romance, adept treatment of serious subjects, rare perspective of male eating disorder, sweet love stories

What Readers Think:

Hate is still alive and well in far too many lunch rooms. This is one of the better books I’ve read in the recent years that truly tackles these subjects. Immense in it’s realism on the subject matters it tackles, M.B. Mulhall deserves every award in the book for not taking the easy route on this. It’s gritty, and at times very hard to handle, but the way Mulhall crafts the story allows it to be the punch in the face it should be.

Rebecca A. , Goodreads Review

NAIL POLISH AND FEATHERS– JO RAMSEY
Deep Secrets and Hope #1

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Sixteen-year-old Evan Granger has no problems with being gay. Despite his mother’s objections, he wears nail polish and makeup to school and pursues his goal of becoming a professional drag queen.

TV drag star Taffy Sweet gives encouragement and Evan’s cousin Holly tries to protect him, but school bullies abuse him so badly because of his sexuality and the girly way he dresses that he ends up at the hospital emergency room. After that, even his new crush, a closeted football jock named Moe Garcia, is unhappy about Evan’s choice to live his life openly gay. But even in girly clothes and nail polish, Evan is a force to be reckoned with, and he soon shows the bullies—and everyone else—that beating a drag queen up does not mean the queen is beaten down. (Available on Kindle Unlimited)

Writing Style: First person, one perspective. 210 pages
Topics and Tropes: drag queens, a closeted jock, bullying, gender fulidity
For Those Who Enjoy:  character story with a side of romance, teens with a strong sense of self, stories about overcoming adversity

 What Readers Think:
Evan Granger, is adamantly effeminate and not about to hide it. He wants to grow up to be a drag queen. So rare is it that a YA novel really deals with the issue of a boy who simply cannot “pass” in a straight world… The book is about Evan’s agency, and it is surprisingly powerful. I found myself echoing his friends, “why can’t he just tone it down?” And then realizing that I, too, reflect the problem the book is trying to illuminate. It is Even’s refusal to back down that is at the core of this tale.
Ulysses Dietz, Amazon Review


KING OF SNOWFLAKES
– MICHELE FOGAL
West Coast Boys #1

Grade twelve is flying by like a pride parade of gay freedom and love until Skyler finds his gorgeous downtown boyfriend cheating on him over Christmas break. The breakup leaves him raw and not up to ignoring the usual gay taunts from soccer star Ryan and his teammates.

When Skyler loses it, he’s surprised to find a straight jock like Ryan knows what it’s like to have your heart broken and what it’s like not to belong. Behind his cocky smile, Ryan is feeling hopeless about his grades, his chances of getting into university, and his lack of real friends.

When Ryan invites him on a family ski trip, Skyler thinks escaping the city will let him lick his very private wounds in peace. He doesn’t count on Ryan’s warmth and affection amid the grandiose snow-covered mountains with their wonderland white trees, or the magical way Ryan’s silky hair fills with perfect six-point snowflakes. He certainly doesn’t expect Ryan to have secrets of his own that could burn them both–or lead to Skyler’s first truly loving relationship.

Writing Style: Third person, POV alternating,  vivid descriptions. 200 pages.
Topics and Tropes: enemies to lovers, sports, whirlwind romance, self discovery,
For those enjoy: compelling romance,  bi characters, atmospheric novels, light angst

What Readers Think:

King of Snowflakes is a story that zeroes in to the heart of its characters and drags every secret out into the open. I loved it… KoS takes a very realistic view of sexuality, and takes an incredibly kind and mature approach to the idea of exploration and open communication. It was such a breath of fresh air to see these characters open up to each other and admit what they want and need. I definitely recommend King of Snowflakes for anyone who enjoys LGBT romance, it could make you feel warm inside in 10 feet of snow.

Lala, Amazon Review

LOVE COMPLICATED – Teegan Loy
Game, Set, Match Book 1

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Life is all about making choices. Some are complicated. Some are simple. But for eighteen-year-old Jalen Marten, none are easy. Jalen has managed to stay invisible for his entire high school career. He has a small group of friends, and it’s enough for him. He doesn’t want or crave attention from his peers. All Jalen wants is to survive high school.

Austin Suter is the hot, talented tennis player who has the entire school bowing at his feet. Girls routinely throw themselves at him, and boys like Jalen stay the hell out of his way. Austin is destined for greatness on the world stage of professional tennis.

The kiss between them wasn’t supposed to happen. Falling in love definitely hadn’t been part of Jalen’s plan.

And when Austin turns pro, Jalen begins to realize that the choices he makes will affect Austin’s life. One wrong choice and Austin’s career could be over before it really begins. Jalen is not sure where he fits, or even if he fits at all in Austin’s life. But the more complicated things become, the less the idea of being apart appeals. Love should simplify things, not complicate them.

Writing Style: First person, single POV. 280 pages
Topics and Tropes: sports, music, self confidence issues, angst
For those who enjoy: intense romantic relationships, strong supporting characters, a blend of YA/new adult

What Readers Think:

Ok, this is a five star read because it appeals to the ooey-gooey, sappy center of me. It’s exceptionally talented teenagers-in-love who really, genuinely have a sweet relationship and they made me root for them the entire time. It’s the sort of book that makes me want to read a fluffy HEA sequel where they just keep being strong together and triumphing over obstacles. It’s a chicken-soup comfort read sort of warm fuzzy book.

Trace, Goodreads Review

UNDER THE STARS – GEOFF LAUGHTON

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Ethan Tanner is an out and proud, fastidious, and fashionable sixteen-year-old vegetarian who likes theater and musicals. This year, it’s his sister’s turn to pick the vacation destination, so he ends up on a dude ranch he knows he is going to hate. What with the dirt, animals, and germs, he can’t possibly be happy.

Jason McCoy is the closeted sixteen-year-old son of the ranch owners and is trying to find his place in a world that doesn’t seem to fit him. He takes an interest in Ethan, shows him around, and gets him to ride a horse. When he invites Ethan camping, Ethan thinks Jason must be joking. But Ethan takes a risk, and the two boys bond under the stars.
After that, Ethan and Jason are inseparable. Their friendship grows into something deeper as they begin to figure out what they want from life. But Ethan’s home is in Chicago, and the distance might be more than the two teenagers—and their blossoming relationship—can withstand.

Writing Style: Third person, one perspective, atmospheric. 180 pages
Topics and Tropes: city boy and country boy dynamic, friends to lovers, long distance relationship
For those who enjoy: coming of age stories, secret relationships, angst

What Readers Think:

Under the Stars is a sweet gay teen romance and coming of age tale about two high school boys who meet at a remote dude ranch – one a guest and one a ranch hand… This is a solid entry in the gay YA coming of age library. While perhaps not as stellar or challenging as some other gay YA books, I found Under the Stars most enjoyable. If you enjoy gay coming of age fiction, you’ll enjoy this book.

William Siwicki, Amazon Review

VANILLA – BILLY MERRELL

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Vanilla and Hunter have been dating since seventh grade. They came out together, navigated middle school together, and became that couple in high school that everyone always sees as a couple. There are complications and confusions, for sure. But most of all, they love each other. As high school goes, though, and as their relationship deepens, some cracks begin to show. Hunter thinks they should be having sex. Vanilla isn’t so sure. Hunter doesn’t mind hanging out with loud, obnoxious friends. Vanilla would rather avoid them. If they’re becoming different people, can they be the same couple? Falling in love is hard. Staying in love is harder.

Writing Style: First person, multiple POV, verse, episodic. 325 pages
Contains: asexuality, acephobia, established relationship
For those who enjoy: poetry, unique perspectives, unconventional storytelling

What Readers Think:

Many people are saying this book is aphobic, and I have to say that I couldn’t disagree more. I just finished this book today and found it to be powerful, evocative, and frankly quite good.

Kevin, Goodreads Review

DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER – ROBBIE MICHAELS
Most Popular Guy in the School: Book One

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High school can be some of the best years of life—and some of the toughest. Mark Mitchell’s strategy for surviving is to emulate the mighty turtle: pull back inside his protective shell and keep a low profile to avoid trouble. And it works—nobody bothers him. Of course, nobody really knows him, either, even in a town so small it seems like everybody must know everyone else.

Mark certainly knows Bill Cromwell, whom he meets officially when his father volunteers him for manual labor at the school. Bill is his polar opposite: outgoing, gregarious, athletic. But when a massive snowstorm traps the two boys together for three days, Mark learns that being popular doesn’t mean you can’t be bullied or abused—or gay—and that bullying doesn’t stop at the school doors.

Mark isn’t naïve. He’s seen the news reports of gay teen suicides, and he’s determined not to become a statistic. But it’s not himself he’s worried about.

Writing Style: First person, one POV, journal/diary tone. 200 pages
Topics and Tropes:  jock/nerd dynamic, thrown together by circumstance, domestic abuse, small town life
For those who enjoy: friends to lovers stories, teen issues, serious topics

What Readers Think:

Mark’s narration is simply addictive. A bit self deprecating (he is classified as a nerd), sometimes funny but totally honest and all heart… I like that Bill is not the typical jock character depicted in most similar stories and the nerd is not the one in need of help here. Bill is the victim and his rescue is the best part of the story.
IMHO, Amazon Review

Dumb Jock – JEFF ERNO
Dumb Jock Book One

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Jeff Irwin is short, timid, and studious. A bit of a social outcast, he lives quietly in the shadows of the popular kids at his school, his life ruled by his ever-present fear of rejection or failure.

Enter high school football hero Brett Willson and the chance for Jeff to embark upon the challenge of educating the world’s dumbest jock.

But what develops between Brett and Jeff proves far more challenging than any tutoring session. In 1983, rural Michigan isn’t ready to embrace love between two men, never mind two teenage boys. If they’re going to make a go of it, Jeff will have to come out of his shell—and Brett will have to prove he’s more than just a dumb jock.

Writing Style: First person, one POV, older narrator telling his childhood story. 200 pages
Topics and Tropes:  jock/nerd dynamic, small town life, bdsm,
For those who enjoy: coming of age, past setting, high school to college stories

Despite some qualms about the nature of Brett and Jeff’s relationship, the core of the story touched me very deeply. It was written from the heart. I liked seeing Jeff come into his own and working him way through some pretty deep issues – not just the typical teenager issues, but with his family. And darn it, I liked that epilogue.

Crabby Patty, Goodreads Review

Have you read any of these? Tell me what you thought! Are there any other opposites attract stories I should check out?

Under the Stars is one book I’m currently giving away, along with several others. You can click on the banner to go to the contest page.

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