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.

Riding With Brighton Review


It’s hard to imagine anyone could find fault with Riding with Brighton. It’s a great character piece and a lovely romance too.

Summary: Jay Hall sees his life from a fresh perspective and finds himself wanting. He wants to change everything and knows just the person to help him: Brighton Bello-Adler, who is just about the coolest person in the world. They spend a few days together and go on an adventure of self-discovery and romance.

About Jay: Jay is unhappy with his life because he’s unhappy with himself. He’s good looking, popular, and an athlete, but he’s not impressed by his friends or any of his accomplishments. Because he’s been living with a part of himself he was too scared to acknowledge. But things are changing.

Jay’s been getting to know someone in one of his classes, Brighton. He likes talking to Brighton but feels really inadequate compared to him. Brighton is a shameless flirt with everyone, charming, an artist, and openly gay. He’s seems very confident and sure of who he is. And Jay wants to be like that. So he thinks.

It becomes pretty clear that it’s not hero worship Jay feels but a crush. It’s really sweet watching Jay gushing about Brighton in the safe context of a role model. He thinks he wants to be like Brighton, but he really wants to be worthy of catching Brighton’s attention.

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It was a sharp right turn, backward a good mile and a half, around corners, down hills, through a forest, and across the universe from where I really wanted to go.

About Brighton: In addition to Jay, there’s Brighton. Brighton is kind of a perfect angel who does no wrong but he’s still a strong character with his own voice. Jay’s the star of the show while Brighton is a supporting player, but again remember that this happens over the course of a few days and Jay has enough drama going on that it would have been too much to add more conflicts for Brighton.

What’s really great about Brighton is that he’s just a normal guy. He’s not boring but his life is going pretty well. And while that might not be great from a story perspective, it’s refreshing and a much needed portrayal of a gay teen in today’s culture. There’s no angst or depression. He has loving friends and a supportive family and being gay is just one part of him. He’s a good counterpoint to Jay and a realistic ,sometimes seldom seen, type of gay teenager.

The romance department is the only area lacking in Brighton’s life. He wants to be a normal kids who goes and dates and takes someone to prom. But there’s not a lot of dating options in his town. And he’s very attracted to Jay. He’s torn between the strong pull he feels for him and keeping his distance while Jay figures stuff out. He doesn’t want to get his heart broken but he can’t help the more attracted he becomes the more Jay shows of himself of Brighton.

What makes it unique: This is an interesting story because all the action takes place in the space of a weekend. It’s like a crash course in Jay’s psyche and emotional development as he dives head first into issues he’s never been able to confront before. The book provides a really in-depth character analysis and there’s lots of upheaval and revelations as Jay fits the coming out process into the span of a few days.

The Romance: The action is both the story of Jay finally being honest with himself and those around him and getting to know Brighton better. They can’t really help falling for each other the more time they spend together. They develop a real connection and a very supportive partnership.

There’s a lot of fun and flirty banter and swoon worthy moments. The book has the feel of a whirlwind romance, something intense and all consuming. But it’s not an artificial, insta-love kinda thing because the main characters get to know each other very deeply in a short amount of time and there’s both big romantic moments and more tender elements where the characters discovering each other and falling hard.

Favorite Part: The prose. The prose is just, really, really good.

My thoughts: Haven Francis wrote a beautiful book that should probably be read more than once in order to fully take in and appreciate everything. It’s life affirming and lovely but also doesn’t solve everything.

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.