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.

Perils of Fake Dating

In One Little Word, Luke needs to use Ryan to get out of trouble. Ryan wants to get Luke back for an old grudge. And then they fall in love? Maybe, but there’s a bunch of other stops along the way.

Here’s an excerpt:

Ryan

My fake relationship seemed to be working out great for my boy toy, but it was pretty inconvenient for me. Time to balance things out. Besides, I could argue it was practical to show up and embarrass him in front of his coaches. I mean interact with him in front of his coaches since he wanted some type of sports scholarship. They should know all about their star athlete and his boyfriend.

I went more subtle than showing up in a cheerleading uniform this time. I wore a pink sweater as it was cold and pink earmuffs for a little flair. Most of the guys had left the field, but Luke was talking to his two coaches at the pitcher’s mound. One of them was older and also the Economics teacher, and the other was younger, probably playing baseball in college.

I jogged up to Luke, giving him a noisy kiss on the cheek and throwing my arms around him. “Hi honey bunny, are you done with practice?”

The two coaches looked at us, blinking and seemingly trying to process. I kept my arms around the rigid jock and smiled enthusiastically at the men.

“Uh, just talking to the coaches… babe,” he said with false cheer. “Give me a second.” He stared into my eyes, telling me get the hell out of here. He didn’t understand me last night, so I ignored him now.

“You’re the cheerleader,” said the older coach.

I had showed up in a cheerleading uniform to his game one time. I guess that made an impression. “My friends call me Ryan, but Lukie calls me his little lemon drop,” I gushed. Technically, it would make more sense for Luke to be the lemon drop: he had blonde hair while I was a brunette, but it was the first pet name I thought of.

Lukie, I didn’t know you had a boyfriend,” responded the younger coach. He grinned and Luke flushed while I soaked in the embarrassment.

“Then you’re the only one,” the other coach grunted. God, even teachers had seen the video?

“What?” the younger one asked.

“Nothing,” Luke said quickly. “It’s nothing you need to see.”

His eyebrows raised.

“We’re an internet sensation,” I said proudly. “Don’t be so modest.”

“We’re hardly a sensation,” Luke argued. He’d pried my arms off him and was holding my hand, gripping it tight. I didn’t back down.

I patted him on the chest. “Let’s not fight in front of your coaches.” I turned to the men with an indulgent smile. “You know how he can be.”

“He’s a great player, keeps the guys focused,” said the older coach slowly, not really sure what was happening.

“Oh, so you just fight with me? I guess I’m special then.”

“So special,” Luke agreed.

I narrowed my eyes. “I didn’t like your tone just then.”

“What?”

“I know you said not to do this in front of them, but I can’t help it. That hurt, Lukie.”

“Oh my god,” he huffed, face red again.

“Well, apologize to your… fellow, Luke,” the older coach said. I fought not to grin as he took my side, looking at Luke expectantly.

“He’s just joking,” Luke assured him, sounding nervous.

Perfect. “Oh, so my feelings are a joke to you?” I raised my voice.

“Luke, come on,” the younger one pleaded. They probably hated dramatic scenes when girls were involved; being around a dramatic gay scene was even worse.

“Son, you’re just going to make it worse,” the older one said.

“Your coaches are smart, you could learn something from them,” I told him, not hiding the grin on my lips.

“Ryan,” he started but I opened my mouth. “Lemon Drop,” he said through gritted teeth, and I let him continue. “I’m sorry.”

I sniffed, turned away. “I don’t think you mean that.”

“I mean it, come on, please,” he begged. I should have captured this moment on camera.

“I can’t stay mad at you,” I exclaimed, throwing my arms around him again. The coaches used it as an excuse to leave.

“I’m going to kill you,” he whispered while awkwardly embracing me back.

“Don’t be like that, honey bear,” I quipped and skipped away.

 

~~~

Pool Boy – Gay Summer Romance

plbymerfednewSomewhere along the drive from the city to the oceanside, I had died and gone to heaven. Even better, a clerical error occurred and I was sent to the heaven for rich people. Nobody inform God because I wanted to stay here forever.

Opulence. I never understood what the word meant until I stayed at the Monroe’s summer home. It was so elegant and posh that thinking I crossed over to the other side made sense. I’d never seen such luxury during my time on earth; it couldn’t possibly be real.

It was all gorgeous. I wanted to rub my face over every surface, roll around in the decadence. It was the best place to spend the summer that I could ask for. It had everything I needed and several things I didn’t. It was perfect. Practically.

Everyone wants to win the lottery, and I felt like I did, even if this paradise of mine had an expiration date and I had to go back to Earth eventually. Winning the lottery is the dream for millions of poor people like me.

But those who have won will tell you to be careful what you wish for.

I don’t want to complain. My boyfriend said he would take care of everything and he did. Just…

He wasn’t around very much.

Having this palace to myself was a little lonely. But I’m not ungrateful! There’s a TV screen that’s larger than the length of my living room at home. The balcony connected to my room has an amazing view of the stars at night. The best food I’d ever tasted is always fully stocked in the kitchen.

There’s a long, clear-blue, fantastic pool.

And there’s the pool boy.


Read more or get the book here.

 

Scene from What Love Means

IMG_1107-1371.jpegMy novel What Love Means is about boys and spelling bees. This is a scene from the beginning after Max’s sister April wins a small spelling competition at her school and wants to train for the harder bees.

This excerpt contains a little bit of material from the book but is mostly an extended scene that didn’t make it in the final version.

***

After April won, I walked over to where she stood with a crowd of her friends. She had a gold star sticker on her shoulder for winning. I gave her a high five. Her friends scattered. They had a hard time being in my direct vicinity without blushing to death.

“Will you help me prepare?” she asked.

“The real thing is different. It’s a lot harder,” I warned. These were easy vocabulary words that anyone who studied had a shot at. It was different when there was a whole dictionary to choose from and kids who wanted it just as badly.

“I want to do it,” April said firmly.

“Kids study a lot for it. It’s all they do,” I warned.

“Give me a word,” she ordered.

“What?”

“Give me a challenging word. Come on,” she urged.

We had a mini stare-off before I relented. “Alright… how about ‘sputnik’?”

A boy near us giggled at the word but she didn’t even hesitate. I thought a little harder this time, then tried again. “Salve?” My favorites had been Salvic, German and Old English languages because I thought they were the most fun to say.

April got it again.

“What about shrieval?” Okay, maybe that one was a stumper. It was an old English word used for sheriff.

She nailed it without hesitation and smiled confidently at me.

“How do you know that?”

“I’m smart,” she said like it should be obvious.

“I never doubted it,” I assured.

“Good, then I should have no problem competing.”

It dawned on me. “You stole my old workbooks,” I accused.

“Borrowed.” She waved that off. “I’ve been training.”

“You didn’t tell me.”

“I knew you wouldn’t like it.”

Well, she was right. I stared at her as she tried to stare back seriously without grinning. Crap. I didn’t want to give in. We both knew I would.

“Alright,” I relented. “It looks like you’re going to be a spelling champion.”

Check out the full book here.

Real or Fake? M/M romance

The breakup scene from a supposedly fake relationship:

We need to talk,” Luke told me. A classic break up line. He couldn’t even be creative about it?

“I don’t have time,” I said, shutting my locker and walking away. A small, stupid part of me actually wanted him to let me walk away, wanted this charade between us to continue.

pexels-photo-176162

“Yeah, you never seem to have enough time for me,” he told my retreating back.

I spun around dramatically, intending to add flair to this scene. “We’re going to do this here?” I asked skeptically like we shouldn’t do this in public, but I raised my voice to catch more attention.

“We have to do this here because you’ve been avoiding me for days.” He sounded annoyed and I wondered if it was genuine. I had been avoiding him.

“You’re being dramatic,” I scolded.

“I’m the dramatic one?” He scoffed. “You love being the center of attention.” We were definitely the center of attention now: a crowd of eager onlookers had formed around us. Some looked uncomfortable while others were enjoying this, but they all seemed interested. I saw our friends Alicia and Lydia among the rest.

“Says the guy who is literally at the center of every baseball game,” I retorted.

“I’m the pitcher,” he said, exasperated, and a few of the guys on his team nodded at that.

“Don’t bring the bedroom into this!” I couldn’t help it.

Luke’s expression went confused for a second, trying to figure that out while the crowd murmured. I probably lost most of them with that one, but I had to fight a grin as I watched Alicia and Lydia dissolving into laughter and trying to hide it, turning towards each other and giggling helplessly.

Thrown off track, Luke went in a different direction. “I know what’s really going on here. Do you think I’m an idiot?”

I raised one eyebrow. “You want me to answer that?”

“You’re interested in him,” Luke spat out. I regretted not coming up with a plan. I hadn’t known the reason he’d give for our breakup.

“You’re jealous?” I asked, trying not to fidget.

“Hard not to be when my boyfriend is checking out someone else every time I turn around.”

There were a few football players in the crowd who had been watching in horror, unable to look away, but now they nodded after what Luke said. Luke was already more popular than me and better looking, and I was the cheating partner. He’d win our breakup.

It shouldn’t matter. I should just get this over with but I wanted something. I wanted to win. He was going back to being straight and likable, and I’d be the gay cheater whose social status plummeted impossibly lower. And everyone would wonder how I could be dumb enough to cheat on the captain of the baseball team when I was lucky to have him in the first place.

Luke smiled and started to turn away. Nope, he wasn’t going to leave me here humiliated and alone. “I’m sorry,” I started and he paused, looking unsure about whether he should trust the apology.  Good instincts. “But maybe I have a problem being a phase for you.”

There were gasps.

“Dude, what?” he said quietly, just to me.

I kept talking. “You’re more comfortable dating girls and you know it.”

“But—”

“I’m not the only one looking elsewhere.” I pointed to Lydia, feeling a little bad about dragging her into this.

“Hey, that’s not fair,” Luke tried. “She doesn’t mean anything to me.”

Lydia had an untapped talent for dramatics. She jumped in at that. “How can you say that?” she gasped. “You told me you loved me!” She inserted herself between us for a second and slapped Luke across the face. She stared me down fiercely for a few seconds, then grinned saucily and stormed off while the crowd parted to let her through.

“You got so caught up in having a boyfriend, but you spent no time actually being in this relationship. I need more,” I said bravely, pretending that I was fighting back tears.

“Don’t do that. You’re not into me. That’s what this is really about,” Luke said weakly, trying to get the power back. It was the wrong thing to say.

“Shouldn’t I be saying that to you?”

Luke’s face went through a series of emotions too fast for me to interpret. Man, he really was a better actor than I thought, but my heart hammered in my chest too hard to pay attention. Tears welled up in my eyes, no longer fake.

“I think we need to break up,” he said quietly.

“I don’t think so.” His eyes widened. I thought I heard people gasp again. “I know it,” I said, head held high. “We’re over.”

People cleared the way to let me through. I think a couple people even applauded. I just kept my eyes ahead and concentrated on walking down the hall and out of Luke’s life.

Our relationship had been fake, but that breakup seemed real.

This is an excerpt from One Little Word, 

via Daily Prompt: Laughter