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.

Quote

A quote from Just a Dumb Surfer Dude: about great (or not so great) literature.

“What books did you read this week?”

Catcher in the Rye. Thinking about becoming a totally ungrateful punk who swears a lot, then run off to New York City with a completely inadequate sum of money…. I expect you to be waiting by the phone to rescue me when I somewhat come to my senses. But I’ll still be an ungrateful little brat after all that. Don’t expect much of a redemption arc in my story…. except maybe to give the spoiled little brat in everyone a reason to say ‘yeah, somebody understands me’.”

(Yes, I don’t like Catcher in the Rye.)

Nicknames are serious business

This is an excerpt from One Little Lie, which will be released on Oct. 20.

It was after lunch and Luke and I were discussing very serious matters.

“I think you’re just going to have to accept the reality of the situation,” Luke told me.

I frowned and leaned against his locker. “That really doesn’t sound like something I would do.”

Luke stood opposite me in a red shirt that hugged his shoulders perfectly. “Aren’t you all science-y?” he asked me. “That’s about facts and…” he trailed off.

“Go on,” I challenged. “Name one other thing.”

“Science,” he said decisively, like he wasn’t a big idiot.

I wasn’t fooled. “Science is about science? I’m dating a genius.”

His face brightened. “Oh, I am alright with that being my new nickname.”

Genius? “Like hell!”

He tutted at me. “You’re not being very accommodating and aren’t relationships about compromise?” Whatever, he wasn’t the relationship expert; I already called it.

“Lemon drop is mine,” I insisted.

He inched just a bit closer and in a low voice said, “Yeah, he is.”

~

Excerpt from One Little Word- YA LGBTQ Fiction

Boyfriends Ryan and Luke prepare for a doubt date at a gay club.

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We decided to dress up for maximum gayness. I had a shirt with a unicorn and Alicia had bought me a feather boa as a gag gift, so I was going to wear that too because why not. I wasn’t dressed yet because I was too busy laughing at Luke.

He faced away from me but glared at me through the mirror in front of him. “Ryan, stop laughing and just tell me which one of these shirts makes my eyes pop!”

I turned my head into the bedspread, giggling helplessly. I had started getting ready, then found that watching Luke worry about what to wear was much more important, so I lay on his bed and enjoyed the show. When I composed myself, I peeked up to see Luke was now glaring at the two shirts in his hands while holding them up to his chest one at a time and trying to decide.

I smiled sweetly. “Baby, I think you look good in anything.” Sure, my tone was still at least 20% sarcastic, but that’s my baseline.

And right now he just scoffed, sounding unimpressed with my answer. “Stop being a weirdo,” he said, eyeing the shirts critically.

We were road tripping to a bigger city called Fairview and heading to a gay club having an all ages night. Luke acted like a contestant in a beauty pageant, putting all of his focus into what to wear.

“I’m a weirdo for you,” I cooed.

Teasing was the only option if I didn’t want to combust into a puddle of hormones and fondness. He seemed like a big jock most of the time, and he could be confident and charming, but he was mostly an earnest goofball. Like now when he acted like the most important decision in the world was finding the right thing to wear.

He turned to look at me and said, “You do realize this might be the only time I ask you for fashion advice?”

Well played. I put him out of his misery. “Wear the red one.”

Luke frowned. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, moron, I’m sure.”

I loved him in that color and who cared about what anyone else thought of him? He was my bf, he should look good for me. I tilted my head and idly wondered how I’d get him to agree to the glitter body paint. We’d said we were having a super gay evening, so how did we achieve that without body glitter? We didn’t. He needed to be a team player. Even if he didn’t officially bat for a particular team. Other than his baseball team of course.

Hey, could moron be Luke’s pet name?

He held the chosen shirt up one more time and nodded decisively. “Thank you.” A serious look crossed his face again and he turned to face me. “Your pet name for me is not going to be moron.” Then he turned around again.

Wow, had we become that in sync? Maybe we developed a psychic connection. Probably the first one but just to be sure I concentrated on thoughts of Luke’s ass. “What am I thinking about?”

“My ass,” he said without hesitation.

“You are psychic,” I marveled.

“I can feel and see you staring at my ass,” he said meeting my eyes in the mirror with a laugh. Then he started messing with his hair.

One Little Lie will be released on Oct. 20 and can be pre-ordered here.

Summer Romance: New Material

I am trying to go through the books I wrote during the summer and turn them into a bundle but because I love giving myself lots of additional work, I’m adding a bunch of new content to Summer Romance.

Here’s a portion I worked on today:

A pop and a new Carter hairstyle? I had never wanted to say I was hashtag blessed before, but I felt very tempted now. I dragged my eyes away from his hair and told him, “Thanks again.” Then I couldn’t help myself. “We are so totally getting friendship bracelets.”

“Being friends with you is going to be painful, isn’t it?” he asked but with a smile.

“I can’t help it. You’re so…” I gestured vaguely at him. “Right there. And your face is so fun to mock.”

“I have a great face,” he defended.

Privately, I agreed. To him and his great face, I scoffed and said, “Look who’s modest.”

“You’re still an asshole,” he told me seriously. Had I gone too far? He smiled. “And I still don’t mind.”

I pursed my lips in contemplation. “I wonder if there’s a way to put that on the friendship bracelet.”

He gestured to the pop on the table. “Are you going to drink the beverage I so kindly procured for you?”

I made a decision and shook my head. “Nope.” His face fell for a moment and I told him, “We are.”

I got up and went to one of the market attendants behind the counter who wasn’t busy and he got two paper cups for us to use. I brought the cups back to our table and opened the can.

Carter wasn’t lying. He did have a great face. And hair, I couldn’t forget the hair. But his face stole the spotlight now. It was so soft and pleased when I poured us both a cup of pop.

The rest of the conversation was spent talking about trivial matters and trading stupid banter back and forth. I considered this whole day a true sign that we had gotten past the coworkers stage and entered into friendship territory.

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.

 

~~~

A real romance?

Luke keeps getting put in gay situations. And now his fake boyfriend Ryan has a real suitor. Luke’s best friend is Zach. Those last two sentences aren’t related to each other… right? Right?

Here’s an excerpt from One Little Word.

Luke

Lunch was awkward. Of course it would be awkward. I had just sucked face with a guy in front of our table. The seniors had gotten up and left, something they usually did when Ryan sat with us, but it felt different now. This wasn’t a video or a rumor. I had just kissed a guy in the cafeteria. I thought the stares were bad before.

“This isn’t right,” Ted said, and some of the guys nodded.

“Come on, man—” I started.

“No, it’s not that,” he interrupted, gesturing between me and Ryan. “I mean, I’m not thrilled about that,” he admitted, looking at us distastefully. Yeah, that was quite obvious I wanted to snap but managed to hold my tongue. “It just seemed like…” Ted looked at Zach and the other guys followed suit.

I looked at him, not getting it. What, Zach had the biggest problem? We were best friends. I’d have thought he’d at least try to be supportive, or pretend to be. Okay, Zach didn’t really do supportive, but I didn’t think he’d go out of his way to be a bigger asshole than he already was. That was true friendship for him.

“Uh, we thought you and Ryan were just pretending,” Joey said carefully. “And just a second ago, we were pretty sure Zach liked Ryan.”

God, Joey was so dumb. The catcher obviously took too many fastballs to the head, even with a helmet. “It must have been a misunderstanding,” I said easily.

“No, he’s right,” Ted said. What? The rest of the guys nodded.

“Zach’s straight,” I informed them. Was that something I even needed to say? He seemed to have a new girl every week.

“Well, actually,” he piped up.

“What?” No, no way. I stared between him and Ryan. Ryan looked down, not saying anything or meeting my eye, and he removed his hand from mine. Shit, I didn’t even realize we were still holding hands.

“Nothing’s going on between Ryan and I,” Zach chimed in when it was clear me and Ryan weren’t going to say anything, “As obviously he and Luke are so in love, but I was inspired by your PDA to come out.”

“How is this even possible? Is there something in the water?” Ted asked sarcastically. Joey put down the bottle of water he was about to bring to his lips, staring at it like it was poison.

Zach looked at Ryan, and the two traded a warm look, like they were in on a secret. What the hell? I suddenly felt annoyed for some reason. I wanted to grab Ryan’s hand again but that felt too petulant.

“Nope, no way,” Ted said. Joey was looking at everyone who passed by our table with suspicion and distrust, trying to see if there was someone with a rainbow sign around their neck reading ‘I’M GAY’ that he missed somehow.

“You’re gay?” is what I asked Zach. I couldn’t believe it. It seemed like the rest of us were freaking out, fidgeting and staring at Zach like there was still a hope he could be joking, but Zach just sat there calmly.

“Bi actually,” he said simply, examining his nails like he was bored. He always had neat, even nails. Was that a sign?

“We’re, uh, supportive?” Ted tried to say but asked instead.

Zach sent him a bitch please look. He was always so good at that expression, just like Ryan. Was that a sign I missed? “You don’t have to say that,” Zach informed him.

“No… we totally accept you,” he said in a flat tone.

“I don’t give a shit,” Zach said easily.

The rest of the guys seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. “Thank god,” Joey said. “It’s already enough with those two.” He pointed at me and Ryan. “But apparently you’re also a fa—”

Ted elbowed him, and he stopped talking while Principal Simmons walked by. “I mean, uh. It’s fine. I’m…”

“Supportive,” Zach filled in, amused.

“Yeah, that.”

~~~

Secretly Gay

“Let me get this straight,” Zach said, eyes dancing with mirth as we walked through the halls to the cafeteria.

“You mean let me get this gay,” Joey corrected.

“You know what? I’ll accept that,” Zach decided, offering his fist for Joey to bump. “Good one, Joey.” Why were these two my closest friends? Assholes.

“Oh, come on,” I begged.

“No, you come on,” Zach responded. “Your plan is to fake date Ryan, but secretly, so no one finds out.”

I nodded. “Right.” What was so weird about that? Alright, a lot, but still. It could work.

“But you want the administration to find out somehow.” Zach looked at me like I was a moron, but he did that a lot, so it didn’t really mean anything.

“This is so gay,” Joey interjected.

“No, it’s secretly gay,” Zach quipped.

-from One Little Word