Oh my goodness. What a story! If you are into romance, especially of the LGBTQ variety, you’ll want to check out Ash Knight‘s book, Stay.
(Ooh, and if you’re interested, here’s a link to my vlog!)
Before I begin, I’m gonna list a few quick “warnings” though… If you’re not into swearing, if abuse (both mental and physical) is triggering, and/or if sex scenes make you uncomfortable, parts of this book might be difficult to read. Now on with the rest of the review!
The book is narrated by two characters: 7-year-old Bird/Joe, a 22-year old, and Madden, who’s 27. Right off the bat, it’s clear to see that Bird/Joe didn’t have an easy upbringing and as an adult, he’s living life on the rough side. This is in sharp contrast to Madden, who’s a successful nurse with a loving sister and really his only pain in life is that his parents died–but at least he had his sister!
One very rainy day, Joe seeks shelter at the town’s local coffeeshop and Lulu, a lovely little lady offers him a job, which he hesitantly, but gratefully accepts. It is here that he crosses paths with Madden and both their lives change for good.
I really don’t want to give too much away because the beauty of this book lies in the emotional journey that Knight takes readers on–it’s all over the place and wonderful. You’ll get frustrated at their lack of communication, hopeful and excited when they admit their feelings, anxious when someone gets hurt, anxious that they won’t get hurt more. I think the emotional aspect of the book is probably what makes it the most engaging.
Of course, the plot is really well done too–we see the character development of Joe (who’s on the spectrum), who evolves from this scared, scarred young man into one who is more confident. We see Madden shift from an already very selfless character into one who’s even more understanding. On the note of characters, the supporting cast like Lulu and Madden’s bff and coworker Adam are also fairly well developed in their own rights and really help aid both the plot and the empathy felt toward Joe and Madden.
I will admit that as I have not really interacted with too many individuals on the spectrum and even fewer who experience the trauma Joe has, it was sometimes difficult for me to fully understand where he was coming from in terms of his insecurities and pain. There were times where I would sigh in frustration about how hard he was pushing against Madden–he’s one of those characters who doesn’t seem to think he deserves love…or anything good for that matter, at least at first–and then had to remind myself that a) he’s a fictional character and b) real people really do feel that way and to have patience.
So in that regard, I low key envied Madden and applaud him for his patience and openness with Joe. Of course, he too has a few moments where he doesn’t understand and is frustrated/confused (like when Joe runs out of the apartment mid-makeout session) but the fact that he tries so hard to let Joe be Joe and support him is simply so heartwarming.
And that warm fuzzy feeling is especially necessary after we learn more about what Joe endured as a child. Good grief, I don’t think I’ve ever felt that badly for a character–it really reinforces the idea that we ought to be patient and kind with each other. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true–even though Joe’s a fictional person, again, real people go through similar traumas, it’s important to be mindful and aware of that fact.
I think that’s another reason why this book was so engaging and powerful–it seemed so realistic. It didn’t have any of those romcom or romantic drama elements that make you say “oh, but that’s just books/movies, that would never happen!”
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, even though it’s honestly not something I’d usually pick for myself. (By the way, I love when y’all do reach out to me because it gets me out of my comfort zone!) I do think that, as I said initially, some parts might be a little hard for some readers. I know it was difficult for me to read about Joe’s trauma, my heart broke. And while I do like intimate scenes between characters, some of them are fairly explicit, and since there are a few of them, well, let’s just say that if it were a movie, I doubt it’d be PG13. Well, the sex scenes plus the f-bombs and such…
But those are really the only reasons why you might not like the book; or, you know, if you just don’t like romance I guess. It’s well written, well paced, and the characters are great–overall, a definite recommendation from me!
That’s all I’ve got for now. Be sure to look out for my next review on The Dilemma by Danielle Holian.
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