Review - "Something Like Summer" by Jay Bell
An Instant classic about love, acceptance and youth
"Life isn't meant to be hidden away and life is too short for shame."
That's the way Ben has tried to live his life. He's openly gay in his high school, and can't wait to finish up and move out into the real world. Away from the piss ant Texas town where the only boys who want to have anything to do with him are in it for sex only, and don't know him in the light of day.
When he sees a new boy around during his summer break, he makes it his mission to find out who he is. He doesn't recognize him and begins stalking him. Well, following him around at least. Discovers he is a new student at the high school and runs with the jock crowd.
After a run in with the boy - literally - he helps him, Tim, home and discovers he's home alone for two weeks while Tim's parents are traveling. When Tim's sprain sidelines him from school and driving, Ben worms his way into helping out. And soon falls for the boy. only to have his interest returned.
But Tim isn't willing to admit to being gay, or really even bi. That leaves Ben in a moral dilemma - stay true to his principles or be Tim's dirty little secret. When circumstances force the boys closer to being out, Tim and Ben find themselves at a crossroads. And Tim chooses.
Over the next decade, the two move from lovers to enemies to reluctant friends, with huge gaps of time in between. The course of love never runs smoothly, but will these two find their way back to each other? Will Tim ever find the strength to be true to himself? And will Ben forgive the past?
Jay Bell has crafted a timeless classic here. He's taken all the hot button items of a young gay teen - acceptance, puppy love, heartache - and carried the themes through into adulthood. His hand is sure as he guides us through the rollercoaster of emotions involved in loving someone not willing to be proud of that love. The laughter and tears, along with the bruised heart.
Ben is a wonderful character, so full of youthful optimism, piss and vinegar. And when his heart is broken, we ache along with him because who among us haven't been there? Felt that sense of betrayal and questioning at loving a "Straight" guy who won't come out.
And Tim. I find him easily the most fascinating character in the book. By turns loveable and caring, then despicable and manipulating, he has the toughest road to travel. Self centered and a coward, he has the most to lose and the most to gain.
I loved Jace. A writer with less talent would have made him brittle, shrill or two dimensional. But Mr. Bell has rounded him out and made me love him. I cared that he and Ben were happy, and what happened to him was important. And made the story even richer and more meaningful.
This is a terrific book about first and long lasting love, being true to one's self, and discovering the strength in love.
Just damn good.