Review - "End of the Innocence" by John Goode
Very Highly Recommended
I'm going to break my own rules here. It's my review, and it that bothers you, I am sorry. Pass this by and go read another one.
John let me read this book a few weeks ago, and I've sat on it, trying to think of a review worthy enough. My words fail me here, so please bear with me as I struggle to find something worthy of this guy's great big heart and talent. I'm not enough here, but here it goes.
"End of the Innocence" is more than a work of YA or M/M romance or fiction. It's a statement of pure love. It's an offering of life-blood. It's a cry in the dark, a soul-shattering scream, a nightmare. And it is stunningly beautiful.
There have been three prior books in the Foster High series dealing with Brad and Kyle, two high school students in a small Texas town. The series deals with their coming out, the repercussions to them personally and to the relationships that they have with their friends, families, enemies and community.
In "End of the Innocence", we finally deal with Kelly, Brad's jock friend. As we have learned, Brad and Kelly have fooled around in the past, and Kelly is struggling to reconcile his friendship and feelings towards Brad. We also, in a parallel way, explore the boys' relationship with Jennifer, Brad's ex-girlfriend. There are also other gay men in the town we meet, and they play an important role, but the focus is on these four.
I can't go deeper into the storyline without giving too much away, but the book explores the past and current implications of coming out in Foster. How some current characters on the canvas have dealt with it (or not), and the larger issue of bullying and harassment and, in some cases, outright murder involving those not like their neighbors. It looks at the unlikely friendship formed between Kyle and Kelly and between Brad and Jennifer.
Read this at your own risk, and forgive me if I give too much away, but there is another outing. It is horrible, unexpected yet completely fated to happen. And the fallout is...devastating.
I read this book through in one sitting, the words spinning a web around me with a subtle sense of foreboding and dread. No, no, I kept thinking, this can't be going there. And then I hit the last twenty percent of the book and alternated between tears and blank, honest horror. I've seen this, lived this, picked up the pieces after this book happened. I never wanted to relive it, and yet, here it was, laid out for me to bleed over again.
And damn it, I wouldn't have it any other way.
John - I cannot give him enough credit here. The writing is restrained and so very real. His sure hand is on every word, every sentence, and he deftly took me on a journey of pain and discovery, pulled the scab off every wound in that small town and led me around like one of Dickens' Ghosts.
Because what we are dealing with here, when it's all stripped away, is a very basic choice we all have to make when we come out or are outed. Deal, or don't. Stay, or run. Live, or die.
And sometimes people choose...no.
This is an important work for teens, for parents, for teachers, for anyone who has or deals with kids. Hell, it's important for everyone. There are lessons to be learned here - about life, choosing to live, how we treat out fellow companions on the road of life, and how we sometimes bury our heads in the sand. It's also about the cold, hard fact that even when we try out best, we can only save ourselves. It's about guilt, gang mentality, the abuse of power.
But let's not forget something in the midst of all this. It's about love. Because Brad and Kyle? They were outed, treated horribly, betrayed by those in power. And they still chose love.
Not everyone does. But they did.
So did John, thank god. I just wish I could do his beautiful story the justice it deserves. I hope he forgives me for not being enough, because I love him like a little brother and he seems to think my words mean something.
I want to be like him when I grow up. Thanks for sticking around.