A nice, though often predictable, coming of age story.
- Review by Cindi
*** Kieran & Drew is tagged as Young Adult in various places as both main characters are in high school. While it definitely reads in some parts as a typical teenage story I feel that a lot of the content is more appropriate for an adult reading audience. I do not feel comfortable placing this review on our Young Adult sister reviewing site for that reason, Greedy Bug Book Reviews. ***
Kieran Appleby is desperate to graduate high school and disappear from the small town where he lives, Keys, Florida. He's lonely. His only friend is a janitor at his high school. His father is too busy with his own life to notice his only child. He is labeled a freak by his peers and has been bullied since he was a freshman. He hates school. He hates his life. His only goal is to graduate from high school and go off to college as far away from Keys as he can get. He wants a new life. He wants friends. He is tired of being alone. A fresh start away from his father and those who treat him poorly is all he thinks about as he struggles though the last months of his senior year.
Drew Anderson is a star baseball player on the high school team, The Squids. He's popular and well liked by pretty much everyone. He is surrounded by friends, most notably his best friend Matt. He puts on a good act around others but in reality he is sad, at times miserable. His mother is agoraphobic and has not left their home in years. His father disappeared from Drew and his mother's lives years earlier and started a new family leaving his old one behind. The only saving grace for Drew is his uncle who is deployed in the military. Drew is very close to his uncle and when the man is at home, Drew's mother does better, sometimes even managing to walk outside into her yard for short periods of time. Drew is counting down the days until his uncle returns. He loves his mother dearly but the strain of being a teenage boy with teenage issues on top of taking care of his mother gets to be too much. He is eighteen, only a few months from graduating high school, but yet he is forced to be the parent in the relationship with his mother. It's difficult but he never questions it. He makes no plans for his post high school life outside of Keys. There is never a question of what he will do with his life. He will study locally to be a fireman and he will remain as close as possible to his mother who will most likely always need him.
Drew is shocked when he sees his initials intertwined with Kieran's all over the notebook page. Feeling bad for Kieran's humiliation in front of the class, he makes a point in seeking Kieran out as he is cleaning out the storage room to tell the other boy that it's okay that he has feelings for Drew. Drew is not a homophobic bastard and he wants to assure Kieran that he is fine with whatever he feels. What Drew doesn't expect is to start feeling the same way toward Kieran. Sure, he's suspected that he might be gay. Girls have never done much for him and he never bothered to date much like his friends. But now? Kieran? He's almost positive. After the first visit in the storage room, Drew keeps going back. What starts off as an apology turns into fumbling around and getting each other off. This goes on secretly for weeks until something happens that makes Drew run in the opposite direction. Not just run but turn into a bigger bastard than those who have always bullied Kieran. The other people didn't matter. Drew matters and for him to rudely disappear and then later treat Kieran as a nothing devastates Kieran more than anything else ever has in his life. His heart is broken and his goal to get the hell out of Keys is only more firmly seated in his mind.
I enjoyed Kieran. I felt so much sympathy for him from his introduction. He has done nothing to deserve his treatment by others and my heart broke for him on many occasions. His father is absent during the most difficult times in his life and he is literally left with no one. For a few wonderful weeks he had Drew then Drew angrily and harshly threw Kieran and all they had out the window. I can honestly say that I hated Drew during these times. I also grew to see Kieran as much too needy but yet I completely understood why. He never had anyone in his life before Drew and then for that to be ripped out from under him in the manner in which it was was cruel and heartbreaking. It took a lot of reading for me to get beyond Drew's treatment of Kieran and even toward the end I was still feeling the residuals of it. It takes a lot for Drew and Kieran to get beyond their issues. Kieran must decide whether leaving town is the right thing for him. Is he willing to leave Drew behind? Drew is determined to fight for the man he loves.
The first half of this book is predictable and what I have read in countless other books. Straight boy jock who is secretly gay. Gay nerd who is bullied often in school. I am in no way making light of bullying under any circumstances but I found myself feeling like I was right in the middle of 90% of the other teenage-type books I have read. Thankfully the story got more unique around the 50% mark and it improved more for me. More characters were introduced and the stories of each teen went in different directions. Parts remained predictable but the author did manage to change it up a bit. Toward the end I was rooting for both teens to finally get it together whether it was with their families or with the issues they faced as a couple. There are a lot of emotional moments as well as those that left me smiling.
There is quite a bit of sexual content in this book. I personally had no issue with it as the characters were either eighteen or close to it and a majority of the books I read are considered adult books. I could, however, see where it would be an issue for anyone looking for a light Young Adult type of story.
Overall, this is a good coming of age story. I have read other reviews where readers have been adamant about their love for Kieran's father. I'm sorry to say that I am not one of them. I understood him to an extent but he kept a secret from Kieran in order to protect him that would have, if revealed earlier, made Kieran's life much different. I also feel little sympathy for any parent who chooses his own personal wants and needs over that of his or her child. He redeems himself at the end but I found myself thinking too little, too late. I recommend this for those who don't mind a bit of predictability. Everything ended well so I have to say that it was an enjoyable read overall. I appreciate that the author threw in a quick Epilogue at the end showing Kieran and Drew five years later. Too often books of this type end with a happy-for-now ending due to the ages of the characters. I was happy to see these guys further down the road in their relationship.
This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.