Illicit Affairs

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a young adult novel, and it’s certainly been awhile since I read one that I enjoyed as much as I did Patrick Ness’ Release.

The other day when I finally finished writing and published my blog about writing queer young adult fiction, I reread the articles I linked to in the piece–the ones that triggered me writing it in the first place–and discovered that one of the books considered “problematic” for its depiction of gay teen sexuality was Release by Patrick Ness. I looked it up, and discovered I had already purchased it back when I was originally writing the entry, shelved it, and forgotten about it. It was right there on the top of the first bookcase I went looking for it in, and I took that as a sign that I should go ahead and read it.

I’m really, really glad I decided to go ahead and finish those pending draft entries, because that led me to reading this delightful book.

Adam would have to get the flowers himself.

His mom had enough to do, she said; she needed them this morning, pretty much right now if the day wasn’t going to be a total loss; and in the end, Adam’s attendance at this little “get-together” with his friends tonight may or may not hinge on his willingness/success in picking up the flowers and doing so without complaint.

Adam argued–quite well, he thought, without showing any overt anger–that his older brother, Marty, was the one who’d run over the old flowers; that he, Adam, also had a ton of things to do today; and the new chrysanthemums for the front path weren’t exactly high in the logical criteria for attendance at a get-together he’d already bargained for–because nothing was free with his parents, not ever–by chopping all the winter’s firewood before even the end of August. Nevertheless, she had, in that way of hers, turned it into a decree: he would get the flowers or he wouldn’t go tonight, especially after that girl got killed.

“Your choice,” his mom said, not even looking at him.

Release was, for me, kind of a revelation, and what more can anyone ask for from a novel?

As I mentioned the other day, one of the primary issues I’ve faced–and worried about–in writing queer young adult fiction is the issue of sex and sexuality; times have changed in many (and better) ways since I was a terrified teenager deep in my closet and afraid someone, anyone, might find out my actual truth. There’s also the endlessly cliched trope of the coming out story; there have been many of those stories written and published; what else can you do that’s fresh and new? The trope of the deeply religious parents and their inability to accept and love their child has been done plenty of times; to the point where I’ve really not ever wanted to go near it. Release is yet another one of those, but it’s actually done so well it seems fresh and new; Adam’s dad is an evangelical pastor at a wannabe megachurch, but their church exists in the shadows of a much more successful local one, and so Adam’s family is a bit cash-strapped, particularly since his mother lost her job.

But the most refreshing part of the story is that Adam actually not only thinks about sex, he actually has it. He is currently on his fourth (secret) boyfriend, one of the only out kids at his high school, and still mooning over Enzo, with whom he was involved for fourteen months and then was transitioned into the “friend zone”–while Enzo moved on and went back to dating girls. He still has unresolved feelings for Enzo–what teenager hasn’t been dumped by someone they still love?–that interfere with, and complicate, his relationship with Linus, who actually does love Adam. The “get-together” that night is Enzo’s going away party; he and his family are moving to Atlanta, and this will be the last time Adam will ever see him. It’s teen melodrama, worthy of Gossip Girl or any number of teenage melodramas, but it’s done so well and Ness makes Adam so likable and relatable, you can’t help but root for him to figure it all out and not mess it up.

There’s also an absolutely lovely sex scene between the two of them–Adam and Linus–that, while undoubtedly making certain people uncomfortable (Oh no! Two gay boys in bed together! HAVING THE GAY BUTTSEX!!!!) is actually neither explicit nor graphic, and says a lot by saying very little; which also made me realize that yes, indeed, Greg, there’s a way to write sex scenes so that they are expressions of desire and need, yes, but also of emotion and love. (Mine–when I used to write erotica–were athletic and nasty and passionate.)

I highly enjoyed this book, and while there is a weird subplot story going on at the same time as Adam’s story–one that never really is explained the hows and whys of, or of how these supernatural creatures are somehow connected to Adam–it’s not jarringly off-track, even though possibly unnecessary or connected.

It’s a terrific book. I will definitely read more of Mr. Ness’ work.


Would you look at that–somehow it’s Friday again. How did that happen? Where did this week go?

I literally have no idea. It seems like just yesterday I woke up on Monday morning, tired, and dreading facing the week. And yet, like everything, it has come to its inevitable end and here I am on Friday morning, awake  yet still sleepy and hoping to have enough coffee to get my ready for the day. Yesterday’s errands, which consumed my entire day like Pac-man eating his way through the maze, have to be concluded this morning, which means another drive out to Harahan and then back to Uptown before I can (hurray?) head into the office for a shorter day than usual. My Fridays recently got another hour added to them, but that’s fine. I don’t mind Fridays–primarily because it is, after all, Friday–and then this afternoon when I’m finished for the day I can come home to my comfortable easy chair and watch mindless television for the rest of the night if I so desire, or read, or clean, or whatever it is I need to get done today. I have some other errands I’ll probably run on Sunday, and other than that I am going to try to spend the weekend resting and recuperating and trying to get a firm grip on everything that I’ve let slide over the last month or so–and there’s quite a bit.

And yes, I am not in the least bit excited about it. It’s daunting, and terrifying, and scary, but I have to get caught up. I don’t have a choice. I have to.

While daunting–waking up, for example, to over a hundred new emails in my inbox–I refuse steadfastly to be daunted. I am inevitably always behind on most things, and somehow manage to always get everything done without having a breakdown of sorts–mini-ones, yes, but not major ones–and I know it’s more about me getting physically rested and allowing my brain to roam free. I was so tired last night after all of yesterday’s running around I wasn’t able to do much of anything other than finish Rob Hart’s superb The Warehouse and watch a movie on Amazon Prime last night before retiring to bed. (There will be more on The Warehouse later, as well as on the film–Giant Little Ones, which was very well-done and well-acted and interesting; I am sure there are people who will take issue with the plot and what happens during the course of the film, but at the same time its exploration of male teenage sexuality, homophobia, and the fall-out from teenage sexuality was highly original and nothing I’ve ever seen before; which isn’t easy to do with a film.) I also slept really well last night but was untimely ripped from bed by the alarm, as we have to drive out, as I said, to Harahan in a few moments and then I’ll be running around all morning before going to the office, which means today will probably be another one of those ‘too tired to function’ evenings to look forward to. The kitchen is a mess–I made pho on Wednesday night, which always results in a mess–and yesterday I just didn’t have the energy or wherewithall to do anything about it.

Of course, all the running around this morning means I’ll probably be back up to over one hundred emails by the time I am able to check them again, but there it is, you know?

I also continue to read Lords of Misrule, and just finished the “Who Killa Da Chief?” chapter, about the murder of the police chief, the scapegoating of Sicilian immigrants for the murder, their trial and acquittal, and of course the lynch mob that followed. The darkness of New Orleans never ceases to amaze and interest me. This crime was explored also in Empire of Sin, but it’s always nice to get other perspectives, and I think there’s a story somewhere buried inside this loathsome piece of the city’s history. It’s also strange to ever think of the French Quarter being called “Little Italy” and being filled with Italian immigrants loathed by the rest of the city; there are some Italian restaurants still there, of course, and there’s probably some truth to the legend that the gay bars and bath houses were originally owned by the local Mafia. (There’s a story in there as well; the Mafia generally did own gay bars in major cities, back in the day, and those bars were probably used for money-laundering.) Lou Berney’s brilliant November Road briefly touched on the mob history of New Orleans; I have a memoir somewhere written by a purported New Orleans mob figure that I can’t wait to read.

And on that note, looks like Paul is ready to head out, so I am going to bring this to a close. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and talk to you soon.