Author ~ Laura Lascarso
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 17th April 2017
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance, New Adult
High school junior Berlin Webber is about to reap the fruits of his hard work and land a football scholarship—if he can keep his sexuality a secret from his best friend, Trent, and their homophobic coach. Then Hiroku Hayashi swerves into the high school parking lot on his tricked-out motorcycle like some sexy comic book villain, and Berlin knows he doesn’t stand a chance.
Hiroku is fleeing his sophisticated urban scene to recover from drug addiction and an abusive relationship when he arrives in Berlin’s small Texas ranch town. Initially sarcastic and aloof, Hiroku finds in Berlin a steady, supportive friend who soon becomes more. As Hiroku and Berlin’s romance blossoms, they take greater risks to be together. But when a horrific act of violence tears them apart, they both must look bigotry in the face. While Berlin has always turned to his faith for strength, Hiroku dives into increasingly dangerous ways of coping, pushing them in opposite directions just when they need each other most.
Two very different young men search for the bravery to be true to themselves, the courage to heal, and the strength to go on when things seem darkest. But is it enough to bring them back together?
This is one of the best young adult books I have ever read. I loved everything about it, including the bucket loads of angst. It is told in alternating points of view of both the main protagonists, Hiroku Hayashi and Berlin Webber. Berlin is on the verge of getting a football scholarship, but is finding it harder and harder to keep his sexuality secret especially from his best friend Trent and Trent’s dad, the football coach. Being gay in small town Lowry, Texas is something to remain hidden until you can escape to college, or so Berlin thinks. That is until the new guy Hiro rocks up on his motorbike, wearing all black, eyeliner and with crazy punk rock hair looking like he’s some rock star. Then Berlin realises he’s in trouble, he is drawn to Hiro from the very first instant.
Trent and most of the other football players are outwardly homophobic, including the coach and this book deals with high school homophobia and its pervasion of the wider community. We see what Hiroku has to deal with on a daily basis at school and it shows us just how much more education is still needed to tackle these ever present issues.
Berlin asks Hiroku out to a concert and it is at this concert we get the first look at Hiroku’s troubled past and why he has moved to Lowry. He is attempting to escape from a very abusive relationship which he was in for three years. This is the part of the story that makes you forget you’re reading a ya novel, so much has happened to Hiroku. He has been in rehab for drug addiction, is now clean and has moved away from Seth his abusive ex with the help of his family. However, we see the signs at the concert of the weird hold that Seth still has on Hiroku. It is like an addiction itself but luckily Berlin is on hand to whisk Hiroku home. Berlin and Hiro then strike up a very new, sweet relationship but Hiro worries that Berlin is not being careful enough to stay off Trent’s radar. With the situation escalating at school between Trent and Hiroku, Hiro tries to warn Berlin off. There is a major sense of foreboding now, the writing becomes very suspenseful and you’re just waiting for something to hit. When the drama unfolds it is horrific! My stomach was churning, I felt sick. It packs an extremely powerful punch, I felt it viscerally. The angst is about to ratchet up another notch now and the fallout had me screaming at Hiroku. Berlin and Hiroku both deal with what happened in very different ways. Berlin relies a bit more on his faith, and the sense of community he has always felt part of, both in church and part of the football team. When these things are removed he becomes depressed and the lack of contact from Hiro adds to this. I really felt for Berlin at this point.
When Hiroku does eventually get in contact and asks Berlin to pick him up, he is pretty desperate. His situation is dire, but Berlin and his father step up and they care for him. Berlin is so sweet and steadfast and I loved this healing part of the book, however we have a couple more heart in the mouth moments to come yet. The angst is big in this book, Amy Lane Locker Room levels. There aren’t many novels where you hate more than one villain, but in this there are several that I thoroughly despised.
What we do eventually end up with though is a very independent Hiroku, who finally feels worthy of Berlin’s love. The theme of drug addiction follows throughout this entire story showing that even though you’re clean and have been through rehab, relapse is sometimes never far away and you can fall at the slightest trigger. It doesn’t feel like you’re reading a ya novel because the themes of drug addiction, homophobia, faith and family and friendships are tackled head on in a very adult way. The bravery of Berlin and Hiro shone through and their love was sweet. I would love to read more of them, to catch up and see how they are fairing. I absolutely loved this book and can’t praise it highly enough.