I would rate this 4.5 stars.
At 22, Tim is still being controlled by his mother, Lorraine, a HR specialist at a pharmaceutical company, where she is desperate to get him a job. Carson, who also works there, is on Lorraine’s bad side and it becomes increasingly clear it’s because he’s gay. Lorraine’s hatred, and need to control, spurs Carson into getting to know Tim a little better–and Tim certainly doesn’t mind. As attraction turns to love and friendship, Carson is increasingly the port in the storm that Tim needs to break free from the increasing danger he doesn’t even understand he is in.
As a young adult trying to flee the nest, Tim is completely age appropriate teetering between childish dreams and naivety, with startling moments of insight and strength. Carson has had no choice but to be a realist after learning his own harsh lessons about failed family relationships. Since the POV switches between the two of them, it’s sad to read enough to extrapolate Carson’s experiences and witness the loss of Tim’s innocence. Happily, Carson’s support and care allows Tim the time to catch up to reality. The genius of this book is Carson’s realization that when he tells Tim what to do, things don’t go well, but when he lets Tim make his own decisions, mistakes and all, that’s actually the way to be a good friend and partner, rather than be another controlling parental figure–especially with their inequities and age gap. I believe what Carson believes wholeheartedly, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Carson’s friend, a chemist named Wes, is a chaos-agent I wish was more rounded out. Ditto the coworker Angie, although she does indeed prove herself to be a “wonderful, wonderful human being.” The star here is Carson’s old math teacher Mrs. Hedstrom, who happens to be Tim’s neighbor. Tim’s brother Paul and his wife Miyoko round out the cast. I guess Paul didn’t want to poison the well with Tim about Lorraine; maybe he didn’t think Tim would believe him. Obviously Carson’s relationship with his neighbor John is close since Carson shows trust in him, but it wasn’t explored at all.
What at first seemed funny and annoying, soon turned scary, filling me with tension and anxiety. Sexual tension builds throughout the book as Tim navigates many firsts. This is all leading to the inevitable conclusion, mostly where I wanted it to go. I’m sorry for this spoiler, but my concern, after reading the whole book, is that actions have consequences; it was disheartening to see violent behavior not prosecuted. Still, watching Tim grow through this journey was as amazing as watching Carson release his tight hold on the past. I was rooting for them! I’m glad the epilogue reminded us all that friends are the family we choose. Well written, engaging, with likeable and relatable characters, this was more than I expected from the blurb.
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