A guest review by Leslie
Operation Danny…that’s all bartender and recent college graduate, Julian Hallowell has had on his mind the past year. Julian may have no idea what he wants to do with his life, but he definitely knows he’s in love with the boy next door: the next door down the hall to be exact, housing his roommate and used textbook store owner Danny Wallace.
While Julian has done his level best to make Danny fall for him, all his hard work has been in vain. Danny doesn’t seem to view Julian as anything other than a roommate and friend. So when new guy in town Andy Baker asks him out on a date, Julian can’t think of a good reason to say no.
Instead, he institutes a Reverse Operation Danny plan, which he’s positive will purge all thoughts of love and lust for his roomie out of his head. He’s ready to move on and start looking for his next Mr. Right, and Andy just might fit the bill. But has he given up too soon?
Sometimes I think I shouldn’t think.
I just finished As You Are by Ethan Day. If I had read it as a “normal” book, that is, not as a book for review, I would have said to myself, “That was fun,” set it aside, and in about three days, promptly forgotten most of the story. But since I read it with the intent to review it here, I focused more critically on the content. It does have flaws which I think are worth mentioning. Hopefully the author will take these comments constructively and use this information in his future writing endeavors and not make the same mistakes again. I say that seriously because, despite my low-ish rating, I would like to read something from this author in the future. I think he has potential.
Overall, this is fun book with a light, breezy writing style. The author includes a generous dose of “gay-speak” which is effective and amusing, and, I imagine, resonates well with the female readers in his audience (like me). Day has a certain audacity, too, in his writing that is not often seen. I loved the scene where Julian showed up for the pickup football game in skin tight jeans, a hot pink shirt with SWEET MEAT on the front and 69 on the back and glitter on his arms. Day is gay and he can pull this off—takes one to know one, as they say—and still keep his characters sympathetic and likeable, as opposed to becoming caricatures or stereotypes. Day has a flair for comedy and in a genre that is filled with angst and drama, something funny and sweet is a welcome change of pace.
That said, there are several areas where the story could be improved.
First and foremost, the book “reads” like a movie. While that works well to keep the action moving forward at a snappy pace, a film is not a book and this ultimately detracted from the story in a number of subtle, but crucial ways.
For example, important information about Danny is presented in the final pages of the book. We as readers should have known this earlier because it would have made him a more complex and interesting character. In a movie, his personality would have been conveyed by the actor and thus the actual information could have been saved for the reveal. But a book is not a movie and I think much more could have been done to make Danny (and pretty much all of the other characters) have a more well-drawn personality.
Continuing with the movie theme, I think the author pictured it as a broad comedy with visual humor as is seen in slapstick. He tried to convey these elements, ie, Julian being a klutz who is constantly tripping, falling, or bumping into things. While on the screen that would be funny, in the story, it took me a long time to “get it.” Likewise, there is a dinner party late in the story, which, visually could have been priceless but as written, it needed some work to truly convey the humor.
The book had a number of glaring gaps and unbelievable moments—for me, this is a personal pet peeve. Again, as an example: the story takes place over the course of a week. Julian is a bartender in a popular and busy gay bar. However, in the book, Julian goes to work just once. What happened to all the other evenings? No mention of taking time off…he just didn’t go. That sort of thing bugs me. Similarly, Julian and his friend Gabby have lunch five days a week at the exact same restaurant. Gabby religiously downs three martinis and then goes back to work at her job as a newspaper features writer. Seriously? Does anyone really live like this?
Granted, it’s fiction and maybe I worry too much about the real world intruding. However, if that’s true, then I really have a problem with the two character “flaws” that Day assigned to Andy, the man that Julian begins dating early in the story. I understand that to keep the plot moving forward, there had to be something “wrong” with Andy so that Julian would realize they were not destined to have a long-term relationship. Why not just keep it simple and say there was no chemistry between them? Or that Andy was a lousy dresser? Clothes-horse Julian would have hated that. The characteristics that were chosen were intrusively real, jarred me out of the story, and frankly, could be offensive to many readers. In fact, this is why I marked my rating down an extra quarter-star (I had originally planned on 4 and changed to 3.75). The error, to me, is that serious.
Julian smokes like a chimney, has a serious sugar addiction, and drinks Diet Coke by the boatload. In spite of this, I liked him as a character. Similarly, despite my criticisms, I liked this book. I see promise in Day’s writing and I think with some mentoring and support—and a few beta readers who aren’t afraid to be honest—he could easily move from good to great. As I said above, I am not writing this author off…yet. I look forward to his next book.