Author: J. Leigh Bailey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: 17th oct, 2016
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance, coming of age, coming out
Page Count: 250
Reviewed by: PIU
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Seventeen-year-old Connor works his butt off to maintain the golden-boy persona he’s created. He has the grades, the extracurriculars, the athletics, and a part-time job at his dad’s shop… every detail specifically chosen to ensure the college scholarships he needs to get the hell out of the Podunk town where he lives. The last thing he needs is an unexpected attraction to Graham, an eyeliner-wearing soccer phenom from St. Louis, who makes him question his goals and his sexuality. Sure, he’s noticed good-looking boys before—that doesn’t have to mean anything, right?—but he’s got a girlfriend. There’s no room on the agenda for hooking up with Graham, but the heart doesn’t always follow the rules.
As he and Graham grow close, other aspects of Connor’s life fall apart. Family pressure, bad luck, and rumors threaten to derail his carefully laid plans. Suddenly the future he’s fighting for doesn’t seem quite as alluring, especially if he has to deny who he really is to achieve it.
“Guyliner” by J. Leigh Bailey is a wonderful self-discovery/coming of age story. I really enjoyed reading this book. The entire “coming-out” angst, confusion, insecurity and longing were expressed beautifully here. The story of a small town’s Golden Boy and his crush for an eye-liner wearing new comer is beautifully written. It was emotional and at times a little frustrating but I had high hopes for the Golden Boy and he really lived upto his nickname at the end.
Connor has a plan. He is a talented catcher in his school’s baseball team and like everybody else, he has high hopes of getting a baseball scholarship to get out of his small town and go to college. He has a 4.0 GPA, beautiful girlfriend and a stellar reputation and thus “The Golden Boy” of Green Valley High. Everything is going perfectly in Connor’s world until the day “Guyliner” aka Graham Parker makes an entrance.
Connor steadily grows a crush on the make-up wearing teen. His feelings for Graham make him question his own sexuality. Connor knows deep down that he is different but he has never acknowledged those feelings because they are not part of his plan. But Graham turns the table against him completely and Connor is forced to acknowledge that he is gay. But Connor is not ready to come out to his family and his peers so close to achieving his goals. But his decisions become extremely difficult to follow through when he realizes what he is missing out on, not being true to himself and being with Graham. Connor has to take a chance on his parents and his friends and on his feelings for Graham if he want to stop living a lie and own up to who he truly is and wants to be.
Connor is a nice and wonderful young man who goes through a complicated and emotionally draining stage in his life. He is the ideal guy with perfect grades, a bright future in sports, great friends and a beautiful and supportive girlfriend. He is attracted to the same sex but he has been able to bury that deep down since he did not want that to complicate his life goal. But Graham was too much a temptation for him. He lets go with Graham and realizes how hiding is making him miserable. He is unsure of how people will treat him after they know the truth and how badly that would affect his future chances. Connor was scared and so vulnerable and the author has beautifully crafted the emotions that he goes through while acknowledging his sexual preferences.
Connor’s feelings for Graham was part of the reason of his coming out but he mostly did it for himself. And surprisingly the reactions from his friends and parents were so great and supportive. I thought there would be a lot of homophobic crap that Connor will face (well, that’s what even Connor thought) but all the people who mattered loved him and supported him at the end.
Graham Parker is the proudest and the most understanding guy and was exactly what Connor needed to bring his life around. Graham is charismatic with his skills with a soccer ball and his ease with which he owns his sexuality. He goes through a terrible ordeal to get where he is now and he is not going to go back to hiding for anyone. Graham likes Connor and can understand his hesitation but still looks after him even though it hurts him when Connor does not acknowledge their feelings publically.
This story is more about Connor’s self-discovery than a romance. Connor’s feelings for Graham was a catalyst to his coming out and his entire journey was inspiring and heart warming.
You need to read this coming of age book and experience the ups and downs, angst and the sweet budding romance in the center of it all. The interactions between Graham and Connor are not steamy but sweet and emotional. If you are a fan of high school romances and a beautifully crafted coming out story then definitely give this book a try.