Title: Wrestling With Desire
Author: DH Starr
Publisher: Rocky Ridge Books
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Young adult, non-erotic
Length: Novel/ 300 pages
Rating: 3 out of 5
A guest review by Kassa
Derek Thompson is a senior, a wrestler, and has a secret. He’s gay.
Scott Thayer is a new student who has just moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts from Iowa. On the first day of school Derek and Scott meet and their lives change in an instant.
As Derek and Scott discover the things they have in common, they enter into one of the closest and most loving relationships either of them has ever experienced. When unexpected circumstances threaten their relationship, they both have to make a decision. DO they protect their secret and separate? Or fight for what they want…each other?
Wrestling with Desire is a young adult coming of age story featuring sensitive, emotional teenagers exploring their sexuality. Now by this I mean the emotional and psychological impact of a first real relationship with raging hormones but not so much on screen sex. Considering their age and the genre, this isn’t too surprising and the two boys mostly kiss with a little groping and crotch shifting thrown in occasionally. This keeps the focus on the teenagers in their daily routines, which is both the strength and weakness of this novel.
The story revolves around Derek, boyfriend Scott, and to a lesser extent Derek’s best friend Beck, as they go about their daily lives. The timeline is their senior year in high school and there are numerous scenes of the teens going to school, wrestling, hanging out after school, meeting up and mostly chatting about Derek and Scott’s relationship, parents, and basic events that happen in their lives. There is nothing progressing the story other than the characters and their repetitive lives – such is the life of a high school teen – so many of the scenes are the same. This helps give the characters a sense of normalcy, that these are genuine, regular teens that some readers may recognize and identify with.
At the same time it lacks any inherent tension and driving purpose. The scenes meander from one to another as the trio go to class, gossip, obsess about their relationships, wrestle, obsess about their relationships, sneak off to make out, obsess about their relationships, talk to their parents, deal with classes and so on. Although the characters argue, fight, and even break up there’s no real question that they’ll work it out pretty soon so that takes away any dramatic tension. Instead it’s just a matter of when the resolution happens and usually sooner rather than later. While I expect a happy ending since the story is a romance, the predictable tone to the arguments and resolutions are pretty obvious and not surprising.
The story does a commendable job introducing and depicting average teenagers with raging hormones. Of course young men with their first brush of true desire are going to be horny and sneak off to make out as much as possible. The fact that there are two dicks in the equation means they twitch twice as much. Some of this I admit is pretty humorous yet some of the prose choices were unfortunate. Repeated phrases such as “the tangled mess in his pants” just give the wrong imagery.
There are also some technical errors and pronoun confusion. The writing isn’t always clear which “he” the story is referring to. This is sometimes compounded by the slight POV switching. The story is mostly told from Derek’s third person perspective but every once in a while a paragraph will flip to Scott’s POV and then flip back to Derek in the next paragraph. Additionally the writing will sometimes infer some reason or thought process to explain Scott’s actions when Derek wouldn’t necessarily know that. A lot of this is covered in the pseudo therapy sessions between Derek and his female best friend Beck or between Derek and his mother. These conversations are incredibly adult, more insightful than I’d give teenagers credit for, and very formal. The prose used is often very exact and reminiscent of much more mature, articulate speakers than these particular teenagers.
Wrestling with Desire is a very sweet, romantic tale of first love. The teenagers are emotional, often prone to crying jags, giggling, and ball jokes but they’re also young and rather sheltered for the most part. The story shows the exploration of a first relationship in a safe environment with only a minimum of negative influences. Young adults looking for a story that will depict young gay men as athletes and not high school extremes, neither the popular kids nor the picked on, that they can identify with may like this quite a bit. I think the lack of tension and rather typical, repetitive high school scenes may not appeal to some older readers. Even though I enjoy the YA genre quite a bit this particular offering didn’t work so well for me. It’s decent and easy enough to read but lacks the driving force that compels you to read and want to know more. Every reader’s different though so choose for yourself.