Enlightened: Little Boy Lost #1

EnlightenedTitle: Enlightened, Little Boy Lost Series Book One
Author:  J.P. Barnaby
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Buy link: Buy Link Little Boy Lost Series
Genre: Contemporary M/M, coming of age
Length: Novel (60K words)
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

A guest review by Leslie

In a nutshell: A pitch perfect coming of age story. Not to be missed!

Blurb:

Little Boy Lost is the story of Brian McAllister, the boy next door.

Brian goes to school, does his homework, and helps his foster parents around the house. Brian also has a secret: he is in love with his best friend, Jamie. But in Crayford, Alabama, being in love with another boy is the worst kind of sin.

Brian and Jamie will discover just how deep their emotional bond runs, and at what cost. What will they do if their secret is discovered? From fumbling through their first sexual experiences to hiding all aspects of their relationship from everyone in their lives, Brian and Jamie battle for the one thing that is truly theirs—love.

Review:

What a difference a year makes! I reviewed this book here on the site a year ago (you can read it here). At that time it was unknown, hard-to-find, and self-published. Now, 12 months later, it’s been picked up by Dreamspinner, has a new cover, and is for sale in a variety of formats in all the major outlets. I hope it becomes very well-known because it is an excellent story and deserves a place of honor on everyone’s TBR list. I know it will be on my Top Ten list for this year—just like it was last year in its previous incarnation.

This is a compulsively readable book. I sat down with it the other day, intending just to skim it for this re-review, but within a few pages I was pulled completely into the story just like I was last year. Brian and Jamie are wonderful characters, beautifully drawn and realized. They experience the wonder and excitement of their first love, going through each step: a touch, a kiss, an embrace, and more. At the same time, they are terrified of what might happen to them should anyone find out about their relationship. They live in a very small town in Alabama where faggot jokes and homophobia are the norm. How do they reconcile their feelings for each other with the reality of the time and place in which they are living?

In my review last year, I thought that Brian’s paranoia about being discovered was a bit overdrawn. I don’t feel that way anymore. With the increased awareness of bullying and gay youth suicide, it has become clear to me that Brian’s worries are very real and not to be taken lightly. The story also points out the helplessness that kids have when they are teens. An underage adolescent can’t just up and move—they have to hang around and wait for it to “get better.” However, for many young people, it will get worse before it gets better and unfortunately, that seems to be what’s in store for Brian and Jamie and the great big wide open ending of the book.

But before we get to the ending, there’s the rest of the book with lots of wonderful, touching scenes. Told from Brian’s first person POV, he’s a shy, introverted orphan who has been best friends with Jamie since the day he moved to Crayford, at age 12, to live with his new foster family. Jamie is an all-American blond haired, blue eyed nice kid. He’s not a jock and he’s not part of the “in” crowd, but he’s popular and well-liked. Brian is convinced that Jamie will hate him if his feelings become known; imagine his absolute amazement when he learns that Jamie feels the same way about him! And thus begins their journey together.

I rated the book 4.5 stars last year but bumped it up to 5 because it felt a little more polished and complete in this new version. The author told me that three new scenes have been added and they helped to fill out the story and add a bit more depth and dimension to the two main characters. The writing overall seemed a bit smoother too—I suspect that is the result of a thorough edit from the folks at Dreamspinner.  In my opinion, this was a very good book that is now great and I am happy to give it a 5 star rating.

The only change I didn’t like is the new cover. The author explained to me that Dreamspinner wanted to use the same two models through all six books of the series. Okay, that’s a reasonable explanation. Still, I feel like there’s a new trend in m/m covers: we’ve gone from naked, headless torsos to leering faces and I’m not sure that’s an improvement! Fortunately, I read on my Kindle so it’s easy to ignore the cover, which I did.

All in all, this is a terrific book and I highly recommend it. I am looking forward to the future books in the series which I will be reviewing here. The next book, Abandoned, is due out in May. I am on tenterhooks for its release!

Note: The characters in this story are 16 (Brian) and 17 (Jamie), just in case anyone has a problem with that. Frankly, I think teenagers have sex and it was handled in a realistic and touching way. Still, I include this information in the spirit of full disclosure.

 

39 comments

  • Andi – Thank you so much – I’m glad that you enjoyed the book! And you’re not the only one, actually. I’ve had a few people tell me they’ve read it in one sitting. 🙂 My intention with the series was something like Stephen King’s The Green Mile – a series of short novels. They just came out longer than I had expected. Brian and Jamie are very good storytellers.

    Reply
  • I just read this book this week–in one devouring three-hour session. It is a beautifully told exploration of burgeoning sexuality and love. I thought it was completely realistic in its depiction of small-town life in the South, of the sometimes horrifying experience of high school, and of the kinds of questions of both morality and practicality (is it wrong? am I wrong? how does it work?) that a gay teenager might ask. At times heartrending and at times heartwarming, this book was a joy to read. I can’t wait for the story to continue. And way to go Dreamspinner for taking on a lovely and timely series.

    Reply
  • I just finished. This book was really great. However, I’m just so sad for Jamie and Brian right now. This series could really do me in. Thanks for reviewing and bringing it to my attention Leslie! 🙁

    Reply
    • I am so glad you enjoyed it Lisa and just remember, the next story in the series will be out in May. Just 2 months to wait!

      L

      Reply
  • Bloody hell, why do I always have trouble posting comments? The one that I just submitted seems to have vanished – so now I get to do it all over again, I guess.

    What I said…well, what did I say? Terrific review, sounds like a great book, congrats J.P., and I agree with Alan, I’m tired of naked bodies on book covers. Oh, the age thing – if anyone reading this doesn’t think teenage boys are sexually active, I’d like to know what planet they’re living on.

    Now, I suppose this will show up twice. What is it about me and the internet? I spent most of the morning trying to find my disappearing Yahell groups – for the 3rd time!

    Good work, J.P., and thanks Leslie for an insightful review.

    Reply
    • Victor, your comment is great…twice! Thanks for writing and when the bank account allows it, give this book a go. It’s terrific.

      L

      Reply
  • Hey, great review of what sounds like a terrific book – As soon as the exchequer has recovered a bit (I went on a book binge recently) it moves to the top of my list. And I’m with Alan, I am so over naked bodies on the covers.

    As for the age thing, I don’t see a problem. If there’s anybody around who doesn’t think teen age boys are sexually active, I’d like to know what planet they’re from.

    Congrats, J.P.

    Reply
  • Heh, I actually passed on this due to the cover, thought it was too … juvenile? amateurish? But since you say it’s good, I’ll give it a try.

    Reply
    • I really enjoyed it the first time I read it and now, one year later with a second re-read, I enjoyed it even more. Give it a try, Saga. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

      L

      Reply
      • Yeah, I will. I have been weary of reading unknown authors from dreamspinner without a recommendation or something extra to pull me in. Bought some really bad books from them lately and now I usually wait for reviews unless it’s an author I know.

        Reply
  • I’m thinking I will purchase this one tomorrow at the same time as With Abandon. Great review thanks. I somehow missed this one from DreamSpinner. It is out now isn’t it?

    Reply

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