Title: Enlightened, Little Boy Lost Series Book One
Author: J.P. Barnaby
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!
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.
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.