A Guest Review by jeayci
Review Summary: I think this story might have been interesting if I’d been able to keep track of the POVs, the characters, or even the plot; as it was, the most enjoyment I got was from imagining it as a Mystery Science Theater piece with snarky commentary.
Blurb: Gymnast Ben Thornton is beginning to accept his sexuality, but in the charged atmosphere of the London Olympics, sex is easier to find than the love he seeks. Ben is so desperate to recapture something he felt long ago that he’s too blind to see the man he shared it with is looking for the very same thing, hiding in the shadows with the love notes he’s too afraid to send.
Then a gossipmonger threatens to distribute a sex tape Ben didn’t even know existed. Feeling betrayed, he considers leaving the games, afraid for the team’s morale. As his friends rally around him, Ben discovers they don’t always make good lovers—but a lover you know like your best friend is the best kind.
Review: This was a really difficult review to write. I want to be fair to the author, but I also have to be fair to the prospective readers, and that balance is not always the easiest to achieve. I kept thinking I must be missing something, and if I could only find it I’d at least like the book. But I’m not a stupid reader (or so I like to think!), so if I was missing it – especially after such effort to find it – that’s a fail in itself.
I think the blurb made for somewhat deceptive marketing. Even though it accurately describes what happens, it implies you’re going to get to know Ben, and care about him as he goes through some difficult events and grows up a bit. At least, that’s what I got out of it. Instead, it’s a slapstick-style narrative that bounces all over the place. We spend a lot of time with Ben, but also with pretty much every other person mentioned in the book. That might have worked out great, except that instead of getting to know the characters, it had the unfortunate effect of distancing me from them so much I was unable to care about any of them.
The POV was some weirdo universal omniscient person who wasn’t nearly as punny as he thought he was. Or maybe it was third-person omniscient. Then again, it seemed at times like close third-person with lots of head-hopping. Or maybe it was some of each. The only thing I can say for certain about it was that it was confusing as hell, and made it really difficult to keep track of who was doing what to whom, when. After a while, I stopped trying.
I think the underlying point of this book was, “look at me, I’m so clever and funny!” Except I was never even clear who “me” was, and trying too hard to be funny just doesn’t work for me. My laughter is inspired more by witty banter than over-the-top comedy. Despite the heavy emphasis on the latter, there were a few really good lines; some that made me laugh a lot. I loved Ben’s friend Kat’s metaphor for appreciating men’s bodies, even if, as a lesbian, they don’t turn her on.
“I love men,” Kat began, combing through damp hair, “especially you, naked or otherwise. Look at it this way,” she said, turning from the mirror. “I would never go down on a bouquet of roses for fear of a mouthful of thorns—but still, I think they’re pretty.”
But far more often the narrative ran like this:
KALE OMLET was pissed off! All his informant brought was more gossip. “I’m not paying for shit that is already out there,” the crotchety crap-spewer spewed.
As if that’s not bad enough, there’s an oblique reference to gay as Christmas apparel now we don. No, I’m not making that up! The exact quote is:
Kale Omlet’s readers were packing his inbox regarding Benjamin Thornton’s similarities to Christmas apparel now we don.
There was a really pathetic attempt to have a Ukrainian speak fractured English. I don’t think this sentence reflects the syntax of any language spoken by humans; it’s just a jumbled hodge-podge of words. While I’m guessing at all languages, I can say with certainty that the linguistic errors made by native-Slavic language-speaking people don’t sound anything like this:
“My speaking of the English and to of it understanding some what is people’s saying is no good from being what I can write it for to read.”
There was some attempt at a mystery, with hints dropped and coy misdirection. There was apparently more than one leaked sex tape featuring Ben and another guy. I think we were supposed to wonder, or try to figure out, who these mystery people were. I didn’t try. I didn’t care. I was too confused by all the attempts at clever narrative (Christmas apparel! Really?) and gazillions of people to even want to try to keep track.
For those who care about cheating, there is some in this book. I’m pretty sure, anyway. Like I said, it was really difficult to keep track of who was doing what to whom, or what promises had or hadn’t been made previously. Some of those cheated on or with were female, for those who care about that. Lots of people had lots of sex, usually inappropriately. I thought about calling it PWP, but that implies there was porn and no plot, neither of which are true. None of the sex was sexy from this reader’s perspective; it was just confusing and/or boring. And I think there was a plot, I just had difficulty keeping track of it. So this definitely isn’t PWP. I don’t think there was a HEA, though there might have been. Sort of. So it wasn’t really a romance, either. It was mostly lots of twenty-somethings hopping in and out of each others’ beds, which is realistic enough but not terribly romantic; nor was it particularly sexy.
You might notice I haven’t mentioned sports, despite this apparently being a sports book. That’s because sports were almost entirely incidental to the story. It somewhat helped in keeping track of the characters to know this one was a diver and that one an ice dancer, but mostly it just provided a backdrop. And, of course, the occasional reference to how bendy someone must be, wink wink, nudge nudge.
What I think it boils down to is that this style of book doesn’t tickle my funny bone and the narrative style didn’t work for me at all. Perhaps others will love it for all the reasons I disliked it. This could be one of those books that readers either love or hate.
I think this book had potential, but it needed some rigorous editing to have any chance of achieving it. None of the characters felt real enough to be sympathetic or believable. I can’t recommend this unless you’re looking for a Mystery Science Theater sort of story, or maybe a drinking game. I think this is a fairly new author (with the exception of a short story in an anthology, Double Flip appears to be his first professionally published fiction), so I would be willing to read another book by him to see if the potential has been developed. However, I’d wait for some good reviews first.