Title: Taking Chances (Tales from Foster High #5)
Author: John Goode
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com;
Genre: M/M Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: A story of how we are shaped and molded by our past and the courage it takes to break free and dare to live.
Blurb: Fearing the backlash of living as a gay man in Foster, Texas, Matt Wallace runs away to California, only to find it isn’t the Promised Land he’d hoped for. Christmas sees Matt returning to Foster, where he bumps into his old flame, high school jock Tyler Parker.
Now that they’re older, it doesn’t take Matt too long to figure out that love at first sight is a very real thing. The only problem is neither Matt nor Tyler seems to know what to do after that. They’re both running from the past—and each other—requiring some reverse engineering to actually spur the relationship past the false start.
Tales from Foster High Series
Review: I could quote so many passages from this book. I could fill the page with them and none would really make the impact they have when read intact inside this incredible novel. When your heart is impacted, your thinking challenged and your imagination delighted, you look down at the novel in your hands and realize what you have just been given to read–a gift. A gift that resonated way beyond the words on the page and right into your corner of reality. Yes, this was a novel about what love is and, in fact, what the author feels it is not. But there was more here, there was the courage to say that “love is hard”, and if you are up to throwing all your muscle behind the effort, love can be rewarding and, hopefully, lasting. I liked this story not because it was a sweet love story but because it challenged me, it made me laugh, it made me cry, and it clamored around in my head long after the last page turned.
Tyler Parker had experience glorious moments on the football field, earning a scholarship to play college ball and hoping that he could open the closet door just a bit and finally breathe, until a knee injury shot him right back to Foster, Texas and into the closet that held him trapped all through high school. As Tyler moves into his thirties, he remains steadfastly alone and hiding. Although he has come out to his parents, he does not flaunt that he is gay, instead, he allows the town he grew up in, that worshiped him as their local football hero to remain in the dark about his sexuality.
“I wasn’t a real person, I was a cautionary tale for another me somewhere when the ghosts of Christmas Past showed up.”
Living a mere shadow of a life, he allows his friends and mother to “fix him up” only to realize that something is always lacking…it is almost too late when he realizes the thing missing is himself, his courage to admit who he is and how he wants to live.
Home for Christmas, Matt Wallace, grits his teeth to endure yet another family get together. Its not that his family objects to his being gay or makes him feel bad in any way, it’s that Matt is his own worst enemy, seeking to be happy with life yet never being happy with himself. He wants to blame Foster, his past, maybe even his family, anything and anyone but himself. Surely he was not the problem, surely he was unhappy because of others.
“Foster, the town itself, made me feel so damn bad about being gay…I knew that no one here knew a thing about me or cared about the person I actually was. But there was such a paranoia that they might that from the moment I touched down, I began counting the seconds until I left again.”
These two men collide and the story that unfolds casts a blinding light on what it means to grow up in a town that refuses to acknowledge those that are different like a dirty, shameful secret. But the story doesn’t stop there, no this author also forces his characters to look inward and painfully see, for the first time, how they themselves lived as “ghosts”, allowing a town to force them to hide or flee but never come out and live honestly.
When I tell you that this story is multi-layered, that there is more here than meets the eye, I am not exaggerating. While on the surface, Taking Chances may seem like a sweet love story with a potential happy ever after, but to relegate it to that simple a label would be to do a grave injustice to what lie at the very core of this remarkable novel. In many ways, this novel is a window into that moment in a person’s life where they must make the decision to either continue living a half existence, unhappy and hidden, or step forward, run into the scathingly harsh light that is a small town’s consciousness and stand up for themselves, realizing that they will be seen for who they are for the very first time. This story is risky, messy, and, along the way, alternately heartbreaking and laugh out loud funny.
But, in the end, the reward for that act of courage? Well, perhaps, just perhaps it is love, acceptance, and being able to breath for the very first time. Not always…the story warns us of that in a very clear way but sometimes, it all works out. Love is hard…never really neat, always disruptive, but oh so stunning when it finally takes root in our hearts. I believe this is the real story behind Taking Chances by John Goode, that when we can finally be honest about who we are and realize that what others think cannot be the reason for our own happiness, why, then, even in the darkest of times, we have found true happiness inside ourselves.
As always author John Goode creates a story that leaves a lasting impression. His characters, even the secondary ones, dance with life and draw you in, inviting you to be a part of the family, even when it is dysfunctional! He creates settings that feel like the towns and cities we all grew up in and we find bits and pieces of ourselves, our neighbors, our family in the cast he creates. His humor is snarky but sweet, and the moments of sadness so palpable you weep for those wrapped in its arms. John Goode is a consummate story teller that creates places and people who find their way into your heart by stories’ end.
I highly recommend Taking Chances by John Goode to you. While its roots lie in his young adult series, Foster High, it is an adult m/m story that can stand alone and be enjoyed without reading the series.