Title: On the Right Track
Author: Sam Kadence
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (Harmony Ink)
Buy Link: Buy Link On the Right Track, Dreamspinner Press
Genre: YA M/M romance
Rating: 4.75 stars
A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: A realistic coming of age story that grapples with the reality of bullying and accepting yourself for who you are.
Blurb: Ryunoski “Ru” Nakimura knows all about the trappings of fame. Expelled from a boy band for coming out as gay, he still wants to continue his career in music. Too bad his ex finds nothing better to do than exploit their relationship in the press, so Ru leaves California behind to lie low in Minnesota for a while.
Adam Corbin attends a Minnesota high school and wants to coast through as a typical student. He’s friends with an openly gay student, Bas Axelrod, but while Adam plays football, he also stays away from much socializing. Blending in and not outing himself has been easy because he’s never really been seriously interested in any of the guys he’s encountered.
When Adam meets Ru in a library, Adam begins to think he’s found that special young man who might make it worthwhile to just be himself. And for Ru, Adam looks like someone he might trade his fame for, if they could be together. Ru and Adam will both come to realize that courage and love must go hand in hand if they are to have a future.
Review: There is a lot to be said for a good coming of age novel. When handled well, this type of story gives us a genuine window into the heart and mind of a young man who is on the cusp of a life-changing process, a ofttimes dangerous one that is fraught with the possibility of not only happiness and first love, but also leaving him open for the potential torture of an uncaring family who may cast him aside, a community that may hound and bully him and a life that ultimately could mean no friends and unbearable loneliness. All this, just because he will admit for the first time that he is gay. But, there is also the flip side of that coin that this same young man will not lose everything and instead gain so very much.
In the novel, On the Right Track, author Sam Kadence opts to give us what I feel is not only a very realistic portrayal of coming out and first love but wraps up that realism in a sweet and tender love story. Is there pain for young Adam Corbin? Yes, most definitely. When it is finally revealed that a fellow teammate has been hiding his feelings for Adam, we realize that all is not so cozy in Adam’s world. Despite the fact that his parent’s are extremely tolerant and loving, Adam faces down bullying at school and even a physical attack.
I was so very happy that for once the school and its administration was not portrayed as totally unfeeling and ineffective. Instead, steps were taken to change the way business was done there and the dirty little secrets of bullying were revealed and not tolerated. While some may say this is not realistic, I would disagree. I believe that this author opted to take the more challenging route in this novel and surround the two boys with support and the potential for safety. While I recognize that this is not everyone’s fate in the real world, I also know first hand that it is this way for many and I was glad to see On the Right Track go this route with intelligence and just plain good story telling.
Adam Corbin is young and naive, never having been kissed, hiding his sexuality behind participation on the football team and generally staying deeply closeted at school and home. By chance he meets young Ru Nakimura, an emancipated teen who is a musical genius that has just been let go from his record label because it was discovered he was gay. Hiding at his friend Tommy’s home in a small town in Minnesota, Ru is trying to get his life back together and work on a new found solo career. He is shattered from the betrayal of a cheating boyfriend and the subsequent treatment by his fellow band-mates.
Lonely and hurting, he sees Adam around town and makes his move to get to know the boy better. But Ru cannot hide from the media or Adam forever. Eventually he will have to tell Adam just how famous he is and how a relationship with him will not only out Adam to the small town he live sin, it will also place him in the national eye. Little does either boy know that Ru is not the only one who thinks Adam should be his and this new boy will use all means to get what he wants–including hurting Adam physically.
This second novel by Sam Kadence certainly solidifies the idea that this author has incredible story telling capabilities and a knack for writing compelling and interesting characters. Neither of these boys came off as whiny or unbelievable, rather the dialogue and story that surrounded them was handled with finesse and great care was taken to make sure that this was not a fairly tale love but one with grit and some pain and some really tender, beautiful moments. Lest you think that the novel glosses over the real threat of bullying, I submit that instead for once we are given characters who are smart and self -aware to the point that they can recognize the intolerance for what it is and take steps to change it.
“Bullies picked on people not like themselves to make themselves feel better, They didn’t like people who shined or did their own thing or just wanted to be individuals. How could Adam tell Ru that he was afraid to be himself?”
Real characters set in a story that was in many ways fantastical, until one recalls the Justin Biebers and Michael Jacksons’ of this world–young boys rushed to fame and stardom at tender ages. This was Ru. Perhaps the only aspect of Ru’s character that I found unable to connect with was this idea of when his emancipation occurred. For me the story seemed murky on whether that occurred when his father left him at the age of eleven or later when he became a teen. I felt the author left this deliberately vague and since Ru was very mature and worldly at the age of seventeen I found myself needing to know more about that piece of his history. As it was written, it seemed that he was set free to run his own life at the age of eleven and that I found to be just a bit unbelievable.
However, despite that small glitch, I found myself once again devouring this story without stop. I was moved to care for these boys and feel Adam’s fears and hesitancy over each new experience. I marveled at the fact that Ru could be focused on anything other than himself when he had been surrounded by an industry that tended to glorify people, use them and then cast them aside. I was thrilled that these boys did not leap into instant love for each other but as teens so often do, fell hard for one another only to have those around them caution them to take it slow and they did. For once, the sexual overtones in a YA novel did not rule the plot line, instead a really good story did.
While this novel was not perfect, I still feel confident in recommending it to you. This was a sensitive and fascinating story of young love and coming of age. A coming out novel that was handled with grace and realism. On the Right Track by Sam Kadence is a novel worthy of your attention.