Title: When I Grow Up (Tales From Foster High, #8)
Author: John Goode
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press LLC
Release Date: June 19th 2015
Page Count: 284 pages
Reviewed by: Belen
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A Tales from Foster High Story
After graduation, Kyle Stilleno and Brad Graymark move to California to pursue their dreams. But high school sweethearts are called that for a reason, and their love rarely stands up to the test of time. As money, school, sex, and jealousy test their relationship to the breaking point, Kyle and Brad fight to hold on to the love that brought them together.
But when a frantic phone call sends them back to Texas, they discover love and understanding might not be enough this time.
While this can be read as a stand-alone – I wouldn’t recommend it. Mostly because I think everyone should read all of these books as they’re fantastic.
John Goode you are a brilliant, sadistic, wonderful, crazy, impressive bastard. How else to explain how you can take a story with this many moving parts and create a masterpiece?
This is not a standard romance with hearts and flowers. This is a “real life” (sort of) romance.
As John writes in his afterword: …romances that are made for entertainment reasons: they don’t really capture the complications of real life. “When I Grow Up” captures a lot of “real life” problems and complications.
When we last spent time with the boys at the end of 151 Days Kyle and Brad rode off into the sunset together. Going to California so Kyle can attend Berkeley on full scholarship while Brad…goes with Kyle to California.
And that’s when things begin to unravel.
A relationship takes two to tango and, ultimately, it takes two to fuck it up. Then, place that relationship in John Goode’s world and you can count on massive drama helping everything to go wrong.
- “This doesn’t bother you?” he asked suddenly.
“Us not being together? Of course it bothers me.”
“No, the fact that we broke up. Again. This is tiring, Kyle. I mean, we’re a fucking Taylor Swift song on repeat, and I can’t do it anymore.”
“It won’t happen again! I swear it won’t!” I pleaded with him.
“You say that now, but what happens the next time you think we aren’t going to work out? Or that you think I’m going to leave you? Or that I have a friend who you think is better-looking than you? You’re fine now and you want to get back together, but then you end up snapping and I’m the one who pays. Every time, I have a ring thrown at my head or I’m kicked out and forced to find another place to live. I can’t do it. I can’t keep doing this when you don’t have faith in us.”
“This is the same fight we’ve been having since the night I dropped you off,” he said. “Where I stand very still and try to convince you I love you, and you think this is insane and isn’t going to last. This is the same fight we had that night at the lake. The same fight we had in the parking lot. And I’m sorry, Kyle. I can’t do it anymore.”
Brad was right, of course. We have been having the same fucking fight since he dropped me off and I told him he didn’t have to talk to me at school. Then we’d make up, but not really. All we’ve done with kisses and hugs and finally sex is try to cover up the fact that the way we are isn’t working.
This entire time it had been my fault, and I had no idea.
Luckily though Kyle and Brad have friends and family to help get their heads out of their asses. (Though mostly it’s Kyle’s head out of Kyle’s ass.)
Some of my favorite scenes:
Sebastian to Kyle:
“I think you want it to be over,” Sebastian announced out of nowhere.
“What?” I almost choked.
“I think you want it to be over because then you know you were right. I think you aren’t fighting because you want it to be over and your own prophecy to come true so you can then use that to make sure you never put yourself out there again. I think you’re scared, and I think this is an excuse for you to be alone.”
My jaw literally dropped as I stared at him.
Yeah, that’s right…and someone needed to tell it to him straight. Because Saint Kyle was fucking it up.
Brad’s dad to Brad:
“I know you said the reason things didn’t work out was Kyle sabotaging everything, but do you think it might have had to do with the fact that you followed him with the plan of just being with him? I mean, that sounds romantic and all, but this is real life, kiddo. Moving cross-country so you can be with someone is fine, but there has to be more to your life than that.”
I sat there, stunned at his revelation.
“I don’t want to get back together with him.”
“Yeah, you do,” Tyler corrected. He definitely sounded like an adult.
“No, I don’t,” I assured him.
“Yes, you do,” Matt chimed in.
“I think I know what I want,” I snapped…well, I whined.
“Did you know what you wanted at eighteen?” Tyler asked Matt.
“Besides sex? Nope.”
Tyler looked back at me. “So yeah, you don’t know what you want.”
“Robbie filled me in on what went down when he lived here, and every story seemed to be this incredible thing that Brad did for you. I really never heard something you did for him. Did Robbie forget to tell me a story? Did he leave out an event?”
I felt myself shrinking into the chair.
“See, guys like Brad, they’re fiercely loyal and will go to the ends of the Earth for the people they love. But that loyalty only lasts so long if it isn’t reciprocated. He gave it his all trying to be with you, and you still dumped him. He’s hurt and he doesn’t want to be made a fool of again.”
Sebastian was awesome in this book. He made up a lot of the “he makes so much sense” portions and was often the voice of reason and the voice who made the most difference. Robbie best be watchful and hold onto his man, ’cause I think John’s got a bit of a crush on him…
“You’re not holding me back,” he said, sounding like he was going to start crying again.
“Kyle, we both know I am. But that’s not the point. The point is that I have absolute faith in us.”
“So much faith you’re leaving?” he asked sarcastically.
I had known he wasn’t going to take my decision well. “Okay, look, that whole thing.” I nodded to the stage. “The whole singing thing was to prove to me that you were willing to fight to keep us together, right?” He nodded. “Okay, fine, then here’s your chance to prove it. I am so sure that you’re the guy I’m going to spend my life with that I am willing to walk away for a few years to become a better person for me and for you…for us. This isn’t me breaking up with you. This is me telling you that I’m so invested that I’m willing to forgo the now to make the future better.”
But don’t worry everyone! It’s not all drama and long-lost drug addicted fathers trying to blackmail their son into giving them money so his mother can have a necessary surgery to possible save her life…
Turns out Kyle’s parents aren’t divorced, his dad, Billy Stilleno’s a drug addict who lost a bunch of dope and now owes over $50K to some very bad people, so he’s trying to get the money Robbie gave to Kyle to pay off what he owes.
See, Robbie? You can. oh, no, kids…There is romance:
The words fell out of my mouth. “I love you.”
He looked up at me, and I saw the old sparkle back in his eyes. “I know.”
“Oh, now you’re Han?” I teased.
“I’m the guy in love with you,” he said, putting his hands over my shoulders.
“Hi, guy who is in love with me,” I said in almost a whisper. “I’m the guy you’re going to spend your life with.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” Kyle said before he kissed me.
And in the end…we get the ending we really wanted all along (whether that’s because John knew we’d hunt him down like a dog if he didn’t give it to us – I can’t say).
- “Hi,” he said as I got closer.
“Hey,” I said, still moving toward him.
“Wanna spend the rest of our lives together?” he asked, the twinkle in his eyes telling me it was taking all his concentration not to just explode with happiness.
“Thought you’d never ask,” I said, putting my arms around him and kissing him hard. He kissed me back and for the first time in a long time…the world stopped moving for a second.
And I was okay with that.
So, yeah…you got me John. You got me good.
If Brad had stayed in California, even to go to community college or a university, it wouldn’t have taught him to stand on his own…to be his own person and not just a part of the “Kyle show”.
The Navy will give him direction and the opportunity to go to school on his own two feet, and be a man that Kyle can be proud to be with, but that he can be proud of too.
I hope his next book catalogs some of their separation, like where Brad was stationed and how often they got to see each other, etc.
After the third (continuous, ’cause I’m crazy like that!) reading, lest it be said I abandoned my usual criticism and snark, though I LOVED this book (it’s now on my “Favorites” shelf) and would totally recommend it…be warned! The rapid and constant POV changes are sometimes very distracting and/or hard to follow. We got no less than NINE POVs: Kyle, Brad, Matt, Tyler, Robbie, Sebastian, Jennifer, Coach Gunn and Troy. I actually may have missed someone…oh yeah, even Billy gets a turn at bat when Dolores comes over and is all badass.
Sometimes the POV would change by the paragraph. Sometimes the same person got to denoted POV in a row (talk about confusing!), which caused me to backtrack again and again to figure out just who was talking at that moment.
That criticism aside, I loved it just as much the second (and third) time around.
Brad + Kyle = <3TRUE LOVE FOREVER<3