Author: Russell J. Sanders
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Release Date: January 14, 2016
Genre(s): Contemporary
Page Count: 204
Reviewed by: Vallie
Heat Level: 1 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

High school senior Neil Darrien is a budding musical theater star. He has it all-a beautiful girlfriend, a scholarship at a prestigious school, and plenty of chances to showcase his talent. But when Zane Jeffrey comes to town and immediately lands a spot in the school show choir, Neil is jealous. What Neil didn’t count on, though, is Zane’s charm and humor, and the two soon become friends.

Melissa, Neil’s girlfriend, notices Zane monopolizing Neil and draws Neil into her church. There Neil discovers a situation he knows he needs to fix, but if he does, a deep, dark secret that could cost him his future career might come out.

When his relationship with Melissa becomes rocky, Neil is drawn to Zane in a way that is more than friendship.

Colors is a magnificent book. It tells the coming of age story of Neil, a senior in high school who is a musical theatre lover and talented beyond belief. I wouldn’t say this is a romance; rather, it’s the story of a boy finding his way after going through hell and trying to forge a new path for himself.

Neil lives with his aunt after an accident left him orphaned at age nine. I have to say, after the horrific prologue, which made all the creepy crawlies come out, I was so thankful to be thrust into present day and see Neil as an all told well-adjusted teenager taken care of by a loving, wonderful woman. But Neil has demons that he hasn’t spoken about to anyone. These demons plague him every day. They hinder him from going through certain rooms because memories of traumatic events trigger flashbacks when the light hits just the right way.

Aaaaaand there’s no way around it. This book deals with the issue of child abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest. If this is too heavy a subject matter, don’t pick this up. The memories Neil has are not skirted around. They are plentiful and very much present throughout the novel. Neil has PTSD and his flashbacks are debilitating. Throughout the book, he also struggles with his religious beliefs, and makes a tremendous journey in exploring what he believes in. His way of coping is singing. And let me tell you, there is such beauty in the writing. Oh my god. Neil is an actor and he is part of all things choir and musical theatre that he can get his hands on. He is not gay, or so he tells himself. This foundation is shaken when another musical theatre genius comes to his school –a sweetheart by the name of Zane.

The story is told from Neil’s first person POV in present tense. We get snippets of Zane from the texts he exchanges with his good friend Cara. Zane is a force to be reckoned with. He is flamboyant, super in your face, adorably cute, and one smart kid. Of course he’s gay and he crushes on Neil big time, a fact that Neil’s girlfriend doesn’t miss.

A word about the girlfriend. I don’t even want to say her name. She is one of the most hated characters I’ve read in a long time. Granted, she’s underage, but for all her “praise Jesus” attitude, she is one narrow-minded ignorant hater. Not only because she dislikes Zane on the spot and makes it known that it’s due to his homosexuality, but the way she treats Neil later in the book? I wanted to reach into my ipad and bash her head in. You will too, I guarantee it. No redemption for her either. She remains the quintessential, small-town bigot forever and ever.

But in the midst of all the upheaval –the rehearsals, signing for the church choir, auditioning to drama school, and just dealing with life, is a beautiful fledging love story between two boys who are finding each other in all the chaos. There is no sexual intimacy between the characters –not even fade to black. There are some on-page kisses very late in the book but they are so sweet and tender and emotional, I honestly don’t think I needed anything more. I absolutely loved Zane’s influence on Neil, how he enabled Neil to trust people again and to face his fears. Talk about hurt/comfort boy. This is the ticket right here. There is angst galore, but also, music, and acting, and brilliance in the pain.

I have most definitely taken notice of this author and so should you because he went to places that need a lot of guts to go to. The topic of the book isn’t easy but the experience is so very worth it. Sexual abuse is a reality. It happens all around us. It probably happens to people we know and we have no idea about it. There is not enough attention or awareness that we can bring to it and I want to congratulate the author for going there.

I highly recommend this to everyone. Even if you’ve never read mm before, don’t be spooked. It so worth your time.


Advanced Review Copy

Galley copy of provided by in exchange of an honest review.

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