Title: The Bravest Thing
Author: Laura Lascarso
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: 17th Apr, 2017
Genre(s): Romance, Healing/comfort
Page Count: 228
Reviewed by: PIU
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
High school junior Berlin Webber is about to reap the fruits of his hard work and land a football scholarship—if he can keep his sexuality a secret from his best friend, Trent, and their homophobic coach. Then Hiroku Hayashi swerves into the high school parking lot on his tricked-out motorcycle like some sexy comic book villain, and Berlin knows he doesn’t stand a chance.
Hiroku is fleeing his sophisticated urban scene to recover from drug addiction and an abusive relationship when he arrives in Berlin’s small Texas ranch town. Initially sarcastic and aloof, Hiroku finds in Berlin a steady, supportive friend who soon becomes more. As Hiroku and Berlin’s romance blossoms, they take greater risks to be together. But when a horrific act of violence tears them apart, they both must look bigotry in the face. While Berlin has always turned to his faith for strength, Hiroku dives into increasingly dangerous ways of coping, pushing them in opposite directions just when they need each other most.
Two very different young men search for the bravery to be true to themselves, the courage to heal, and the strength to go on when things seem darkest. But is it enough to bring them back together?
I discovered Laura Lascarso last year when I read ‘Andre in Flight’. I simply fell for her writing. The story was unique, emotional and just beautiful all over. I was looking forward to her next work and ‘The Bravest Thing’ once again made me a fan.
This is not just a small-town story about ‘coming out’ or ‘fighting the odds’. It was so much more than that. It is gritty, dark, emotional and then finally hopeful and sweetly romantic with a perfect ending.
Berlin is a star-athlete of his high school football time. He is gay but in the highly homophobic town where he lives, coming out and living freely is not an option so Berlin hides it, keeps his head down and prays for the day when he will leave. But all of his carefully laid plans are dashed to pieces when Hiroku Hayashi rides into town on his motorcycle with a devil-may-care attitude, tight jeans, eyeliner and a face that can corrupt a saint.
Hiroku instantly becomes the target of homophobic hate in the school. But Hiroku is not someone to lay down and take it. He stands up for himself time and again which increases the hate towards him all the more. Through all the small town homophobic bullshit, Hiroku finds a friend and potential lover in Berlin.
Hiroku understands Berlin’s reluctance in coming out and though it gets quite difficult in ignoring each other in school, their late-night meets develops their relationship to something more deep and meaningful.
But just when everything appears fine in their lives, a brutal hate-crime changes their life once again, this time for the worst. Hiroku has been battling past demons and this attack again drags him back to his old vices which this time around can end up killing him for real.
Berlin is the only guy who can help Hiroku escape his past, his addictions and help take back control of his life. They have to go through hell and back to find the hopeful, well-deserved ending that concludes this emotionally-charged romance beautifully.
The contrast in the characters of Berlin and Hiroku is very profound when the story starts. Where Berlin is innocent, kind and sweet, Hiroku is prickly, jaded and full of attitude. As the story progresses we see how Berlin’s pure and honest heart give it’s all to save Hiroku, all consequences be damned. Berlin stands up for Hiroku and defends him in every which way. He rescues Hiroku and sees him through his lowest but never does his affections for Hiroku waver. Berlin was like a rock at a time when Hiroku needed him the most.
Hiroku’s past relationship was plain toxic. His prickly attitude is more of a façade hiding his vulnerable side. The complexity of his relationship with his ex that leads to his addiction is vividly described in the story. His daily battle to not give in was painful to read was necessary in understanding his struggles to move on and lead a better life.
The characters as well as the plot development here was exemplary. There are dark times which will tear you down for sure but then the healing/comfort will give you unending hope for something better and beautiful. The addiction, manipulation, domestic violence, homophobia, physical abuse as well as the love, hope and acceptance, all form a compelling and intense tale of ‘conquering the odds’, ‘doing what’s right’ and ‘how love can provide hope and strength at the most darkest of times’.