Title: Why We Fight (At First Sight #4)
Author: T. J. Klune
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: May 14, 2019
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Humour
Page Count: 350 Pages
Reviewed by: ColinJ
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Corey Ellis sure doesn’t. Oh, everyone around him seems to have found their happy ending, but he’s far too busy to worry about such things. He’ll have plenty of time for romance after he survives his last summer before graduation. So what if he can’t get his former professor, Jeremy Olsen, out of his head? It’s just hero worship. And that’s the way it should stay.
Except that this summer, bigender Corey—aka Kori—is interning at Phoenix House, a LGBTQI youth center that recently hired an interim director. And because life is extraordinarily unfair, the director just so happens to be a certain former professor, now current boss.
Desperate to keep things professional as he and Jeremy grow closer, Corey makes a major mistake: he turns to his friends, Paul Auster and Sanford Stewart, for help.
But Paul and Sandy have some ideas of their own.
Set in the summer of 2016, Why We Fight is a celebration of queer life and being true to oneself… no matter the cost.
The book is divided between the presentation of a socio-political standpoint; educational information and a further humorous tale built around familiar characters from the series; with distinct themes that form their own thread in the story, is a difficult balancing act to achieve successfully. Similarly, it requires a readership that desires all aspects of this, as they are quite equally weighted. Care is taken not to trivialize the message and as such scenes are devoted to one or the other. It does help that all of the characters are known to be opinionated and assertive; nevertheless, the divisions are clear and impact the flow of the book.
Characterization is strong with a first person perspective that facilitates a reflective as well as descriptive approach. The central character was largely a described but unknown personality from the earlier books and care was always made to highlight the special nature of this individual. Given the pairings that formed previous books it seemed clear that this book would take the remaining character and place love in their way.
The story also allows for other secondary yet important characters to be developed more fully. This allows for new locations to be introduced and a different set of social and professional groupings. All of these revolve around a gently developing storyline that has no real direction other than to bring the lead characters together. There is a clear message of exclusivity with negatives recognized but marginalized.
Set during the year leading up to the 2016 US elections, there is a clear political theme to the story that has an impact not only on attitudes of the characters but also has implications for institutions and individuals that form the focus of their attention.
The relationship developed between the two central characters is constrained by circumstances and decisions based on personal and professional considerations. As such it is a balanced and rational growth, with smatterings of unconstrained emotion. There is no doubt that there will be a happily ever after and the reader follows their dance waiting for their next slip. The descriptions of emotions are clear and appropriate for the situation. Explicit sexual acts between the central characters are saved until late in the story and this keeps sex as an apotheosis. Sexual talk and sexual acts are present throughout the story but often as part of the humour of the situation.
The story has a steady pace; there is no real tension or angst. Without a detailed plot, it allows the themes to unfold without the need to drive them towards some notional endpoint. Nevertheless, the Pride march and its preparations do provide a goal.
Once the Pride march is reached the timeline speeds up and scenes are presented that move the story to its conclusion. This ending ties up all of the relationships from the series and provides a final positive inclusive message as well as hopes for the future.