Seventeen-year-old Max Morrison and Jordan Edwards know each other from their AP Language & Composition class at Mesa-Guadalupe High School in Mesa, Arizona, but they are not friends until the summer before senior year when Max stumbles upon Jordan and his mom setting up a food truck at the local farmer’s market. Placing an order, Max watches in fascination as Jordan’s mom goes into total meltdown mode and Jordan shamefacedly tries to cover it all up as people start noticing. Max, trying to make things better, steps in and offers to help run the truck, figuring it will be a better summer job than working with his mom in the data department at State Farm Insurance. Thus begins the blossoming friendship and burgeoning romance between two seemingly disparate people.
Max is an athletic varsity baseball player who hangs out with his two cis friends who are the only ones who know he is gay. Despite being ridiculed for his efforts by the art teacher, he has a talent for drawing that he has temporarily smothered. His parents–a caring, responsible mother and a father who sees himself as a professional comedian–are divorced and live far apart. He has never had an official boyfriend and, while trying to connect with the online gay scene to search for one, ends up being raped by an ASU student who picks him up in a club.
Jordan is definitely not athletic but Max finds him spectacularly attractive. Jordan writes poetry and (before Max) spends much of his free time with two cis girls who are his best friends. His father is four-years dead, leaving behind an old food truck and a home from which the family is about to be evicted due to an unpaid $5,000 mortgage debt. Emotionally maladjusted to the extreme, his mom has a gambling addiction. Jordan lacks confidence and needs propping up, so Max sets about showing him how to be bold and confident.
Here’s a book with a lot to offer about the intricacies of finding intimacy with someone who identifies with your gender classification, but it expands that theme to cover how to find understanding and acceptance from everyone, as Max and Jordan and their four friends learn by book’s end to speak honestly and from the heart to each other, strengthening their friendship and raising it to a higher level. Concurrent themes revolve around child and sexual abuse, addictive behaviors, respect for individual differences and preferences, accountability for actions, and forgiveness.
There is a lot of offensive language in this book. I’m not so clueless as to be unaware that most teenagers talk like this, since I heard it ten years ago every time I walked down the hallways of my local senior high school. I doubt anything’s changed in that regard. Reading it in a book pulled from a school library shelf is something else, depending on where you live and work. (You can give thanks or not to that old Supreme Court ruling that allows local communities to set their own standards of obscenity.) But I digress. Be aware that there are frequent sexual references, cusswords, profane references to Christianity, and such. There is a rape scene that is revisited a couple of times as Max tries to process it. There is a weird suggestive scene in which Jordan’s mom asks him to cuddle with her for comfort. And so on. Check the number of pages we flagged and make your own judgment.
Categories: Controversial YA Topics, Death and Grieving, Depression, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, LGBTQIA, Mental Health, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships