Release Date: September 4, 2018
Received From: A Novel Take PR
Patrick Mahoney has one goal in mind: get out of his native Fresno and find freedom in the rainbow and glitter-painted streets of San Francisco. As a college freshman, he’s sure he’ll finally have the chance to be himself, away from the judgmental eyes of his conservative hometown.
Josh Dirda’s never wanted to be tied down before, preferring the emotional ease of the one night stand. But when Patrick moves into the apartment that Josh shares with three friends, Josh is pulled in by Patrick’s sly wit and quietly creative spirit. As Patrick’s self-appointed tour guide, Josh can be Patrick’s introduction to the city he loves. But after a drunken Halloween hook-up crosses lines, Patrick and Josh must reckon with their true feelings—and decide whether they can let go of the ghosts from their pasts that haunt them.
SEXUALITY: pansexual, homosexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: panromantic, homoromantic
TROPES: roommates to lovers, friends to lovers, forced proximity
TAGS: new adult, contemporary, romance, queer romance, queer characters, Jewish character, coming of age
WARNINGS: bullying mention, slurs, gendered slurs, drug usage, anti-ace phrasing, anti-aro phrasing, slutshaming, biphobia/panphobia (“It has nothing to do with you being bisexual or pan or whatever”; “on the fence”), homophobia mention, ableism, underage drinking, suicidal ideation, mental illness (mild PTSD), cissexism, transphobia (“whether they were a boy or a girl or genderqueer or trans”; “chosen gender”), suicide mention, cheating
Initially, I requested this book because I was intrigued by the premise as I enjoy new adult, coming of age stories, and because I’d seen a favorite author recommended it. Then, once I’d been approved for the ARC, I saw on GoodReads that one of the characters is pansexual and Jewish, which made me even more excited to read the book. And, I don’t want to say that I hated it, because I didn’t. But I felt betrayed by this book by the time I reached the end.
The book is full of subtle microaggressions towards bisexual, pansexual, and polysexual people. Early on, one of the secondary characters describes the pan character as being “on the fence” simply because he’s pansexual. In the same scene, after Josh says he’s not on the fence, he’s pan, the same secondary character says, “it has nothing to do with you being bisexual or pan or whatever,” which was upsettingly flippant, and was made even worse by the fact that this was the only reaction from the multiple people gathered. (Other than to slutshame him for sleeping with lots of people. Because what is sex positivity, amirite?) Instead of defending Josh and his identity, the rest of his “friends” just laugh along with the one who said the hurtful things. The “on the fence” part is thrown around a few times later by the other main character, Patrick, when he doesn’t get the relationship he wants from Josh right away. And near the end of the book, his narration makes the comment that he’ll always be battling for Josh’s attention because Josh has “so many options,” which a low blow and something that people frequently use to imply that people with polysexual identities will never be able to settle down.
The most long lasting problem I had, though, was part of the overarching plot and one I could see from a mile away. Around roughly 5-10% into the novel, a guy from Josh’s past is mentioned as having come back into town and wanting to hang out with Josh. Right then, I knew that Ramon was going to be the source of conflict, and he was. At the 80%, after Josh and Ramon have hung out quite a few times and talked a lot, including flirting, Ramon makes a move on Josh because Josh has never mentioned having a boyfriend, and Patrick walks in on them. Other than the overall issues I had with this, my biggest problem was that the narration from Josh’s point of view makes it clear that he wants to kiss Ramon. I just…how am I supposed to root for him and Patrick to be together for the rest of the novel, when it’s made obvious that he wants to cheat and would’ve let Ramon kiss him (and maybe do more?) if Patrick hadn’t walked in on them? While Josh does recognize that what he did was wrong and apologizes and tries to make up for it, I just couldn’t be into the relationship as much for the rest of the novel.
For the most part, I really did like Patrick and Josh. They were fun and cute together, and I liked getting to see their different interactions with friends and family. Additionally, they both go through some great character arcs and learn a lot about themselves over the course of the novel, both as a result of their relationship and other friendships.
And the book was overall pretty enjoyable, but it would’ve obviously been more enjoyable without the panphobia and cheating story arc.
Natasha Washington lives in Philadelphia, where she writes queer love stories in both YA (as Sonia Belasco) and romance. She has spent much of her professional life working with young people as a mentor, tutor, or therapist. When not writing, she is likely cooking, taking long, meandering walks, or listening to dance music or 90s hip-hop.