Release Date: October 08, 2019
Publisher: Page Street Publishing
Received from: Publisher via Netgalley
An honest reflection on cultural identity, class, and gentrification. Fans of Nic Stone and Elizabeth Acevedo will eagerly anticipate Torrey.
On the day Torrey officially becomes a college freshman, he gets a call that might force him to drop out before he’s even made it through orientation: the bee farm his beloved uncle Miles left him after his tragic death is being foreclosed on.
Torrey would love nothing more than to leave behind the family and neighborhood that’s bleeding him dry. But he still feels compelled to care for the project of his uncle’s heart. As the farm heads for auction, Torrey precariously balances choosing a major and texting Gabriel—the first boy he ever kissed—with the fight to stop his uncle’s legacy from being demolished. But as notice letters pile up and lawyers appear at his dorm, dividing himself between family and future becomes impossible unless he sacrifices a part of himself.
SEXUALITY: gay/homosexual, bisexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: homoromantic, biromantic
TROPES: childhood friends to lovers, college romance
TAGS: contemporary, new adult, queer, romantic subplot, Black characters, Afro-Latinx characters, Black author, Muslim author
WARNINGS: anti-blackness, racism, gentrification, abusive family, bigotry, homophobia, police brutality
Oh, this book. If you know me you probably know how much I loved this author’s previous work. Montgomery’s writing is fantastic, I could get lost in their clear and sharp prose forever. This is their second novel and while it is very different in style and tone from their first one, HOME AND AWAY, it is just as much a love letter to Black women and if anything it got even more enjoyable for me. If this were a play, Torr as a character would break the 4th wall constantly. I know some people will love it, others will struggle with being addressed by the MC a lot. I belong to the first group, I absolutely adored Torr and him talking to me as a reader was not only fun and *funny*, but also deeply moving and made this novel personal on a level I have a hard time describing.
The plot is not a huge, interwoven structure of story arcs, it’s rather quiet and character driven, the end never really clear and yet almost always tangible in its significance. Torr goes through a lot in the relatively short time we spend with him, and the decisions he has to make are important and not easy. He is so used to doing things on his own, it was a treasure to watch not only him figuring out who he wants to be and where he wants to go, but also that with the right people at your side, you do not have to fight every battle alone and by yourself. And it is okay to mess up and make questionable life choices along the way. I especially appreciated how his journey also included severing ties with the most toxic influences in his life, and the most abusive people, biological family or not.
This is also one in a line of books this year I’ve read that throw an unmasked and sharp look at gentrification, the racism behind it all, and what far-reaching consequences it has for the communities getting displaced by it ‐ emotionally, financially and physically. Where the sharpness and emotional punches stole my breath away, there was also a lovely queer romance though, for the soothing and heart-warming touches in between. As well as Torr’s amazing friend group that made my heart burst with love and tenderness more than once.
I think the only thing I actually struggled with is the emotional connection to anyone but Torr in the beginning. Whereas in later parts of the novel the reading between the lines and beyond the words was a wonderful reading experience for me, in the beginning I didn’t know enough and didn’t have a good enough grasp on the characters yet to always feel what I wanted to feel and it resulted in me struggling to connect with everyone and everything when I started. Torr’s love for the bee farm and for Gabriel are so clear and gripping later on, but in the beginning I would’ve loved a little more guidance to really *feel* it immediately.
I do think part of it was the formatting issues of the ARC, which will hopefully all be gone by the time this book is released, but I still wish the publisher had distributed the file with a little more care and love for the manuscript, because this wonderful story did deserve better than it got.
Overall I really loved this book. In huge parts because of the author’s voice and tone, their wit and sharp tongue, their humor and the love for the characters and details shining through every page. I adored the quiet pointedness and the incredible vulnerability, and strength of the main characters and the human messiness of their relationships. And the sharp as knives social commentary. A definite winner for me and I cannot wait to read more books by this author.
4.5 stars rounded to 4 stars
Candice Montgomery is an LA transplant now residing in Seattle. By night, she writes YA lit about Black teens across all their intersections. By day, she teaches ballet to teen boys and works in the land of sobriety and rehab. It is the goal of her stories to interrogate the spaces of race, love, the body, and sexuality, all while being a witness of life.
She is represented by Jim McCarthy of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.