Publisher: Loose Id
Rating: 5 stars
Type: Novel from Series
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Smart, shy Prescott sophomore Brandon Mills is working hard to overcome his troubled past and be normal. With the help of his friends Mark and Deacon, and his brothers at Phi Sigma Kappa, he’s slowly coming out of his shell. But when he accidentally drenches a freshman in orange soda, he faces something he’s not ready for: a boy crushing on him.
Alex Kekoa pledges Phi Sig because it has everything he wants: a house full of nerds who won’t tease him for being smart, a dog, and Brandon Mills. Brandon is just the type of guy Alex needs to help fulfill his college ambition: losing his virginity. Except Alex doesn’t know that Brandon can’t stand to touch or be touched.
When Alex and Brandon are drafted onto the Phi Sig Academic Challenge team, their mutual attraction grows. If there’s anyone who can help Brandon discover it feels good to touch and kiss, maybe it’s klutzy Alex with his cute glasses and his dinosaur obsession. But as the competition–and their relationship–heats up, Alex’s determination not to die a virgin clashes with Brandon’s vow of lifelong celibacy, forcing them to examine what’s truly important to each of them about love.
Review: Brandon Mills really isn’t doing too well. He’s coasting along on autopilot. Brandon Mills is not happy. Alex Kekoa is starting over. No more will he be known simply as a nerd. College is going to be where he transforms himself! Alex decides to pledge Phi Sig where he literally runs into a gorgeous guy and gets covered in orange soda. The gorgeous guy gives him a shirt to wear. The shirt smells amazing. Alex really and truly enjoys his time borrowing the shirt. Alex resolves he’s going to make his move and kiss the guy, Brandon, who loaned him the shirt. It doesn’t really go so well when Alex kisses Brandon. Being the victim of childhood sexual abuse has left Brandon stuck in the past. He’s repressed all of his sexuality as well as his ability to enjoy the simple comfort of the touch of another human. Even though he really did not enjoy the uninvited kiss he got from Alex the whole incident did leave him wondering. Might he actually want to touch someone? Might that someone be a guy? Might that guy actually be Alex Kekoa? Brandon really doesn’t know what is going on. He’s confused and upset. His best friend Mark comments Brandon may need to go talk to a counselor. He does.
Alex joins the Academic Challenge team for Phi Sig. He also joins the college chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance. Alex also finds himself slowly starting to build a relationship with Brandon. It’s pretty slow going and maybe Brandon is pretty weird at times, but it’s certainly going. They have a lot in common and enjoy spending time together, even if it’s just playing dinosaurs. Eventually, things become serious. Decisions have to be made, situations handled carefully, and people have to learn the whole truth about things.
I just really loved this book. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to wrap myself up in the book and wallow in it. Brandon was so ready to heal and move on with his life. As much as it wasn’t really possible for time to heal all of his wounds because of his prodigious memory, it was possible for Brandon to realize he was more than just his wounds. Brandon also began to think of himself as something separate from his parents and more than simply the sum of his parts. Brandon had a self that could be more than an overheard comment from childhood. He could be his own man. Finally. Brandon finding himself in the position of needing to heal and move on from his past was juxtaposed with Alex’s very take charge attitude and desire to no longer be the nerdy virgin. They embark upon radically different yet identical journeys.
Beyond the obvious personal growth there were some really interesting themes in this book. Both Alex and Brandon were labelled intelligent by other intelligent people. It was incredibly awkward for both of them. They were singled out and held to a different standard even by those who had lived their lives singled out. The most accepting characters of the story were Blake and Mark. Neither Blake nor Mark were ever going to find themselves in the situation of being awkwardly labelled intelligent, yet both guys were incredibly warm hearted and an integral part of Alex and Brandon’s lives and development. They do the right thing. The right thing of which anyone, from any walk of life, is capable.
Fans of Mark Cooper vs America will be very happy with the presence of both Mark and Deacon as strong supporting characters. Mark is still a spitfire. Deacon is still a calm influence upon those around him. They are still madly in love with each other, and it is a joy to witness.
At the start of the book Alex was all about losing his virginity. Brandon had to become accustomed to human contact on even the most basic level. Consequently, sex was the elephant in the room and almost a character in its own right. The instances of sex in this book were triumphant for both guys in their own ways and beautifully fully consensual. This book gave a prime example of absolutely wonderful sex with explicit, verbal consent.
So, I’ll say again that I loved this book, with all of its coming of age, new adult goodness and geeky humor.