Author: Marie Sexton
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: Riptide
Received from Publisher
Blurb: It’s 1986, and what should have been the greatest summer of Nate Bradford’s life goes sour when his parents suddenly divorce. Now, instead of spending his senior year in his hometown of Austin, Texas, he’s living with his father in Warren, Wyoming, population 2,833 (and Nate thinks that might be a generous estimate). There’s no swimming pool, no tennis team, no mall—not even any MTV. The entire school’s smaller than his graduating class back home, and in a town where the top teen pastimes are sex and drugs, Nate just doesn’t fit in.
Review: At seventeen, Cody Lawrence is already well aware that the world is cruel and life is a struggle. An absent father and a small, dying town with few employment opportunities, none of them decent, have left Cody and his mother in a poverty that seems impossible to escape from. So when he runs into the preppy new kid in town, Cody is surprised that Nate seems to like him. Of course, that will only last until school starts again, when Nate will find out that Cody’s nothing but trailer trash. But until then, Cody decides to enjoy their unexpected friendship while he can.
Nate Bradford resents his father dragging him to the godforsaken town of Warren, Wyoming after an affair results in his parents’ divorce. He had a good life in Austin, Texas. He had friends and sporting interests and a future. A chance meeting behind the ICE machine at the local gas station, and the friendship with Cody that develops from it, provides one bright point in an otherwise crappy place. Despite being the son of Warren’s new cop, Nate feels like he has less in common with the other kids of his neighbourhood than he does with the enigmatic Cody, and he’s determined to keep hold of their friendship with the start of their senior year at Walter Warren High School.
When Nate finally learns why Cody has been made a social outcast by the rest of the town, he stands by his friend. Being both gay and the poorest of the poor isn’t what sends Nate running from Cody. It isn’t until Nate realises that he’s attracted to his best friend that he retreats in confusion, leaving Cody hurt, but unsurprised. Cody strikes up an unlikely friendship with the popular, and definitely straight jock, Logan. It takes weeks and a tragedy for Nate to realise that he would do anything for Cody, but when the young men to find their way back to each other, they also find love amongst the despair of living in a judgemental, backwater town where that love must be kept hidden. They just have to survive their last year of school before they can get out, and Nate is determined to get out with Cody, and never look back.
The author’s portrayal of life in a small town in the late 80s shows the brutal contrast between the haves and the have-nots with stark realism. I could truly feel Cody’s despairing acceptance that his life as it was would be all he’d ever have – nothing but a struggle to survive and a breath away from homelessness with no hope for anything better. Even knowing this, Cody has a strength of spirit that refuses to let him give into what is a heartbreaking reality. And although she was mainly on the outskirts of the story, Cody’s mother wasn’t just a cardboard cut out ‘bad mother’. She obviously cared about Cody with every bit of her heart and was willing to do anything she had to just to stop them from drowning in a never-ending, hopeless situation. It was an interesting contrast when Cody and Nate’s relationship came to light in how the two custodial parents reacted. The friendship that developed between Cody and Logan was also beautifully and believably depicted, and I loved Logan’s quiet but unwavering support of his friend.
There were several events that broke my heart in this story, and there were times where I honestly wondered how they were going to make it through. There was such a gritty realism to the story the author’s writing brought out that evoked the difficulties and isolation of that time. Through it, though, was the beauty and joy that Cody and Nate found with each other, first in their friendship and then in their love, that lifted the story and provided wonderful moments of two boys coming of age. I adored both MCs and so wanted to see them make it, to get out and find their place in the world where they could just be and were no longer weighed down by the judgements and low expectations of others.