My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Even though Mark and Katie have been sitting next to each other in calculus all year, the high school seniors have barely spoken more than a dozen words to each other. One night in a gay bar, at the beginning of Pride Week, their paths cross and neither will ever be the same again.
Katie is on the run from her dream date – terrified it won’t live up to her high expectations – and Mark is out with his best friend Ryan, for whom he feels a whole lot more than just friendship. When they recognise each other in the bar, each is looking for a lifeline, so they grab each other and decide to be friends, on the spot. Katie covers for Mark, whose parents expected him home an hour ago, and Mark helps Katie to stop worrying for a while and just enjoy herself. Mark and Katie have found the perfect friend in each other. They manage to get themselves invited to a celebrity party in the San Francisco hills and from that moment they are firm friends.
Told in alternating chapters from Mark’s and then Katie’s point of view, the novel traces the fallout from Katie’s “runner” from her date with Violet (the woman of her dreams) and Ryan’s fling with Taylor, a guy he picked up at the bar. Katie’s best friend, Lehna, who set up the date between her cousin Violet and Katie, is out for blood and senses her friendship with Katie is changing now Mark is on the scene. Mark’s awareness that Ryan does not reciprocate his feelings is growing, and he is having trouble letting go.
Mark and Katie support each other and back each other up like they have been doing it all their lives – their friendship is fast and very strong. It reminded me of the kinds of friendships that you sometimes find in high school – where you have an instant connection with someone over something seemingly trivial and it leads to a lifelong relationship. While some might scoff, I found this relationship totally believable – the dialogue is fantastic and never maudlin or cheesy.
The relationships are complex, messy, and heartfelt and there is an overriding theme of self-acceptance right through the novel. From Ryan’s reluctance to come out, to Katie’s reticence to let herself be happy, to feel like she deserves to be happy – all the friendships eventually meet up in a wonderful confluence of self-knowledge and genuine connection. Katie and Mark, we realise, will be okay – because they have their friends, and because they have each other, no matter what.
The best part about this novel is that the gay relationships in it are all just relationships. It’s the kind of novel young adults (and many older ones) need to read, to understand that love is love – no matter what.
Highly recommended for ages 14 and up.
My review has also appeared in Magpies Magazine Vol 31, Issue 3, July 2016