Gay fiction can be hard to write. Like any author penning a particular genre geared toward a certain demographic, you got to give the audience what it mainly buys the book for. And in a lot of gay fiction, its about sex. There are, however, a few authors who have tried to break out of the stereotype of that genre, authors like Armistead Maupin, Alan Hollinghurst and Scott Heim and others, try to sort of transcend the idea that gay authors who write gay fiction have have wall-to-wall sex, partying like there is no tomorrow and just being snarky bitches.
Jay Bell's Something Like Summer tries to make an evolutionary leap out that dark corner of popular fiction. He has created believable characters, with believable issues and created a love story that tries to say something. Split into three sections, the novel take a unique style of a long relationship that has just as many lows as it does high.
We meet Ben, average, skinny, (maybe) twinkish Texas boy, has been out for a few years. While he's unsure what he wants to do with his life (at age 16, who does), he enjoys singing and shopping with best friend Allison and stalking the new boy in town, Tim (a extraordinary, good-looking athlete who could be a model for Ambercrombie & Fitch apparently). At first, Ben is unsure what team Tim plays for but eventually they begin a love affair. But like a few jocks in today's world, Tim is not ready to admit he is gay. He even has difficulty saying he's bi.
And this will be a defining issue with them during their long relationship, until they almost get caught having sex at park late at night. And Tim ends their affair.
We fast-forward a few years, and Ben is in college in Chicago. He's had one relationship after another, but nothing has stuck like the time spent with Tim. After a return visit and a chance encounter with a flight attendant, Ben thinks he's found the love of his life. But like bad debt, or a bad penny, Tim comes back into his life to test Ben's commitment to Jace and his not-so buried feelings for his first love.
Here is where I feel Bell stumbled a bit. Ben has discovered Jace is having an affair while flying across the country for his job, and then Ben has sex with Tim, only to find out later that it was a ruse by Tim to break Ben and Jace up. This soap-opera aspect is silly, but it does drive a further rift between Ben and Tim. But like any love story, as you read you begin to wonder how Ben and Tim will reconcile their problem. I mean, after all, since the beginning, we the readers know that Ben and Tim are destined to be together.
Here's where I wished the book went another direction, and I felt the ending could have, should have been different. In the meantime, Bell has created a wonderful character in Ben, who matures from gawky teen to a wonderful, three-dimensional adult. It's an enjoyable book and recommend it.
Note: This book is also going to be adapted into a movie, to be written by Carlos Pedraza and directed by J.T. Tepnapa, my close friends who won acclaim in 2011 with their feature film debut, Judas Kiss.