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Kamikaze Boys (English Edition) Versión Kindle
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The storyline is not so heart-wrenching as Something Like Summer, but it certainly encompasses an understanding of love and romance that is unmatched in today's media. I couldn't help but hold my breath at parts, hoping that the two characters would come out okay in the end. I found myself falling in love with the characters and learning that their love should be replicated in the real world. It was refreshing to see that not only was this NOT a coming-out story, nor were the characters in any way ashamed of their sexuality, but that they used it to their advantage and would challenge anyone who stood in their way. Some parts are so cute you'll wish you could've come up with it yourself first! Then, of course there are some steamy parts that depict sex in the beautiful way that it should be. This story is sweet, moving, and just plain great and I fully recommend it to anyone who wants to experience the imaginative, beautiful romance that only Bell can come up with.
You will be inspired by the characters, Connor and David, to fight against all odds and apologize to no one.
Accomplished storyteller that he is, Jay Bell has taken many of the TIME-TESTED clichés of the coming of age/first love gay narrative: dysfunctional parents, middle-class school, self-loathing school bully, smooth-talking psychologist, adoring little brother, sassy big sister, nerdy best friend and - of course - our two heroes, the honor-roll loner David along with Connor, the intimidating older student with that mysterious scar on his face; Jay has taken these elements and totally "un-clichéd" them as he has woven them into a touching and truly realistic high school gay romance which begins early on in the novel when Connor unexpectedly rescues David from the school bully.
(Thankfully, Jay advances this love story WITHOUT any of the more recent and tiresome gay romance clichés about which I have complained in many a review: truncated, totally unrealistic pillow talk - "You! Bed! Now!" - being the most egregious of them).
KAMIKAZE BOYS isn't as deep nor as multi-layered as the author's earlier SOMETHING ABOUT SUMMER. And that's okay; frankly I was glad that I, in order to let my heart rate get back to normal, didn't have to momentarily put the book down quite so many times as I did with his previous novel.
Sure, there were some scary moments toward the end of the book when the two guys were forcibly separated from one another in seemingly cruel ways. But, unlike the main characters in a multi-volume gay boy melodrama I've been forced to slowly read in installments over the last two years, Connor and David kept their heads and - trusting their instincts - never really doubted each other while they were kept apart. Like all teens, they do some stupid things. But they don't continue doing the same stupid things over and over and over again. I liked that a lot.
This is NOT a "coming out" story. Both Connor and David are already "out" in varying degrees to family and to the very few friends they have. But it does show them both "coming of age" in a powerful and loving way as they team up to "fight" (sometimes literally) those who, for selfish reasons or otherwise, would force the boys to deny the very real feelings they have towards one another.
SOMETHING LIKE SUMMER made Jay Bell an important writer in this genré - KAMIKAZE BOYS will only add to his well deserved reputation.
And, wow! Another great cover from Jay Bell's "in house" artist, Andreas!
"David and Connor conquer America. Are you ready for this?"
The jock and the nerd - a classic set up - but it doesn't play out the way you expect, because whether they get together or not is beside the point. Although the build-up is very nicely done, it's how they fight to stay a couple in the face of a world that either doesn't care or disapproves that drives the story. The fact that they're gay isn't the main point either - with one crucial exception, it's more their youth and supposed inexperience that causes their troubles.
I love YA-ish books where the parents are important players, and Jay Bell delivers here. I love it even more that the parents are allowed to surprise us (and their children).
For a romance, it's surprisingly unsentimental. There's plenty of teen anger in this - and that's just about right.
David and Connor meet in high school, where David is a junior and Connor is a senior. Connor protects David from bully and their story starts from there. Before I go any further, another warning - when they meet David is almost seventeen, but not yet, and Connor is nineteen and yes, they are have sex while David is considered underage. If that bothers you, you should probably stay away from this book. I have no problem whatsoever with reading about teenagers having sex, since I do not see why something that happens so frequently in real life should not be portrayed in fiction, but I understand that other readers may have a problem with it, hence the warning.
Their love story is actually quite beautiful. Both David and Connor are very believable, very flawed but still likeable characters, and I really enjoyed their interactions. I really enjoyed that the writer showed them not having perfect sex initially as I thought it was sweet and believable. I also really liked how David's attitude towards Connor changed slowly and believably, and how he saw the real Connor behind the facade. To put it simply, the writer totally sold me on their love and on the idea that they may have a future. It is not an easy thing to do, considering that the guys are so young, and usually I am thinking "oh, you will find you may think that you found your true love, but who knows what you will say several years in the future" when I am reading about teenagers, but this author managed to convince me that they have real connection. I am especially happy because as much as I enjoyed this writer's books in the past, I did not think that writing romantic storylines is something that he would be good at for some reason. I changed my mind after reading this book.
Several secondary characters were just as multidimensional and flawed as the main characters. I especially liked David's father and Connor's parents, not because they particularly appealed to me, but because they felt like real people, who make mistakes and still try their best even when their best may not be enough.
As you could probably see from the blurb, the conflict in the story is mostly external; a lot of things are against David and Connor and they do not take the beatings the world has to offer them sitting down. Let me be very clear on something: I am a reader who can really enjoy the fictional revenge trope. Actually, let me clarify that; I do not usually go looking for stories with revenge in them, but if the author manages to make me fall in love with the character and I feel that grave injustice was committed towards such character, I can get very bloodthirsty and will tolerate a very high level of fighting back and doing bad things towards those who wronged them. A perfect example of a story where revenge worked for me is of course "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas. For me, Edmond Dantès had every right to go after those who betrayed him and do whatever he wanted to them and more. The main reason I am sharing with you some of my likes and dislikes is to show that if I consider such a trope well done, I may like it very much.
Unfortunately, I am not sure if this trope worked for me in this book as well as it could have. It is not that I did not like David and Connor fighting back (there is only as much victim of the bullying can take) and I surely do not mind seeing bullies getting a taste of their own medicine in fiction -- especially when the author portrays the level of pain and despair very well and makes me believe that the person just cannot take it anymore -- so I was okay with that, but the problem for me was probably that Jay Bell is too good of a writer. His characters are vivid and realistic, his settings are well-portrayed and I just kept thinking that something like this felt too real, if that makes sense, and I wanted these issues addressed in more realistic manner. Do not get me wrong, David and Connor fighting back DOES get addressed, but especially for David, it gets dealt with in such an over-the-top, unfair and unjust manner, in my opinion, that I could not help but want them to *stop* addressing the issue and leave David the heck alone. I thought that the point the writer was making was that David did not really need any help, but I felt that he really did need a lot of help, and the "help" he got he was much better without. Of course it is not David's fault that he needed such help in the first place and I really cannot say more without spoilers, but that whole part of the storyline just did not gel for me as much as it could have.
Despite my issues, it was a very enjoyable book overall. Recommended
Now I know. Meeting him in person may have given me an additional bias, but on its own, his latest ranks among the best of new realistic young adult novels.
Of course, the YA category may be limiting. Are such books supposed to be squeaky clean, offer a life lesson, and be palatable for a PG-rated audience? 'Kamikaze Boys' offers life lessons, but with a story that's sexy and sexual without being porny. It also (spoiler alert!) shifts into a surprisingly realistic depiction of the criminal justice system and youth psychiatric wards.
The romance builds between David, a frequently bullied out gay teenager, and Connor, who's reclusive, misunderstood, much larger and slightly older. After Connor intercedes when David is attacked by a gang of bullies led by the monstrous Chuck, an unlikely friendship quickly becomes more intimate.
Class issues play into their story as well, as Connor endures an awful job and a manipulative boss at a local McDonald's, which hampers their time together. While I cringed at the descriptions of the escalating violence in this story, sadly, it realistically depicts the struggle young gay men endure. With clean prose and empathetic characters, Bell has shared yet another outstanding story.
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