Okay. I know those who read book reviews hear this a lot but I REALLY did stay up until 4am this morning in order to finish KAMIKAZE BOYS. This wonderful love story was worth every lost minute of sleep.
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?"