I’m on a bit of a gay YA kick.
I saw Love, Simon and loved it. Then I read the book (Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalii) and though it was great too — though it’s one of those rare instances where I liked the movie better. (The book takes a slightly different approach, focussing on how gay kids are normal kids, whereas the movie focussed more on the romance plot — so both totally valid and worth exploring, but I liked the movie better.) And I’ve started reading The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee and I’m enjoying it a lot so far.
It was through a Twitter post made by YA author Eli Summers about Love, Simon and how he stole a some random girl’s boyfriend that I discovered this author and his books. (Read the cute and hilarious Twitter thread here.) I was curious, clicked my way onto Eli’s website and found his book, The Winter Experience, a gay YA novel.
I loved The Winter Experience.
It’s got a bit of a happy-go-lucky feel to it with a rather homonormative cast of characters and supportive characters. (As in LGBT relationships are seen pretty much as equal to MF relationships, so there’s little to none of the awkwardness and homophobia that can often come along with books set among school-age / teenage kids. I tend to write homonormative books too so I’m on board with that.) It was a delight to read along as Mattie moves to a new town and a new school, has an instant crush on Morgan, a slightly older boy, and then finds out that Morgan is also gay and likes him back.
The relationship moves a little fast and gets a little heavy at times, but that’s reflective of young love. When it’s a first relationship, which I think it is for Mattie, it’s easy to fall into it head over heels, it’s easy to get carried away, and it’s easy to very quickly develop those very deep feelings. Part of me was worried that Mattie would have a hard lesson to learn for falling too in love too fast.
Thankfully, Eli Summers doesn’t take the reader on that emotional roller coaster.
However, not all is perfectly wonderful in Mattie’s world.
Each chapter opens with two paragraphs in italics. Mattie is exploring a box of photos of his relationship with Morgan and the framing narrative sets up the story of each chapter. However, about halfway through the book, it clicked in my head that the italicized framing narrative talks of Mattie and Morgan’s relationship is in past tense.
The book became an emotionally tense read from then on. Each chapter sees Mattie and Morgan’s relationship continue to blossom and strengthen. They’re adorable together and as a reader you want them to stay that way forever. Every obstacle that Mattie sees in the way of his relationship with Morgan is quickly dealt with — and it leads the reader into thinking that they can overcome anything.
But with that past tense framing narrative, an astute reader will know that something happens.
What that something is, I won’t tell you. You have to read the book to find out.
Though the book ends with that down note — a very effectively written one, I must add — the very final line gives the reader a glimmer of new hope, which directly leads into the sequel, The Summer Experience.
Those who follow my blog know that I rarely review books anymore. (That’s admittedly partly because I read too many Star Trek books and I don’t want this to turn into a Star Trek blog.) With The Winter Experience by Eli Summers, I felt a review was a must, because I want other people to enjoy this book too.
And — good news! — Eli offers The Winter Experience as a FREE download if you sign up for his newsletter! Click here to sign up and get your free copy! (If you prefer to buy your copy, you can find it on Amazon here.)