This is the third book by Robin Reardon about being young and gay, and fighting to have a normal life, the third she wrote and the third I read without hesitation. Even if about young men with problem bigger than them, even if it will be difficult, and hard, for them to be happy, these struggling teenagers are stronger than what it seems, and I know that, at the end of their story, there will be a chance for happiness.
This last book is a bit different though; Paul, the protagonist, is not gay. He is the second son in a family where Chris, the oldest, is the perfect one. There is the war in Vietnam, and Chris, as expected from him, is over there, fighting for his country. Paul is too young, but nevertheless, he would be not as good as Chris, even if he enlisted. Paul has always heard as Chris was his parents favorite son, as he, Paul, was almost an unnecessary addition to their family. But even if Paul would have been all the reason to hate Chris, Chris was really Paul's hero: he was always ready to show to Paul the right path, to give him the right advice, to help him when he was in trouble. And now that Chris is at home, during a leave, Chris tells Paul his biggest secret: he is gay and terrified. Moreover his lover, another soldier, died in Vietnam, and Chris seems to no more have a reason to fight and come back home. Chris is going to die, and he is doing it willingly. For the first time Paul doesn't see him as an hero: Chris is gay and can't be an hero, and plus he is a coward, he chose his dead lover over Paul, he will not fight for Paul as he fought for Mason, he will die in Vietnam.
Maybe if Chris returned back home, Paul would have had the chance to change his mind, but unfortunaly Chris indeed dies in Vietnam. Now Paul has all this rage inside him, rage against the world, his family, and Chris. When a new guy comes to help on his dad's pet shop, he seems the replica of Chris: perfect, kind, too wise for his age and gay. Paul dislikes him like he diskliked Chris, and at the same time he wants to love him like he loved his brother. With JJ, Paul will have a second chance with Chris, a chance to understand him, not to "accept" him, there is nothing to accept, being gay is not a fault, but Paul will learn that he can love JJ, and he could have fully loved Chris, without for this reason being gay as well, or having to change his mind. Paul will learn that love is unconditionally.
It's the second time that the family of the gay guy is not part of who is rejecting the guy. JJ has a loving mother, that, even if he jokes about the fact of being the fourth male son, and so he has no need to provide her with grandsons, in any case she loves him as above, unconditionally. JJ has had the chance to grow up being loved and accepted, and this is giving him the strength to face the outside world with courage and full front. JJ is not ashamed of being gay, even if the times he is living are not allowing him to be "out and proud". But I see the embryo of a well-balanced and happy man in him, someone that will be able to fully enjoy his life. Even if Paul is a good character, and I liked to read his story, JJ is another character that I wouldn't mind to meet again, maybe to see if his promises will be mantained.