Book reviews

Summer reading #4 – Thanks a lot, John LeClair

Summer is here. As I’m working on my slightly dystopian YA novel, I can’t help but look at the books I’ve enjoyed over the past few months. In no particular order I’ll be covering a few of them over the next few weeks.

(Warning: There might be some mild spoilers!)

Thanks a lot, John LeClair by Johanna Parkhurst

Whilst it might seem a bit contradictory to review a book about a teenager who plays ice hockey for “summer” reading, bear with me. Johanna Parkhurst burst onto the gay YA scene with her debut novel: Here’s to you, Zeb Pike a few years ago. I read that book with great enthusiasm: a very likeable and believeable main character, an understated romance and an actual plot that didn’t revolve around said romance.

Ms Parkhurst has also written the equally enjoyable Every Inferno. Both are books I’ve enjoyed immensely. So expectations for her third novel were high, with Emmitt and Dusty once again taking center stage.

This book is definitely more Emmitt’s story, though Dusty obviously features in it as well. Over the course of the novel we gain a deeper understanding of who Emmitt is and what he stands for. Interspersing present day events with letters that Emmitt wrote to John LeClair (a sort-of diary) provides a nice balance to his story. His estranged father, his strong mother, his coach… the supporting characters all breathe life into the story.

What I liked about the book

  • The main plot and its resolution: we find out what was going on with Dusty and Emmitt learns his lessons there.
  • Though it’s dubbed as a “companion” book to Zeb Pike, to me it felt more like a sequel, for which I’m very grateful. At first I feared it would be a “all the events from the previous book, but from Emmitt’s perspective” story.
  • As mentioned above, the romance part of the story is beating steadily underneath the events in the book, but it’s not the book’s main focus. This understated way of displaying a gay YA romance feels very “modern” in the sense that it’s treated no different from any other romance. And why should it?
  • Ms Parkhurst’s writing style and ability to write such effective dialogue. Her characters feel so very alive.

In closing, I don’t want to spoil much about this book, if you haven’t read any of Johanna Parkhurst’s stories: shame on you! But also, just think of the stories that are waiting for you. Start with Zeb Pike, then this one. You won’t regret it!

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