Author ~ Suki Fleet
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 16th April 2015
Genre ~ M/M YA Contemporary Romance
At seventeen, Sasha is a little lost and a lot lonely. He craves friendship and love, but although he’s outwardly confident, his self-destructive tendencies cause problems, and he pushes people away. Making sculptures out of the broken glass he collects is the only thing that brings him any peace, but it's not enough and everyday he feels himself dying a little more inside. Until he meets Thomas.
Thomas is shy but sure of himself in a way Sasha can't understand. He makes it his mission to prove to Sasha that he is worthy of love, and doesn't give up even when Sasha hurts him. Little by little Sasha begins to trust Thomas. And when Sasha is forced to confront his past he realises accepting the love Thomas gives him is the only way to push back the darkness.
This is the first book I’ve read by Suki Fleet, and hence, had no idea what to expect. Its themes are not exactly unique in the Gay Romance genre: broken boys; child abuse; absent, self-absorbed parents; the disability-of-the-week; an obligatory hospital scene; and schools that have neither the skills nor the energy to figure out how to save these damaged young men and others like them.
The protagonist is a 17-year-old boy, Sasha, who confronts each and every day with belligerence, making sure his heart is protected by refusing to care about anything or anyone, including himself. He’s also a brilliant glass artist, creating powerful, lyrical sculptures that radiate light, form and motion. A senior in High School, Art is the only course he’s passing, despite a teacher who would just as soon sabotage him as educate him. He lives in a fairly awful “project” just outside of London with his sister, Corinne, who took him in after his mother (the only parent he’d had for years) took off with a new boyfriend and left him to fend for himself, without a penny for food, rent or utilities. Some mother.
Thomas is a year younger, raised by his beloved Gran (a talented artist in her own right), as his absent parents gallivant across the globe working for Doctors Without Borders, doing good, but all-but abandoning their sensitive son. Thomas suffers from a bad case of asthma, and any kind of serious exertion puts him in danger of asphyxiation.
I suppose it’s because both young men are artists, and abandoned by their parents, that these boys begin to strike up an unlikely friendship. The one is a star student, the other a “f**k up”, according to his own self-description. Little by little, they open up to each other, sharing some of their most intimate secrets, talking long into the night when they’re not together, baring their souls as neither ever has before. Step-by-step, Thomas and Sasha fall in love.
Before we get to the end of the book, Sasha faces his demons, firsthand, and refuses to be victim, any longer, to those who have made him one. And Thomas and Sasha come to accept and acknowledge the trust and love that’s grown between them.
OK, a good story, but nothing earth-shattering so far, right? No. The writing by Suki Fleet is so brilliant that it makes everything appear in such a bright, shimmering, colorful light, it’s as though everything is so new that the reader is discovering it all for the very first time. And that sense of revelation and rightness is a joy to experience as you turn the page to each new revelation.
Ms. Fleet is a decidedly literary writer. The book title and Sascha’s art (not to mention his obsession with finding new bits of inspiring, but broken, colored glass), stand as a metaphor for the soul desperate to burst out of his pain and self-loathing, into the light, as the light.
One of my favorite lines from the book:
“Because we are not brittle like glass, but more like the light that shines through it, bright and unending, without hierarchy or reason.”
The metaphor is not subtle, nor does it have to be. It shines through descriptions and settings, in the weather and the color of the sky, in the shattered pieces of Sasha’s soul, in the dark he fears, in the gleaming colors that are but hope, and in the eyes of both these boys. There are descriptions of orgasm that just take your breath away, expressing the inexpressible in terms of overwhelming blasts of color and light.
I think the key to this whole book is that the metaphor is not just consistent, but consistently beautiful. Ms. Fleet has not forgotten the core of the book, the beautiful, moving story of one severely damaged boy, another less damaged, but no less sensitive, and how they grow to learn love, to loosen the shackles on their hearts, both to each other and to those around them.
Brilliant and beautiful, are the adjectives that immediately come to mind when thinking about “The Glass House”. But there are others: authentic, empathetic, passionate, smart and hopeful.
It was a real gift to come across a book by such a talented writer, and Suki Fleet is that, and so much more. Her writing is confident, assured, without pretense or pretentiousness. Her prose, alone, is one of the great pleasures to be found among the many in this remarkable book.
If you’re looking for a beautiful, believable and moving story that is also beautifully-written, do not miss “The Glass House”. I give it, and Ms. Fleet, my highest possible recommendation.