Author ~ Devon McCormack
Publisher ~ Harmony Ink Press
Published ~ 28 July 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance, Young Adult
Running naked through the woods, Cal flees the sadistic man who abducted and tortured him. When he stumbles upon a convenience store, he breaks in to steal food. A young store clerk, Jake, confronts him, and they get into a fight that ends with Cal being knocked unconscious. He wakes in the home of Jake’s Uncle Gary, the owner of the convenience store. Realizing Cal needs help, Gary tries to communicate with him, but despite Cal’s efforts, he can’t bring himself to speak. Instead, he writes down his experiences. Horrified by the perverse cruelty Cal endured, Gary takes him to the police, who track down his tormentor.
Abandoned by his parents before his abduction, Cal doesn’t have anywhere to go, so Gary and his wife eagerly welcome him into their home. He feels fortunate to be with such caring people—something he’s never had before. Despite their help, he still can’t find his voice, and he wonders if he ever will. And Jake certainly isn’t making things any easier. It’s clear he doesn’t want Cal to be part of their family. But the more Cal gets to know him, the more he realizes Jake might be the very person who can heal the deep wounds left by his horrifying past.
Cal is 17 when the story starts, but had been kicked out of his home at 15 when his religious, abusive parents found out he was gay. He is homeless until he finds a shelter for gay youth where he can work on his GED and have what was supposed to be a safe place. All that changes when he is abducted from the shelter and spends an unknown amount of time being locked away and tortured. The abuse occurs off page and is only referred to in minor detail, but enough to get the gist of the horrors he went through. His escape is heart pounding and he winds up being caught stealing some snacks from a convenience store by the people who will become his family and saviors, owner Gary, his wife Luce and 18 year old Jake, the clerk who punched him out. The story then follows Cal as he makes a home with them as he goes about moving forward.
I have mixed feelings about this story. The opening scene of Cal’s escape grabbed me and the first chapters pulled me into this story. Based on that and the blurb, I was expecting a story mainly about Cal’s struggles to get over the awful abuse and trauma he’s been through in his short life. Shortly afterwards though, the story shifted gears. Cal finds his voice and the narrative became less about Cal’s recovery and more about Cal and Jake’s love story with the recovery aspect fading to the background.
When I read YA romance I want to feel the unbearable emotion and angst. I felt it with Cal’s initial anger and jealousy over Jake’s friends Mallory and Keith, I felt it with Cal’s yearning to belong and his disbelief that Jake could really love him. As a couple, Cal and Jake are very sweet. This is Cal’s first relationship and things with Jake’s last boyfriend ended badly. Falling in love in a small town isn’t easy and the hate and bigotry is there. Jake is very protective of Cal, as he is with the rest of his family. The love story moved with the fast pace and recklessness of first love that I expect from a YA romance, including the all-consuming love and declarations of forever. I understood both of their need to hang onto the other as so many in their past have betrayed them. One big pet peeve though, I want to see the first “I love you”. I don’t want to be told it happened, I want to experience it.
While I enjoyed the love story, I felt that there was just too much secondary action going on around it. It broke up the flow for me and just when I started to get invested, things wrapped up and moved onto something else. There are health scares, jealous exes, homophobic townspeople, unexpected tragedy and, occasionally, Cal’s recovery issues.
For me, there was almost too light a touch when it came to Cal’s recovery. He goes to therapy once, then blows it off. For someone who’s been through such an ordeal, who was cast out by his family, I never really felt the after-effects hit him all that hard. Again, there was telling when I wanted to be shown. I wanted to see Cal’s struggles and fears, the night screams of the title. He has anxiety about it, the occasional flashbacks and hears that voice in his head, but it seemed to get pushed aside for much of the story.
As a love story and a story of finding family and acceptance I did like it. Luce and Gary are wonderful characters, so big hearted, but not perfect, especially Luce. I appreciated that Jake’s friends give Cal a chance, for the most part. I also enjoyed the bit of a surprise twist towards the end. But overall, I wanted the story to be more focused and I wanted to be more emotionally invested in Cal’s recovery.
Meet Devon McCormack
Devon McCormack spends most of his time hiding in his lair, adventuring in paranormal worlds with his island of misfit characters. A good ole Southern boy, McCormack grew up in the Georgian suburbs with his two younger brothers and an older sister. At a very young age, he spun tales the old fashioned way, lying to anyone and everyone he encountered. He claimed he was an orphan. He claimed to be a king from another planet. He claimed to have supernatural powers. He has since harnessed this penchant for tall tales by crafting whole worlds where he can live out whatever fantasy he chooses.
A gay man himself, McCormack focuses on gay male characters, adding to the immense body of literature that chooses to represent and advocate gay men's presence in media. His body of work ranges from erotica to young adult, so readers should check the synopses of his books before purchasing so that they know what they're getting into.