Author ~ Jennifer Cosgrove
Publisher ~ NineStar Press
Published ~ 20th March 2017
Genre ~ Paranormal M/M Romance, YA
Ghosts can’t seem to keep their opinions to themselves.
Seventeen-year-old Nate Shaw should know; he’s been talking to them since he was twelve. But they aren’t the only ones making his high school years a living hell. All Nate wants is to keep his secret and keep his head down until he can graduate. That is, until the new boy, James Powell, takes a seat next to him in homeroom. James not only notices him, he manages to work his way into Nate’s life. But James has issues of his own.
Between dead grandmothers and living aunts, Nate has to navigate the fact that he’s falling in love with his only friend, all while getting advice from the most unusual places.
Ghosts, bullies, first love: it’s a lot to deal with when you’re just trying to survive senior year.
This is a lovely YA book. In some ways, it is a classic coming-of-age story. Shy boy with troubles at school meets new guy and falls for him. After a period of friendship when new guy transforms his life boy makes a move and it’s rejected at first then they both fall in love. However, this has a number of twists that makes it special.
First is the writing, which is extremely good, easy to read and draws the reader right into the heart of the story and the characters without being over-complex. It doesn’t try too hard and that absolutely succeeds. By that I mean it doesn’t use fancy language and complex syntax, but neither does it treat the reader like an idiot.
Second are the characters. Nate lives with his Aunt Susan after having been thrown out of his home by his mother when he was sixteen, because she couldn’t cope with the way he was. And this is where the big twist comes in. Nate’s mother has no problem with him being gay, it’s being able to talk to ghosts that really freaks her out.
I suppose this book might be given the tag of “paranormal” due to the presence of ghosts, but they are so real, down to earth and…well, human for that tag, I think. Throughout Nate’s painful transition from a desperately lonely boy with no friends and no life, to a still hesitant but strong man with someone he loves desperately at his side giving him courage, his deceased Nanna gives him some very good advice, and the support he needs to get through. She’s a person I would have wanted growing up - wise, practical and supportive.
The other ghost is not so supportive, at least of Nate. James, the other MC moves to town with his family to stay with his uncle after a family tragedy. James is convinced his troubled brother had been murdered and no amount of therapy can convince him otherwise. While Nate struggles along the sometimes-painful path through the pitfalls of his first real friendship, James is fighting his ghosts…or rather ghost, his brother David. David is insistent that Nate must tell James that his death was a tragic accident and nothing more. But before Nate can tell James what David is saying, he first has to admit his big secret and he’s not ready to do that. The only person Nate told turned on him and has made his life a living hell ever since.
It would have been easy to dislike David, because his personality is very different from James’ to the point where he could have been obnoxious. However, the writer treats him sensitively and his absolute love for his brother shines through. Although he is somewhat blunt and honest about his less-than-stellar past, much of his brashness and blunt speaking comes from a genuine desire to help his brother move on, and frustration that Nate just won’t take that step.
Indeed, when Nate does bite the bullet and confess to James, the result is even worse than he expected.
I could easily have given this book five stars. The delightfully damaged Nate stumbled thorough the pitfalls of his final year at school, competing with pettiness, crippling self-doubt and then dealing with his first friendship which quickly turns into a very one-sided crush. He is very well written and absolutely adorable. We’re rooting for him from the start.
James, on the other hand, seems to have it all together. Fierce, fearless and patient, he coaxes Nate out of his shell and protects the tender new shoots from all-comers. He appears to be well sorted, until he’s not. Cracks develop and Nate slowly comes to see how badly affected James really was by his brother’s death and how determined he is to find the truth, utterly convinced his brother was murdered. I cheered for him, got frustrated with him and truly felt for him when everything unravelled at the end.
A good story, well told, with no flaws I can put my finger on.
In the beginning, when I started reviewing, I gave out a lot of 5* reviews, but then I came to the realization that there a few – a very few - truly outstanding and utterly amazing books out there, that may not change my life but definitely make me think and re-evaluate. If I gave every good or even great book a 5* there would be no way to mark the truly outstanding ones, so I have become very, very sparing with my 5’s. This book is not life-changing but it is very good and thoroughly deserves its 4.5 stars.