This is a delightful and moving coming of age story about a gay seventeen-year-old boy named Marty who escapes his ultra-conservative and ultra-religious parents by moving from Kentucky to London. He tells them he’s taking a summer music program and will be staying with his Aunt. What he doesn’t tell them is that he really didn’t get into the program, he’d only purchased a one-way ticket, and his Aunt will not be there for the entire summer.
We then following along with Marty as he makes new friends and obtains his first-ever boyfriend. But he also suffers from anxiety and is torn between his new life and the one he left behind, not quite sure where he fits in. So in this way, we see him creating new friendships while still trying to maintain the ones back home, and in the process, we get a compelling discussion around the topic of toxic friendships/toxic relationships.
I enjoyed journeying with Marty — through both his high moments and low moments — as he explored his identity and made a new life for himself. It was impressed by the brave risk he took in leaving home and moving to an entirely different country.
I also enjoyed the message here that, at times, the bonds of a family found or family chosen can be even stronger than a family bound by blood. And that’s what we have here, in which Marty creates a beautiful family for himself in London — a family that respects him. Additionally, it was fun seeing the surge of hope flow through him as he finally feels that he’s escaped his oppressive situation in the states and moves into a circle of friends where being gay is accepted and normalized.
I also enjoyed how the author tells the tale via two storylines: the present and through Marty’s journal entries from a year prior when he, along with his family, visited London. There were so many compelling themes to this story: friendship, religion, eating disorders, found family, anxiety, homophobia, betrayal, toxic relationships, and more.
All in all, I thought this was a fantastic, heart-warming story about a young man finding his place in the world. Another hit for me by Phil Stamper.