Author: John C. Houser
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 246 Pages
At a Glance: An outstanding novel, and one I’m delighted to share with you.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Back from summer basketball camp and starting at Hoosier State on an athletic scholarship, Billy is looking forward to playing basketball free of pressure from his overbearing, bigoted father. Too bad he’s trading one set of problems for another. His boyfriend Jonah dumps him, expecting he’ll want to spread his wings now that he’s away from home, and the basketball program at State proves harder to navigate than he imagined.
Despite his hurt at Jonah’s treatment, Billy is not ready to give up on a relationship with the out-and-proud musician. Their geographical distance isn’t Billy’s biggest problem, since it makes it easier for him to stay in the closet. In fact, when the press starts sniffing around the basketball team, it turns out he’s not the only one with a secret. Every member of the team must choose where, and with whom, they stand. The success of Billy’s season may depend as much on the depth of his character as his physical endurance.
Review: Billy Goat Stats is a sequel to John C. Houser’s novel Music Box, the first in his DIY Family series. I am just going to be up front here and say this author is a must buy for me. I love this series, and reading about these boys just makes me happy! The story is cleverly written and delightfully realistic. Life is not easy and Mr. Houser never sugarcoats the pain that can be associated with coming out, nor the danger inherent in declaring you are gay while trying to be a rising star in the sports arena. This was an outstanding novel, and one I am delighted to share with you.
The story picks up with Billy going off to college on a full scholarship. His relief at leaving his father’s heavy-handed and often demeaning critique of his ballgame is palpable from page one. Also apparent is Billy’s nervousness at remembering the kiss he shared with Jonah before he left for school. While Billy is eager to see where that kiss may lead, Jonah has decided he will simply be holding Billy back now that he is away from home and, in essence, writes Billy a “Dear John” email saying so.
But life is not easy in college, and Billy needs his friend Jonah more than ever. His teammates have secrets they hide deep, and the coach, along with others on the team, think Billy should be the one to bring peace where there is real discord. Billy struggles mightily with his freshman position on the team, and not overstepping his boundaries on or off the court. He misses Jonah fiercely and has to somehow make sure that Jonah knows he feels for him as more than a friend. When an admission made in the heat of the moment draws unwanted attention to Billy, it is time to either put up or shut up—and that may mean losing his family…and gaining a boyfriend.
This story…wow. Coming of age? Check. Coming out? Check. First love? Check. Humor, intelligent dialogue, fast paced action, honest emotions, realistic consequences, no easy fixes, beautifully heart wrenching relationships? Check Plus! The development of both Jonah and Billy’s characters that takes place in this sequel was all one could hope for and then some. Here is the place these young men begin to really grow up and make life choices that will map out their futures either together or apart. As coming-of-age novels go, Billy Goat Stats was handled expertly and carefully, making it as realistic a story as possible and yet still remain fiction. Actions had consequences, friendships were developed—sometimes painfully so, and teenage boys made their first steps toward being mature and responsible adults. Intermixed with all this was a burgeoning love story that simply swept you away in waves of humor and vulnerability.
As a coming out story, there were passages in this novel that made me wring my hands and sadly shake my head. To watch how Billy and Jamal were treated by their parents was painful at best. However, it was just this dose of reality that made the story stronger and better overall. Author John C. Houser never shies away from letting us understand how heartless we can be as a people when it comes to a bigoted outlook. Yet, while never wrapping the story up neatly, but rather, allowing it to run more true to life, this story manages to convey such hope for a better future.
I cannot say enough about this novel. Billy Goats Stats is an impeccably written piece of new adult literature. I highly recommend it to you!
You can buy Billy Goat Stats here: