Title: Bottled Up Secret
Author: Brian McNamara
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Pages/Word Count: 264 Pages
Rating: 4 Stars
Blurb: Brendan Madden is in the midst of his senior year of high school and couldn’t be happier. He has a great group of friends, his pick of colleges, and he has recently come to terms with his sexuality. One night, he meets Mark Galovic, a gorgeous, younger classmate of his. In a matter of minutes, Brendan is hooked. As the friendship between them grows, Brendan reaches his breaking point when he spontaneously confesses his feelings to him. Brendan is shocked and elated to find out that Mark feels the same way about him. The two begin to date, but because Mark is not out, it must remain a secret. As their friends and family become suspicious, openly gay Brendan becomes increasingly frustrated with their discreet relationship, while Mark becomes more and more paranoid that they’re going to be found out.
Review: Bottled Up Secret is a great young adult, gay romance novel. It is perfectly written for the young adult (probably younger teen) audience. The group of main characters, and I say group because the two characters involved in the romance are part of a small group of friends which holds just as important a place in the plot as the main characters do, are any-teens. The group is made up of gay boys, straight boys, and straight girls. Brendan is a senior in high school. He is the stereotypical jock/scholar who can go anywhere and do anything with his life. He has just recently accepted the fact that he is gay.
At a cast party (yes, he sings and acts, too) he meets the friend of one of the guys in his little gang of friends, Mark. The attraction and connection is immediate. Brendan isn’t out to anyone at all yet, so he has no one to talk to about his attraction to Mark, who is presumably straight. The way Mr. McNamara handled this with kid gloves struck just the right note between innocence and sexual awareness. Mark is very flirtatious and touchy-feely, both with girls and guys.
Mark starts spending more time with the group, and the whole “is he or isn’t he flirting with me?” thing is driving Brendan crazy. He decides to come out to the one friend he trusts above all others. He realizes that keeping his secret from the rest of their friends will cause trouble, but he just isn’t ready to tell everyone yet. Kara isn’t surprised by the revelation and immediately recognizes the flirty interaction between Brendan and Mark.
Once Brendan finds out Mark isn’t completely straight, and that the attraction is mutual, they begin to secretly see each other. The secrecy is at Mark’s request. Both boys are virgins, and their exploration of their feelings and burgeoning sexual side is really well written. The innocent nature of it is realistic, as is the way hormones often take over, and if allowed to, will cause you to drift into uncharted territory. All the sex is off page. There are mentions of arousal and descriptions of passionate kissing, but that’s about as graphic as it gets.
When something happens that causes Mark (who isn’t even out to himself at this point) to pull back from Brendan, it becomes clear immediately that it will be uncomfortable with their group of friends. How can either of them explain Mark not spending time hanging out with them anymore? Even worse, how can they explain the awkwardness between the two of them when the group is together? What about the fact that Brendan’s heart is obviously broken over a break-up most of his friends didn’t know happened?
As with most secrets, Brendan’s and Mark’s come out a little bit at a time. Their friends and family all react differently, some immediately supportive, others not so much. The one thing that remains true throughout the book is that the depth of the friendships between all these characters will be the one thing that gets Brendan and Mark through this. Together or separately, the support and love of their closest friends, during what is said to be the best time of a young person’s life, is invaluable.
You can buy Bottled Up Secret here: