Title: Boy Banned
Author: RJ Scott
Publisher: Love Lane Books
Length: 174 Pages (Kindle)
Category: Contemporary Romance
At a Glance: Boy Banned is a feel-good book, unrepentantly so.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: When the only way to win is to hide who you are, how far are you prepared to go?
Reuben “Angel” Jacobs is one step away from giving it all up. Losing a place in the live finals of Sing UK almost kills him. He has no choice but to go home and work for the family business, even though it means giving up his dreams and proving his old bullies right.
Corey Dixon is a rocker at heart. Being on the spectrum means that making sense of other people’s ‘normal’ is hard in itself, let alone in the chaos of a high-powered competition. Singing is his safe space, the only way he can think through the noise in his head. Messing up his audition for the live shows means his journey is over, and it’s the worst day of his life.
The judges throw them a lifeline and create a boy band from the near-miss hopefuls. Angel, Corey, and three others are put together in a room and offered the chance to sing as a group. Agreeing to become part of the new band means Corey has to hide who he is and what Angel has come to mean to him.
Is winning worth the price Corey and Angel have to pay?
Review: RJ Scott is always a sure-bet author for me when I’m looking for a romance novel I can really sink my whole heart into, and boy oh boy, is Boy Banned that book.
It doesn’t take long after meeting Corey Dixon to realize that he’s on the Autism spectrum. You also don’t have to know RJ Scott to know that she’s writing from a place of intimate knowledge because for every moment that Corey is on-page, he’s given an accurate, loving and sensitive portrayal—but best of all, there is an innocence to Corey that’s impossible not to embrace because where others have proclaimed him weird, we realize that Corey has had to work hard to get where he is and to interact with others. Corey doesn’t have the benefit of reading social cues or body language to gauge other people’s emotions or reactions, so he has to try and remember what he’s been taught, what certain facial expressions and postures mean. And while he doesn’t always get it right, and he often speaks without the filters which make him brutally honest, and he struggles with things that overwhelm him—things that others wouldn’t give a second thought to—he puts himself out there through his music. It’s that courage and the hope that he can’t quite define or grasp in his forthright pragmatism which makes finding his Angel such a deeply satisfying part of this story.
Reuben Jacobs, better known as Angel, is a fellow contestant on Sing UK, the reality television show on which Corey is also competing. Angel is the light to Corey’s dark, and he knows what it means to be a bit of an outcast himself. He lives on the outer fringes of a family of men who don’t relate to Angel’s sexuality, but he becomes the hope to which Corey ultimately begins to cling when things become too difficult to process in the events that follow what should have been the end to their run in the competition. Angel is sweet and sensitive and kind and strong, and he becomes Corey’s touchstone when the show decides they will become 2/5ths of a boy band if they want to stay in the running.
One of several things I liked about the relationship that develops between Corey and Angel is that the conflict was all external here, coming not in the form of romantic angst but from the reality show and all the artifice and pressure and manipulating going on behind the scenes. Corey, Angel, and the rest of their bandmates—DK, Scott, and Toby—worked great together and I loved the friendship that formed between them, that these strangers banded together (no pun intended)—each with his own desperate need to win—when the going got tough. I loved that in spite of the odds against them, there was always an undercurrent that drove them, that even though they were the underdogs all along the way, there was still a sense that they had as much right to the win as anyone else. Maybe even more so since they’d been thrown together under such seemingly impossible circumstances.
Learning how to play the game, navigate a social media onslaught, live in the fishbowl of scrutiny, and ultimately, deciding whether winning at all costs is worth compromising personal integrity all provide the backdrop to Corey and Angel’s romance. Boy Banned is simply this: a feel-good book, unrepentantly so, full of optimism and happy beginnings. It’s such a sweet story, and one I enjoyed losing myself in for awhile.
You can buy Boy Banned here: