Author: J. Leigh Bailey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 250 Pages
Category: Contemporary, New Adult
At a Glance: In a nutshell, we have some classic teen angst, drama, and romance that play out in a fairly predictable John Hughes-eque fashion. But, I dug it.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Seventeen-year-old Connor works his butt off to maintain the golden-boy persona he’s created. He has the grades, the extracurriculars, the athletics, and a part-time job at his dad’s shop… every detail specifically chosen to ensure the college scholarships he needs to get the hell out of the Podunk town where he lives. The last thing he needs is an unexpected attraction to Graham, an eyeliner-wearing soccer phenom from St. Louis, who makes him question his goals and his sexuality. Sure, he’s noticed good-looking boys before—that doesn’t have to mean anything, right?—but he’s got a girlfriend. There’s no room on the agenda for hooking up with Graham, but the heart doesn’t always follow the rules.
As he and Graham grow close, other aspects of Connor’s life fall apart. Family pressure, bad luck, and rumors threaten to derail his carefully laid plans. Suddenly the future he’s fighting for doesn’t seem quite as alluring, especially if he has to deny who he really is to achieve it.
Review: I enjoyed the heck out of this book. J. Leigh Bailey isn’t necessarily blazing any new trails here; there are countless different book, movie, and T.V. versions of the teen experience—some more serious or more lighthearted than others—that include bullying, friendships, romance, family drama, and coming out. But, I was glued to Connor and Graham’s story from start to finish. Bailey does an excellent job of hooking the reader right at the beginning, with the funny opening scene where Connor first sees “Eyeliner Guy”, and carrying that humor and tons of emotion right on through to the end.
Connor Fitzpatrick is pretty much the classic Hero Archetype. He’s the “Golden Boy”, as everyone in the school and basically the town calls him, and up until now, his junior year of high school, things have always seemed to go his way. Perfect grades. School baseball team’s star catcher. Dating a great girl. Everyone loves him. Lately, though, he and his dad have been getting into it more and more frequently, things with Allyson feel strained, and he can’t stop thinking about the new guy—Eyeliner Guy. As things fall apart, he has to find a way to bravely face both his adversaries and those who love him, and try to put everything back together.
Graham is fabulous. New in town, his big-city style definitely stands out in Green Valley. But, he is taking this fresh start by the balls, and doesn’t intend to hide who he is ever again. Hence the outspoken t-shirt collection and the eyeliner. I loved Graham’s style, and absolutely loved who he is as a person. He was maybe a bit tough on Connor a couple of times, mostly to do with the fact that Connor isn’t ready to let people know about them, but considering what Graham has been through, and the fortitude it took to come out the other side as healthy as he is, I don’t blame him for refusing to be with someone who has to be in the closet, or for standing up for himself no matter what.
Both characters are fantastically relatable and likeable. Growing up, most of us definitely had a Connor in our lives, even if he was only that guy everyone knew in high school. And, if we were lucky enough, we also knew a Graham. The guys are great together, as well as individually. Even though Connor doesn’t feel like they have much in common, mainly because of their families’ differing financial statuses, they really do complement each other so well. They both have the sports backgrounds, of course, as well as the unfailing support of their families—though it takes Connor struggling a bit before he believes he has the unconditional support of his whole family.
Poor Connor really was so confused throughout most of the book. He’s sooo confused about his sexuality, which understandably takes him some time to sort through. He does have a light-bulb moment at the club he and Graham go to on a weekend outing to Chicago, but even after that, he goes on a bit of a downward spiral and just doesn’t know how to handle the things he’s feeling. Luckily his friends Marc and Allyson both turn out to be excellent allies for him. He’s also very confused and conflicted about his declining relationship with his dad. I think Bailey did a great job with the scenes dealing with this part of the storyline. The emotions Connor exhibited when thinking about or talking about how his dad made him feel came across as so real and so true; I was totally touched by what he was going through. I also loved his sister, Becca, who completely had his back no matter the situation.
In a nutshell, we have some classic teen angst, drama, and romance that play out in a fairly predictable John Hughes-eque fashion. But, like I said, I dug it. It was original enough, and the characters and the backstories are strong enough, that any reader who is a fan of teen stories should enjoy it too. I know I still never get tired of watching Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club—so when the climax of the story came around, and I felt like I was watching Some Kind of Wonderful, or, more recently, Easy A, I was cheering for Connor and Graham right along with their friends. Guyliner has that same great humor and emotion. I absolutely recommend it.
You can buy Guyliner here: